Subaru Says Sedans Are Still Working, Doubles As Contingency Plan

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Ford’s announcement that it will eventually eliminate every sedan from its domestic lineup has forced the automotive media to consider which automaker will be next to cart theirs off to the guillotine. Due to the growing popularity of crossovers and their inherent profitability, it’s probably just a matter of time until another manufacturer tosses all of its sedans in a burlap sack and drowns them in the proverbial river.

General Motors seems ready to abandon the Chevrolet Impala and Sonic, and Cadillac’s ATS, CTS, and XTS will soon be replaced by two unnamed sedans. Buick’s Lacrosse also looks to be a likely candidate for execution, and rumors exist that Caddy’s CT6 may also be destined for death. However, while rumors swell that American automakers are just years away from from killing the four-door car, Subaru says sedans remain totally relevant.

As a smaller but rapidly growing manufacturer (domestic sales have tripled since 2010), it’s dangerous for the brand to become too reliant on a single segment. If the market suddenly shifts, Subaru knows it’s better not to get caught with its pants down. In fact, it’s almost as if the company’s national manager of product communications, Dominick Infante, is counting on that.

“Gas prices are starting to come up now,” he told Motor Trend in a recent interview. “So a good hedge for better economy is having a sedan.”

That’s not to suggest Subaru hasn’t tried to alter its lineup to cash in on the current market trends. Its Forester and Outback have become more SUV-like with every generation. The Crosstrek, which was introduced in 2012, quickly matched the Impreza in terms of sales and currently exists as the brand’s best-selling model in North America. Subaru is also launching the three-row Ascent this year to compete with the rest of the world’s midsize crossovers.

Meanwhile, the company’s car sales have declined. In the first four months of 2018, sales of the Impreza fell 16.3 percent and the Legacy dropped 13.9 percent. WRX and STI sales have also declined a bit. Still, it’s not as dire as it sounds. The revamped Impreza actually saw a significant increase in sales last year, and looks to be on schedule to surpass every other year that wasn’t 2017.

“So we still make the Impreza and the Impreza hatchback,” Infante said. “They do get better gas mileage than, say, a comparable CUV like the Crosstrek, so we do sell those so if the market does change that’ll help sales of sedans.”

Subaru says entry level cars like the Impreza are also important in getting people set up with their first car, while sporting models like the BRZ or WRX help to attract younger buyers cut from a different cloth. However, it intends to keep both via its enviable level of brand loyalty and fill any gaps with new models like the Ascent.

“[Customers] stay with the brand except for this one area, when they have children starting to become 8 years old or so,” explained Infante. “[That’s] when they tend to say, ‘OK, my Outback or Forester is too small’ and they want to transport other kids [and] families, so then they leave the brand and they would go to our competitors. So they could buy a Honda Pilot or a Highlander and then come back when their kids are out of high school and buy an Outback.

“It’s kind of funny, they would come back or they would have their second car which would stay being a Subaru but we would lose them in that one area … Basically it’s an open door where the customers are just walking out. Now we’ve got something to fill that in and keep them in a Subaru.”

[Images: Subaru]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Art Vandelay Art Vandelay on May 23, 2018

    And oh yeah, show me a sedan a 6 footer can sit upright in in the back seat. We had a Legacy as a rental this week and my head brushed the headliner though legroom was OK. Build sedans that aren't glorified coupes and maybe some people will buy. Nobody wants to bang their head every time they load baby in the car seat and then try to get the stroller in that mail slot of a trunk opening. Sedans have just evolved into something that aren't practical for many people. Blame CAFE maybe, but by in large, as family cars they are seriously compromised. Enter the Crossover

    • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on May 23, 2018

      Missing one bit: Blame CAFE maybe, but by in large, as family cars they are seriously compromised on purpose. Enter the Crossover

  • 28-Cars-Later 28-Cars-Later on May 23, 2018

    Geez you make two sedan platform variations which comprise a handful of models, its not controversial.

  • Roger hopkins The car is in Poland??? It does look good tho...
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X The push for EV's is part of the increase in our premiums. Any damage near the battery pack and the car is a total loss.
  • Geozinger Up until recently this was on my short list of cars to replace my old car. However, it didn't pass the "knee test" with my wife as her bad knee makes it difficult for her to get in and out of a sedan. I saw a number of videos about the car and it seems like the real deal as a sporting sedan. In addition I like the low price, too, but it was bad luck/timing that we didn't get to pull the trigger on this one.
  • ToolGuy I agree with everyone here. Of course there are exceptions to what I just said, don't take everything so literally. The important thing is that I weighed in with my opinion, which is helping to move things forward. I believe we can all agree that I make an important contribution (some will differ, that is their prerogative). A stitch in time saves nine. Life isn't fair, you know. I have more to say but will continue at our next meeting. You can count on that, for I am a man of my word. We will make it happen. There might be challenges. I mean, it is what it is. This too shall pass. All we can do is all we can do. These meetings are never really long enough for me to completely express all the greatness within me, are they? Let's meet to discuss. All in a day's work. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the end of the day, I must say I agree with you. I think you will agree. When all is said and done, there is more said than done. But of course that is just one man's opinion. You are free to disagree. As I like to say...(I am working on my middle management skills -- how am I doing?)
  • Golden2husky Have to say he did an excellent job on the C7, especially considering the limited budget he was given. I am very happy with my purchase.
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