By on August 3, 2018

2019 Subaru Ascent

We’ve seen this kind of meteoric rise before, so it’s our duty to tell Subaru to “just say no” to drugs. Let’s not have this end in heartbreak for all the fans.

With that important announcement out of the way, it’s time to toss around some numbers — which, at Subaru of America, are quite positive. Despite an industry that sank over 3 percent overall, and with one less selling day than July 2017, last month was the brand’s best July in history, which followed its best June, and May, and… you get the picture. The first half of 2018 was Subaru’s best sales half to date.

Helping the brand achieve a 6.7 percent year-over-year sales increase was the arrival of Subaru’s largest vehicle to date. Go figure, Americans seem to like it.

In its first full month on the market, Subaru unloaded 4,589 Ascents. The turbocharged three-row midsize crossover seemed, upon launch, to be just the weapon the brand needed to do battle in a hotly contested segment. Spacious, approachable, not polarizing, but not entirely unoriginal, either. That model’s sales figure nearly reaches the combined number of Legacy and WRX/STI sedans sold in July.

However, there’s still a long way to go before pillars start toppling. The Toyota Highlander sold 21,159 units in July. Ford sold 22,782 Explorers. Honda offloaded 13,065 Pilots. That’s heavy-duty volume, but there’s no way of knowing at this early point where the Ascent might end up.

2019 Subaru Ascent

Looking at lower-volume rivals, Nissan sold 5,303 Pathfinders last month, placing the big Subaru within striking distance. Hyundai, which doesn’t break down its sales as much as we’d like, sold a combined total of 8,275 Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sports. Where the larger of the two vehicles actually ended up on the sales charts is anyone’s guess.

What’s more impressive about July is Subaru’s ability to make such gains in the face of sinking passenger car sales. It seems to add just the right product at the right time.

Over the first seven months of 2018, Subaru’s U.S. sales rose 6 percent, even as its car models declined — the Legacy by 18.2 percent, YTD, the Impreza by 11 percent, and the WRX/STI by 10.2 percent. You can guess which direction the BRZ headed. Even the soon-to-be-revamped Forester crossover fell 9.9 percent, year to date. That meant heavy lifting for the remaining models.

While the legendary Outback remains just barely in the black on a YTD  basis, sales dropped 8.4 percent in July, year over year. So, where exactly is this record month’s additional volume coming from? From the Ascent, but most importantly from the wildly popular Crosstrek. Subaru’s hatchback on stilts saw a 58.9 percent year-over-year sales increase last month, with sales over the first seven months of 2018 up a whopping 69.2 percent.

At this time last year, the Crosstrek recorded about half the volume of its bigger Outback sibling. This year, it’s covered more than half the sales ground separating the two. So popular is the little Crosstrek, it’s nipping at the Forester’s heels.

When rumors crop up about Ford (or any other manufacturer) turning their passenger cars into sort-of crossovers, this is why they’re believable.

[Images: © 2018 Matthew Guy/TTAC]

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47 Comments on “So Much Winning: Even With Cars Tanking, Subaru Hits Another Record...”


  • avatar
    gtem

    I can just feel that CVT groan in pain from harnessing all that turbo torque to pull that big airstream. This won’t end well methinks…

    • 0 avatar
      I_like_stuff

      Well I don’t think you have much to worry about. People who own Airstreams don’t buy Subarus to tow them.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        Well if Subaru is pushing the “you can use our crossover like an SUV” angle like Nissan did with its troubleprone CVT-equipped Pathfinder and Ford does with its fwd-based Explorer (less issues there IMO), they may end up with a lot of CVT swaps on their hands. This is where the Durango with its longitudinal layout and 8 speed Torqueflite (and available Hemi with low range) is the clear choice IMO.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          The Explorer has been less troublesome, even so, its going RWD-based for its next gen, and that makes me happy. With the Bronco coming, I know it’ll never go back to a BOF SUV, but at least RWD will theoretically help with towing.

          If I had my way, the Explorer would be an Everest rebadged and built here, while the Flex would be redesigned and positioned against Highlander and Traverse. I guess that the way it is now is smarter, as the Explorer has the name recognition to conquer the segment, and has lost any pretense of serious off-roading years ago. Its a family truckster from here on out, for better or worse.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            If they sold the Everest here, say with the NA 3.5, I would have given it a serious look. An Everest with the 2.7T? Oh boy, as much as I like the 4R’s longevity reputation I don’t think it would come out on top in that comparison.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          I don’t think Nissan ever did such a thing. Last company to do so was Kia from what I recall; in any case anyone who buys a vehicle for towing/off roadinig without doing any research deserves whatever comes of it.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Oh they most definitely did sporty, there’s even a “tow mode” setting on the 13+ crossover-ified ones.

