By on March 2, 2018

2018 Subaru Crosstrek - Image: Subaru

After serving as head honcho of a brand that’s enjoyed 10 consecutive years of sales increases in the United States, Subaru of America CEO Tomomi Nakamura is headed to Japan to work the same kind of magic on the automaker’s global business.

On Friday, Nakauma was tapped as the next president of Subaru Corporation, the multi-armed conglomerate once known as Fuji Heavy Industries. He’s served in that role since 2014. In his place, Subaru of America president Tom Doll takes the biggest office at Subaru of America HQ, making him the first American to hold the position since Subaru took over the U.S. division in the waning days of disco.

It’s now Doll’s responsibility to see that Subaru’s hot streak continues, even in this era of cooling demand and technological disruption. 

Both men joined the company in 1982 and have seen it go from an oddball niche automaker to a sales juggernaut, despite constrained production capacity. Still, being able to sell every model a network of factories can build, relatively quickly and without copious incentives, is a problem many companies wish they had.

Doll took the president’s chair in 2013 after rising up through the automaker’s ranks. Global marketing vice president Jinya Shoji, who worked at Subaru of America prior to his current position, will return as Doll’s executive VP.

Image: Subaru

“Rising” aptly describes the Subaru brand in North America. After recording sales of 187,208 vehicles in the U.S. in 2007, the all-wheel-drive brand posted a tally of 647,956 vehicles in 2017. Over the same time span, Canadian Subaru sales rose from 16,504 vehicles to 54,570.

Last month was the best February to date for the midsize Outback wagon and compact Crosstrek in the U.S., with year-over-year sales rising 4 and 60.7 percent, respectively. Overall, the brand grew 3.8 percent, year over year. This spring sees production of the three-row Ascent crossover kick off in Indiana.

Subaru feels confident that the Ascent won’t become another B9 Tribeca. Everything points to a competitive vehicle, and the automaker will certainly need those sales. While it’s still early, year-to-date sales of models like the Legacy and Impreza haven’t topped last year’s tally — not surprising, given the public’s general dislike of anything with a trunk. With a little luck, Ascent sales will plug this hole, and then some.

In the near future, the automaker expects help from Toyota in its electrification efforts. Next to Mazda, Subaru is one of those rare automakers without a hybrid or electric vehicle in its lineup.

While looking at sales data yesterday, it was interesting to note Subaru pushing ahead of another, more mainstream automaker in the U.S.: Hyundai. February wasn’t the first time the Japanese automaker outmuscled the struggling Korean brand, but it’s now become a regular thing. Last month was the third consecutive month where Subaru beat the boys from Seoul.

The leadership changes will become official after a June board of directors meeting.

According to Automotive News, Nakamura is eager to get home, and not just to his wife and kids. “I was posted in the U.S. for four years alone and left my dog in Japan,” he explained. “So, I would like to spend more time with my dog.”

[Images: Subaru]

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15 Comments on “Subaru’s American Boss to Guide the Brand Worldwide, U.S. Prez Will Keep the Pedal Down...”


  • avatar
    redapple

    Call me weird but. I like the old name. Fuji Heavy Industries.

    Love my ’18 Forester. Best car i ve ever had. (31.2 MPG over the first 2500 miles.)

    My first Subie after 3 hondas, a nissan SE-R and various Chevy and Ford products.

    • 0 avatar
      romanjetfighter

      love my parents new 17 forester. it is white and i hate true color. and some cheap odd bits leave it rough around he edges but it is so good.

    • 0 avatar
      HahnZahn

      I totally agree. “Fuji Heavy Industries” has some kind of weird appeal to it. I remarked as much to a friend when I was doing a bunch of research prior to buying my Impreza. Hope you opted to get yours with EyeSight – best option I’ve ever gotten in a car.

      • 0 avatar
        redapple

        Zahn
        Yes. Eyesight was a no brainer. Interesting, most manufacturers only allow such features on the top tier level trim. I have the second from the bottom level Premium.
        Think it was only $1500.

    • 0 avatar
      Netsy

      Netsy’s semi-elderly mother was steered toward a Forester a few years ago, and not only has it been terrific for her, but she’s been treated very well by the service department of the local dealership.

      The Forester was a finalist in the Great Netsy Car Search of 2016 too. Got something cheaper and a little more my style, but no vehicle I tested had better visibility than the Forester. I can’t quibble with Subarus!

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    > The all-wheel-drive brand posted a tally of 647,956 vehicles in 2017. Over the same time span, Canadian Subaru sales rose from 16,504 vehicles to 54,570.

    In line with what my dealer is saying about the new Impreza and CrossTrek, that Canada is being under-allocated due to strong US demand.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Subaru is big with the Birkenstock set, yet they don’t offer any Gaia approved models. All of those cute dog commercials are a ruse, a red herring to distract us from the fact that they’re choking the planet. They make VW look like Greenpeace for Pete’s sake.

  • avatar
    TW5

    FA16 Turbo. Make it happen. The primary shortcoming of the smaller Subarus is the lack the power at altitude. Unfortunate for cars made to frolic around ski resorts. Also fix the gearing on the manual transmission to highway speeds don’t register rpm thresholds above 3,000rpm.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      That or the Ascent engine in an Impreza/Crosstrek “Spec-B”

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Maybe those 3000rpm folks need to shift to 5th or 6th. Mine runs 2550 rpm at 70mph in 6th. If I leave it in 4th, yeah, I’ll be over 3000rpm but only if I need to pass someone quickly.

      • 0 avatar
        TW5

        I’m not sure which engine/transmission combo you have, but the old 2.0L 5-speed combination wasn’t cutting it. However, I forgot Subaru already introduced the new 6-speed so I’ll have to check it out.

  • avatar
    redapple

    One last thing.
    RE: My ’18 Forester
    Real peppy off the line. Supple ride yet yips nicely around corners. Love the set up. Just right.

    Very Glad the CRV salesman was a jag off. That sent me straight to the Subaru dealer.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Subaru is one of those rare automakers without a hybrid or electric vehicle in its lineup.”

    One of those smart automakers.

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