By on November 5, 2018

2019 Subaru Ascent duo - Image: Subaru

Subaru reported an operating loss in its most recent fiscal quarter, with recalls and regulatory scandals in its home market dragging the company into the red. The company said it lost $22 million in the quarter ending September 30th, a departure from last year’s $816.3 million operating profit. Meanwhile, global volume fell 6 percent.

In the company’s largest market — the United States — it was an entirely different scenario, with American buyers conspiring to give the brand its 83rd consecutive year-over-year sales increase. A record for October, too, but that’s sort of a given. Very nice of those buyers, but the credit really belongs to the Ascent crossover.

Like September, last month saw a year-over-year U.S. sales gain only because of the extra buyers dumped into the brand by the new three-row utility vehicle. The model’s best month so far saw an additional 6,008 vehicles added to Subaru’s sales roster, pushing the brand to a 2.5 percent monthly gain. Year to date, Subaru’s up 4.9 percent — mainly thanks to the Ascent.

Subtracting last year’s October YTD number from last month’s shows Subaru sold an additional 25,919 vehicles over the first 10 months of the year, not that far above the Ascent’s 22,588 figure. The automaker would still be up for the year without the new model, but it would be a very close thing indeed. The only other model in Subaru’s lineup to post a YTD gain is the Crosstrek, now up 39.7 percent.

2019 Subaru Forester green - Image: Subaru

With that said, the Crosstrek had company in the year-over-year sales gain club. Thanks to a redesigned (but not too redesigned) Forester, that model posted a 19 percent YoY volume climb. It’s no surprise that the North American region was a money-maker for Subaru. Operating profit rose 4.4 percent last quarter.

Back in Japan, Subaru’s ongoing inspection scandal expanded Monday, with the automaker adding another 100,000 vehicles built as recently as last month to the roster of improperly inspected cars. No exported vehicles were among the group. In order to make good with the public, Subaru must now recall more than half a million vehicles in order to perform a task that should have been completed before the cars left the factory.

Adding to that headache and financial burden is a very expensive recall announced last week. Fragile valve springs in certain models forced the recall of 411,000 vehicles worldwide, and the work won’t be easy. Expect service technicians to spend many hours with each vehicle, and even more if there’s damage to the engine.

[Image: Subaru]

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35 Comments on “As Troubles At Home Hit Subaru’s Bottom Line, Americans Do Their Duty and Hand the Brand Another Record...”


  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Subaru…WHAT A DISGRACE!!!

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Nahh, Ford posts an overall profit, lets focus on how terrible they are. Subaru loses millions due to their own created problems, let’s talk about how successful they are.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Ford made money! Now that’s a disgrace! At that rate they will never get thier Death Watch status nor appease domestic auto industry haters!

      • 0 avatar

        Ford is a gloomy obsessed child killer. Ford models have very short lifespan because their parent starves then to death or kills them outright for no good reason, simply to lay off experienced engineers in thousands to increase stock price (as if) for a couple of days.

        On the other hand Subaru is a cute little heartbreaker. Subaru is a sweet little LOVE maker.

  • avatar
    forward_look

    Three Subarus in my immediate family, and I am not impressed by any of them. Especially as they age, ungracefully.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    Need to re-word the article.

    I don’t think Subaru has had 80+ years of sales increases.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Since YOY is measured monthly (except when it isn’t, like at the end of a year), the implication is that the YOY increases are monthly data points.

      It could have been worded better, but it’s technically correct as-is for this context (October data).

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    And you call yourself …car guys…?
    Replacing valve springs will require many hours… very expensive…
    …not… are basic procedures unknown to the writer of this article?
    Like… uuuhhh…. maybe perhaps … air pressure applied thru the spark plug hole… which holds all the valves in place… then it’s a straightforward job once the rocker arm assembly is removed… uuuhhh… what do you figure…? …90 seconds?
    16 valves… 90 minutes.
    Come on… this is not over 3 hours book time… or whatever they call it.
    It’s not expensive or complicated or cumbersome.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Evidently you’ve never worked on a Subaru boxer engine, let alone a modern engine covered with a host of non-engine stuff.

      Step One for this procedure is likely removing the engine mounts so the engine can be repositioned for access.

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      Phxmotor, your comment would make sense if modern Subarus came with carbureted pushrod small-block V8s. The problem is they have OHC boxer engines. You can’t get at the valves because there’s unibody in the way. So you have to remove the engine, or at least drop it partway. So this job will generally require a vehicle lift.

      And once you do get the valve covers off, you can’t simply remove the “rocker arm assembly”, because there’s a pesky camshaft or two perched over top of your valvesprings. And once you remove that camshaft, you need to re-time the camshafts to the crankshaft. The job described here is a pain.

      (To be fair, even some pushrod engine head gaskets are more easily replaced by putting the car on a lift and pulling the subframe with engine out the bottom. Like my old T-Bird SC, for example. It was still doable with the engine in the car, but it’s difficult or impossible for the Subarus referenced here.)