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        Yesterday, on I87 in New Jersey I saw an Airstream being towed by a Tesla Model X.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          Didn’t we just recently learn there’s a camping app now for your Tesla. I’m just waiting for Tesla to start developing speed boats, because nothing says exciting like a battery pack on water

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            We’ve had fair amount of flooding here recently. People who drive cars they perceive to be eco-friendly and adorn with anti-civilization bumper stickers are really struggling with making good decisions in the face of flood waters. I wonder what happens when they’re in a Model 3 instead of a C-Max? I’m sure animal rights activists would be just as dead in a sunken Tesla as they would be when washed away in a Prius, but I do have concern for what it will mean for rescue workers when they have to recover an EV from flood waters.

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      They have a 60,000 mile warranty.
      Hopefully it pukes close to home at the end of your vacation trip.

      I hear a lot on the internet about head gaskets and CVTs but these things sell pretty good. Are they all dumped after three years on unsuspecting second owners?

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        What do you think is worse: cleaning carbon from a DI engine on Honda or Toyota, or swapping a CVT on a Subaru? And also on Honda or Toyota, both of whom are migrating to CVTs as well.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        Don’t forget excessive oil consumption. Oh, nevermind, Subaru says its perfectly normal for a brand new car to use oil at a rate that is many times that of my 242,xxx mile Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      I did a double-take there!

      Fifty-thousand miles out of that powertrain, tops, if it’s pressed into service yanking that much around!

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Especially the 15-19 mpg for this on fuelly. Better off with a V8!

      http://www.fuelly.com/car/subaru/ascent/2019

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        A former co-worker had a 2008 Tribeca. He thought it was the greatest thing ever until he admitted to its average of 18 MPG. Looks like the Tribeca’s replacement is continuing on with the miserable fuel economy.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I can’t see myself buying a subcompact crossover, but if I were to do so, the Crosstrek would be at the top of my list. Great features, great safety, attractive design, superior AWD, reasonable price. Emphasis on the design; it doesn’t look nearly as dorky as many of its competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      dividebytube

      For me it’s the 152hp engine that put the Crosstek out of the running.

      The WRX or STI, on the other hand…

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        The 2.0L turbo motor would be great, but even just going back to the 2.5L NA mill like they used to have in the Imprezas would be a substantial improvement IMO. To be fair I have not tried the latest revision of the CVT/2.0L let alone the 2.0L+stick shift, but the CVT/2.0L combination did not impress us in a 2013 Impreza sedan when my wife was car shopping back in 2012. The CVT/2.5NA in the Outback feels at least adequate and refined enough (ish).

        • 0 avatar
          NL

          We have a 2017 Impreza 5-door with the CVT/2.0L combo (now DI). Works well. We have put almost 36K miles on it in 18 months, mostly highway miles, and it has no bothersome CVT behaviors IMHO. Cruises at 70 below 2K rpm. Spacious, comfortable, no problems so far. Low to mid-30s mpg.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            I found the process of acceleration rather frustrating and grating in the 2013, FWIW. To be fair we had my wife, me, my father in law, and the salesman in the car. Not an insignificant added amount of weight for a small economy car to haul around.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Its the Jeep Renegade for me. Although I haven’t found one around me (I’m in 2wd country, the only 4wd models had the 9AT), a manual 4×4 base model would be the most acceptable subcompact crossover, again, for me.

      Still, it won’t be on the list anytime soon. Besides, I have about talked myself out of trying to get a new car later this year. There are other things in my life I want to do, and so I’m pretty sure I’m going with my original plan of building a fleet of vehicles I love before they’re all gone.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        Yep, the only subcompact crossover worth mentioning. Jeep put a lot of thought into their little Renegade and it shows

      • 0 avatar
        Johnster

        I had a Renegade as a rental last winter in Wyoming. It was terrible. Within the first day the “check engine” light came on and it went into limp mode where it wouldn’t go any faster than 35 mph on the Interstate. The rental company gave me an upgrade to a Subaru Forester which was surprisingly nice. Then they wanted the Forester back and replaced it with an even nicer Outback.

        The Renegade’s Italian heritage shows.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        John, this is where I agree. Renegade is such nice car. Tested 1.4T/Manual and loved it besides these:
        – you need to work that engine all the time
        – it needs premium gas
        – it has small fuel tank
        – it has timing belt
        – the screen is too small in base models

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I just can’t do the styling on the Renegade, but it does drive well and has plenty of features.

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        I looked pretty closely at a Renge with 1.4t. That motor is working quite well in other FCA cars, it has an aftermarket support with various chipping and even mechanical updates. However, rumors circulate that the AWD is not as robust as it should be. It has a bunch of computer-controlled components and the effectors fail. Apparently, the system even has an step motor for some reason, instead of a plain old solenoid. I’m a little bummed by the junk grade interior, too (on the manual models). The ZF 9sp had its issues and it appears that Honda is quickly dumping it in favour of an in-house unit. The only one who remains using it is Rover (at least in Evoque).

