By on October 5, 2018

Image: Subaru

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]

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52 Comments on “Subaru Manages to Buck An Industry-wide Trend in September...”


  • avatar
    watersketch

    We bought a ’15 Outback a few years ago and it has been a great car. Something to be said for a company that just does a few things and does them well.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      Lets see how good it will be in 7 years

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        Slavuta – Okay, my ’11 Outback with CVT and 131k miles is good after more than 7 years. Next question? I’m waiting…

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          To answer his own question Slavuta can easily look at the empirical data of Subarus at the high end of holding their value in the used market place. But he won’t because he doesn’t like Subarus. That’s okay.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            What data shows Subaru OB holding used values than a Chevy?

            Cars dot com shows a 2018 OB for $25K, 2011 OB under 90K miles is $11K or a $14K drop in value. A 2018 Equinox 1.5t AWD is $20K while a 2011 Equinox AWD under 90K miles is is $10K or $10K drop in value.

            The Subaru drops $4,000 more than a Chevy, not including head gaskets, crack windshields, CV joints…

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Does a happy Subaru owner know that CV axles, headgaskets, rear wheel bearings, air-fuel ratio sensors(otherwise known as B1S1 O2 sensors), cam position actuators, driveshafts, timing belt idler pulleys and radiators aren’t maintenance items on quality cars built in the past thirty years? Enquiring minds would like to know. Can anyone name another car company that puts stop-leak in its cooling systems right from the factory? Why buy a shady used car when you can finance a new one! Subaru has the best marketing and nothing else. They’ve separated the weak from the herd and sold them an expensive identity.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            @Dave M.
            Subaru has 5 year high value. But it is hardly related to reliability altogether. History shows that it is normal trend that sales numbers are not supported by reliability stat. For example, I have 2 Mazda3 cars. 10′ and ’11. Total mileage on them is 215K miles and 0 problems. But Mazda3 is not selling well at all.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          @bullnuke

          nice try. Get ready for engine work. Its coming.

          Now. I usually talk using my own observations. But Consumer Reports does support my observations. They call Subarus some of the worst cars in long term reliability.

          You know, I have nearly 10 year old Highlander. And people say, oh, it is 10 year old? Runs fine? Of course, this is Toyota. Only they don’t know that I already changed water pump, accessory belt tension-er, did 3 alignments and it burns good amount of oil. Of course, this is not much considering single gasket change in Subaru. But in contrast, same age and mileage Mazda3 I have, had exactly 0 problems and burns 0 drops of oil. So, where is the truth?

          And what I mean, as well as everything else – just like single healthy Mazda3 doesn’t make all Mazda3 bullet proof, single Subaru (you may not even know that it is already leaking) doesn’t make all Subarus good long term.

      • 0 avatar
        AHMike

        My wife bought a new Forester in 2005. Still runs like new, has no body, interior, or hardware issues, and has needed only routine maintenance after 135, 000 miles. Next year it will double your 7 year standard.

  • avatar
    xtoyota

    Just keep the dog commercials going :=)

  • avatar
    deanst

    Just for the amusement of John Taurus, I’ll note the “wisdom” of Ford not bringing a Crosstrek competitor to market. It’s actually the only Ford I would consider purchasing.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    I miss the tabulated sales figures that TTAC used to provide. When did that end?

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I just rented a Forester for a week and it was a far better car than I expected. Anyway, where else can you get a manual, brown wagon?

  • avatar
    Spike_in_Brisbane

    I just rented a Forester for a week and it was a far better car than I expected. Anyway, where else can you get a manual, brown wagon?

  • avatar
    vehic1

    They don’t have the industry’s best YTD growth, and their gains are FAR below the double-digit gains of 2012-2015 (when the Dogs + Love ads were new) – but sure, give ’em credit for modest increases.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    Guess they fixed the unwelded-Ascent problem, before any huge PR scandal.

  • avatar

    Subaru understands marketing.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      No. It is people don’t really understand what they actually get.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      Does anyone really understand Subaru’s popularity?

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        >Does anyone really understand Subaru’s popularity?

        Sure; all the people who buy them.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I dont, I WANT to like them myself, but half the time I look at them on Craigslist there will be an 10 year old or less example with a dead engine, rod knock.

        Maybe if you live in Colorado they make sense, or if you’re a hoarder and need the Ascents 19 cup holders.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        A whole bunch of reasons beyond the standard AWD, reliability and retention of value. AWD is not just worthwhile for many in snowy conditions, but my Outback is a beast in our torrential rains. A slow beast (it’s got the 2.5) but a beast none-the-less.

        Except for their Toyota-shared 2 door coupe, Subarus have a great sight lines, and it’s obvious Subaru isn’t a slave to fashion in their design.

        Subarus filled the niche SAAB left open when they closed shop (the car for independently minded people), and I think they’ve caught a few Volvo-philes looking for better reliability. The runners-up to my Outback were the CRV AWD and XC70. The CRV was a little too common, and having previously owned a Volvo while I loved the XC70 I was considering, I still have PTSD from our S70’s constant desire for expensive attention.

        A fully loaded Outback with the 3.6 can be had for under $40k. That’s a lot of long-term value.

        You just won’t see a lot of Subarus, or their owners, on Rodeo Drive. That’s not their priority….

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Around here you’ll find Subarus owned by very rich people.

