Subaru Manages to Buck An Industry-wide Trend in September

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems

U.S. auto sales took a roughly 7 percent year-over-year dive in September, pulling the market’s year-to-date sales total further in the red. The industry-wide sales gain seen in the first half of the year is gone.

At Subaru, however, good timing and the continued popularity of a certain model kept the automaker from joining the ranks of its rivals (a group that does not include a beaming Fiat Chrysler). The automaker somehow managed to pull off a win in a dismal month, and it’s still up on a year-to-date basis, despite having so many minuses on its sales ledger.

In September, Subaru’s U.S. sales rose 3.5 percent, year over year, with volume over the first nine months of 2018 up 5.1 percent. However, only one vehicle recorded positive year-over-year growth last month, and only one vehicle is up on a year-to-date basis.

The key to having a record September in a generally bad September is to introduce a much-needed model during the summer. That rig is the three-row, midsize Ascent crossover — a model that found 5,859 buyers last month. Additional volume from this model is what pushed Subaru’s numbers over the top in September. Other than this, the only vehicle not showing a monthly decline is the Forester, which rose 1.4 percent, year over year.

It’s worth noting that last September contained an additional sales day. Had the two months been on even terms, the ever-popular Crosstrek would surely have posted a positive sales number (it was down less than one percent for the month). As the brand’s third best-selling vehicle, the Crosstrek is the only model enjoying a year-to-date increase. It’s not a small one, either. The lifted and cladded Impreza hatch is up 45.1 percent over 2017’s tally, with its YTD volume — 111,415 units — quickly catching up to the second-place Forester and first-place Outback.

The Crosstrek remains an extremely strong vehicle and serves as an example of what automakers can reap if they’re willing to tinker around with an existing model (and come up with a new name). However, it’s the Ascent that earns credit for coming to the brand’s rescue last month.

[Image: Subaru]

Steph Willems
Steph Willems

More by Steph Willems

Join the conversation
5 of 52 comments
  • Buickman Buickman on Oct 06, 2018

    although Subaru fulfills their brand image... Wouldn't You Really Rather Have a Buick? c'mon, really!

    • See 1 previous
    • Slavuta Slavuta on Oct 08, 2018

      buick - ok. Opel - not so much. first, show me one Opel that didn't look totally fallen apart after 5 years

  • Riggodeezil Riggodeezil on Oct 07, 2018

    A young relative just bought an orange Crosstrek like the one pictured. She actually went out of her way to get that specific color. Natch, I sort of spoke against it mainly because of the DI engine and the CVT but Love. Dogs, orange, and Crapple CarPlay easily trumped all that nonsense. It’s an ok car for a young active person. A hatchback in elevator shoes. But I don’t think it’s really any more capable or has any more utility for her than the Corolla it replaced. Guess we’ll see how she likes the it over the long haul. I used to think Subaru’s were kind f of neat in a quirky way but they seem to have dialed that back quite a bit from the old days. They almost seem like the former hippy who went back to school and got his MBA and is now a stockbroker. Nothing wrong with that but sometimes you miss having the hippy around to remind you that there’s more to life than squeezing every nickel So hard that the buffalo farts.

    • Lie2me Lie2me on Oct 07, 2018

      Good post. I think Subarus are what people want who don't really like cars. They're practical in most applications and many people like their AWD capabilities, but most of all I think people buy Subarus because their friend/relative/coworker or anybody's judgement they trust has one and likes it

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.