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Kyree, so many great words about this bland subaru. what design? stretched outback design?

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        I wasn’t talking about the Ascent. I was talking about the Crosstrek. I think the Ascent looks entirely bland, but not in a good way. The Atlas does bland a lot better. It actually looks handsome with its rectilinear profile, if not exactly groundbreaking.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          Ah, ok. I like the Crosstrek. My type of car. But…. seats in it… Especially rear. The surface is way too short, like it is made for little kids. I didn’t even test drove. I knew, it ain’t happening.

  • avatar
    Sub-600

    Should we fail to coexist and get to DEFCON 1, put the family (don’t forget the dog!) in the Subaru, it’ll survive a 150 kiloton airburst. Then go camping, permanently.

  • avatar
    HahnZahn

    The Ascent is at the top of the list for my wife and me as our next car in another year or so. We both already have Subarus – a Forester and a new Impreza – but have a baby on the way, so our big dumb dog will need to sit farther back. Total cliches we are, I know.

    A couple things I like about the Ascent are the AWD (we camp every year 50-something miles down washboard roads in Death Valley) and EyeSight. I have EyeSight in my Impreza, and it’s the best thing ever. With the Ascent, both of these features come bog standard, so I won’t have to play the configuration game as I would with other similar SUVs from other companies. I’ve also found the CVT in my Impreza to be thoroughly un-annoying, especially in SoCal traffic.

    Just hope Subaru has fixed the radio problems I’ve had in my Impreza. Not sure why they haven’t iron out the kinks in smartphone connectivity, while my mom’s Kia has had no hangups in that regard.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      We’re in a similar boat HahnZahn, except we’re in the midwest, with two medium/larger dogs, and baby is planned but not actively on the way quite yet. We’ve unfortunately been doinga lot less camping than we’d like the last two years (read: none) but are finally getting back out this weekend to our favorite primitive site. My old 4Runner does great for these trips, but is quite frankly overkill 99% of the time for the gravel roads we mostly take, although it has been a godsend that 1% of the time. The more frequent scenario is highway road trips to visit in-laws, and that’s where the 22 year old 4runner on all terrain tires tends to wear me out and all of that bouncing around wears on the dogs as well. The Ascent looks like a fairly natural fit for us, although I can’t help but wonder about the CVT long term with all that weight and torque to handle. I haven’t heard of issues even on higher mileage Outbacks that have had the CVT since 2011 iirc, but they’ve only been pairing them with the higher torque V6 since 2015, and not in a heavier three row crossover.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    Subaru did have an increase, yes – but this increase was nowhere NEAR what it did from 2012-2015. THAT was incredible; THIS one is tiny, by comparison. The days of Subaru mega-increases seem to have passed, at least for now.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Now that the dust has settled on US sales flapping…TOKYO, Aug 6 (Reuters) – Subaru Corp on Monday reported a 51.8 percent fall in operating profit for the first quarter due to lower global sales, particularly in the United States, while discounts on U.S. sales also stung the automaker’s bottom line.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I live in the Sierra foothills where a lot of people feel they need AWD. Subaru and some Jeeps are probably the cheapest well known choices. It also helps that Subaru has a dealership in this town. Even if it’s hidden inside a Ford dealership.

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      It’s not what the “lot” of people think, it’s the regulation. The “AWD” vehicles are exempt from snow chain requirements, as long as they are on snowflake-in-triangle tires. Having spent a night in a parking lot of Safeway in South Lake Tahoe because a roadblock turned me back, I think I’d get one of those Subarus too.

  • avatar
    ernest

    Let’s remember Subaru’s sales increase is constrained by production capability, not demand at the moment.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    The appeal for Subarus is very much like the appeal of Organic potatoes.

    They aren’t really any better tasting, safer, or better looking compared to other conventional options, but Organic and Subaru buyers are compelled…just because.

    Both products have been marketed in a way to appeal to these buyers on entirely non-objective terms. GREAT marketing there!

  • avatar
    R Henry

    The appeal for Subarus is very much like the appeal of Organic potatoes.

    They aren’t really any better tasting, safer, or better looking compared to other conventional options, but Organic potato and Subaru buyers are compelled…just because.

    Both products have been marketed in a way to appeal to these buyers on entirely non-objective, entirely emotional terms. GREAT marketing there!

  • avatar
    probert

    Just a note for proper usage: “So much winning” is an ironic term that refers to failures. It stems from Trump referring to his string of abject failures as “winning”. Just want to avoid mission creep on this term, since Subaru is actually “winning”. (of course this due to Trump’s tariffs, tax give away, and immigration policy I’m sure…cuz I’m sure he’ll hold it up as an example of American companies succeeding. Oy)

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    It would be interesting to see a reliable sales chart for three-row vehicles for monthly data. Atlas vs Ascent vs… etc. GoodCarBadCar has become pretty useless lately.

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