          • 0 avatar
            NormSV650

            Scottdude, when visiting Bar Harbor, MN, it was Suabru and Prius, mostly with faded Bernie and Hillary stickers. But another week in Cape Cod had none of them as they are cheap cars.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          The Buick Regal TourX won the comparison of Alltrack and OB 3.6R. The $6,000-7,000 discount makes the fincial case for the Regal.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          @dave m,

          you misleading here when you phrasing Subaru for its reliability. Lets take the facts

          “In 2012, Consumer Reports recommended the Subaru Impreza for their reliable small car, and in 2015, it came 5th in the Consumer Reports survey for dependability. So you would think that Subaru are extremely reliable.

          However, in 2016, Subaru dropped significantly in Consumer Reports table, dropping out of the top 10 completely. This is backed up by the fact that ReliabilityIndex place Subaru 18th out of 36 for dependability…”

          The fact is, Subaru never was reliable. CR awarded new models with Predicted reliability but dropped them soon after since they proved otherwise.

          • 0 avatar
            Pete Zaitcev

            Reliable or otherwise, I know a guy who has a Subaru with 315k miles as his primary car. To be fair, he was going to replace it this year.

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        I’m not sure who buys Outbacks, but XV/Crosstrek is an honest car. It’s practical and easy to live with. The quality is good. While True Delta was still around, the data was quite good, so the horror stories are obviously blown out of proportion.

    • 0 avatar
      ernest

      Damn sure they do. They selling to the kids of all those Volvo Wagons in the 70’s and 80’s.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Subaru has followed Red Bull in being a marketing company that also sells a energy drink or car.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    At least here where I live in Atlantic Canada, Subaru seems to be successfully chasing the same market that Toyota is after, namely the older crowd who have zero interest in driving and want something safe and reliable. There’s nothing wrong with safe and reliable but those don’t have to be exclusive from interesting and fun. I can’t see myself ever owning a boring car and that means that I’ll likely never darken the door of a Toyota or Subaru dealer. And with Subaru I have an additional beef: I loved and considered buying an Outback when it was a mildly lifted car. The current bloated SUV that wears the Outback name now holds no interest for me.

    Full marks to Subaru though for managing to convince a lot of people in urban areas that AWD is an essential feature. I’m firmly in the camp of seeing AWD as unnecessary for most people. FWD and a good set of winter tires is a much better choice than AWD on all-seasons.

  • avatar
    BartBandy

    Subarus also sell very well in Ontario north of the Toronto area where lake effect snow makes their superior AWD systems more of an advantage. Add to this high quality and reasonable fuel efficiency and it is not hard to see why they sell well.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      My question is that a lot of cars do what Subaru does as well if not better then Subaru, so why do so many prefer Subaru?

      • 0 avatar
        BartBandy

        Same as why people buy Apple when other producers can do similar things. I’d say the answer is “marketing” – sure, others do just as well (really, anything with snow tires will do fine in most situations) but Subaru is known for AWD because of its heavy marketing spend on that.

        • 0 avatar
          stuntmonkey

          > the answer is “marketing”

          I love how human nature leads us to see in others a lack of agency and self-determination that we insist to possess for ourselves.

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        I’m trying to find an equivalent of Crosstrek, and there’s basically nothing on the market that’s equivalent. I looked at Jeep Renegade, but my better half panned its interior. In addition, they canceled the manual version, and the automatic comes with the ZF 9sp. Aside from Renegade, everything else is either mini-car, like HR-V or CX-3, or a fairly large and expensive vehicle. So far I looked at BMW X1, RR Evoque, and Volvo XC40. Acura RDX is very nice, but again, large, and there’s noting in their line-up that’s smaller (it would be a rebadged HR-V if they did have anything).

        The XC40 was a big disappointment. It’s even fordable! But stupid Volvo overloads it with nonsense tech, instead of making a basic car.

        Evoque is okay, but it’s expensive and unreliable. I really don’t want to get stranded 50 miles away from the nearest human settlement in Gabbs, Nevada. Also, headroom is very meh.

        One interesting option is Wrangler 2-door. Jeep managed to make it bigger yet again, but marginally (by a smaller amount Subaru inflated Crosstrek, actually), and they made it lighter, with some versions clocking under 4,000 pounts.

        So yeah… If only Honda added a bare minimum of low range to HR-V, or, say Jeep imported FIAT Panda. Or if Toyota imported Daihatsu Rush. But absent these options, Crosstrek basically has no competition, unless you’re okay with ZF auto in Renegade. {I should note that Crosstrek’s off-roading capabilities leave a lot to be desired: with the manual, the total ratio is only 16.96 (previous generation was 15.75), and the long snout is a serious liability – people even run it with the bumper removed.}

  • avatar

    although Subaru fulfills their brand image…

    Wouldn’t You Really Rather Have a Buick?

    c’mon, really!

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      You know Buickman, as the owner of two Subaru Outbacks I seriously looked into that new Regal TourX wagon. Fairly nice car but the undefeatable stop-start keeps me away from anything GM. The interior was okay but nothing really special. The local Buick dealers are having some problems selling them as several locally are advertised as $6k off MSRP. Was probably a good idea five or more years ago but they appear to have missed the boat with these. Sad.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

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

  • avatar
    riggodeezil

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      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

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