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        It is not impossible to remove the heads on the Subarus in the car, just difficult and if you are doing both it takes longer than pulling the engine. As I said above and in the original article it is a 4hr job.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I’d say 4 hrs of time. Yes the engine will be removed and a dealership tech should be able to do that in 45 min if he is hung over and moving slow.

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        I may just be slow, but 4 hours sounds really fast to me. Maybe some dealership techs can do the job *properly* in 4 hours, but I would bet there are many who can’t.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          When you do them repeatedly you get a process and know exactly what tools you need and when.

          The transvers FWD Caddy 4100 made me a lot of money back in the day. I did sooo many of them I could get one out in an hour and that is a far more complicated engine to remove.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      It might be three hours of warranty time, but the techs who end up getting this assigned for three hours are either a.) low men on the totem pole getting shafted, b.) absolute magicians who end up taking every second car they work on apart at least twice to correct their magically fast work, or c.) doing wall jobs; meaning that the cars are parked by a wall from when they’re dropped off until when they’re picked up.

      • 0 avatar
        Kenn

        “doing wall jobs; meaning that the cars are parked by a wall from when they’re dropped off until when they’re picked up.”

        So that’s what service technicians call it when I drop off my car for a problem which should be covered under warranty, return at the end of the day to be told “it’s fixed,” then find they haven’t done a thing.

  • avatar
    Brumus

    If you don’t need AWD ‒ and most of us don’t – you can buy a number of other similarly priced vehicles that are superior to a Subaru in many important aspects (powertrain, fuel economy, reliability, etc.). And if you slap on some winter tires, you’ll also have something more capable in winter driving than a Subaru equipped with no-season tires.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Your reasoned logic escapes most buyers, who believe that death is imminent without AWD. Love.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      My Outback has seen only one dusting of snow in it’s 5 years, but I love that little beast in our frequent downpours and wet conditions. Your mileage may vary.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        I will say Dave, I’ve had my eyes opened to the benefits of AWD (the real “full time” kind) and the feeling of stability it imparts in rain storms and such. My old Quattro feels secure and stuck to the road in the nasty weather we’ve been having. But what I’m really looking towards is some snow this winter to try out Quattro+snow tires.

  • avatar
    redapple

    A lot of Subaru hate in this forum. I d like to relay these facts.

    1- Head gasket and oil consumption issues have been fixed from what I read and hear.
    2- Bad Fuel Economy is Fake News. I get 31.1 MPG on my 2018 Forester. 11,000 miles so far. My 2014 Equinox averaged 26.2 MPG – same duty cycle. 50-50% Expressway.
    3- Clear class leader in crash protection, Resale, active and passive safety.
    4- Best outward visibility of ANY car.

    So, hate away, but my Subaru is the best car of the 12 I ve owned.

    • 0 avatar
      ShoogyBee

      I sat in a Forester and a Legacy at the auto show in February. Those cars had the best visibility by far, compared to other vehicles in their respective classes. I’d keep them on my shopping list just for that quality alone.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      “1- Head gasket and oil consumption issues have been fixed from what I read and hear.”

      Now reality. Subaru said it on at least 4 different occasions that this problem is now solved and yet, it reappear every time. although, it is now delayed well into 130K+ miles. Used to be under 100K. And oil consumption is there. They recently recalled engine blocks. Do you want to own a car which gets engine block recalled?

      Subaru has another reality for you – frozen parts. This is when you can’t separate some suspension parts and instead of changing a bearing, you need to change the whole hub.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        To be fair, the first FB series engines came out in 2011 (Forester), and I have yet to hear about a pattern issue with HG failures. Oil consumption, yes that seemed to be an issue, leading to a class action lawsuit. Are cars past 2014 still experiencing issue en-masse? Frozen suspension bolts, well that’s just a function of salt-belt living. I fought an epic battle against my Pilot’s control arm bolt that froze into the bushing sleeve. Mazda3s are known to freeze the rotors onto the hub assembly. Subarus predominate in salty/winter climates so they might very well represent more cases. I will say I’ve seen Subie valve cover bolts get frozen on and corroded so badly they need to be welded to before they’ll turn out. A function of the heads being positioned down low and within reach of road spray, as well as Subaru cost-cutting the small rubber plugs they used to put on the valve covers to cover said bolts.

    • 0 avatar
      stuntmonkey

      1- Head gasket and oil consumption issues have been fixed from what I read and hear.

      Head gasket is an EJ25 thing. it’s pretty awful for the people who had it, but except for the STI, the entirety of the Subaru lineup is a FA or FB engine, and has been for more than a generation cycle.

      2- Bad Fuel Economy is Fake News. I get 31.1 MPG on my 2018 Forester. 11,000 miles so far.

      The modern Subaru ECU’s do everything they can to claw back fuel consumption; highway numbers are really good, real world city numbers are still held back by the extra weight and friction, but not as much as ion the past.

      3- Clear class leader in crash protection, Resale, active and passive safety.

      All cars are safe, but the modern Impreza/Crosstrek platform does really well on all crash tests.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      Any article about Subaru positive or negative is red meat for the “Anything But A Subaru” crowd (usually Mazda lovers who can’t figure out why no one buys ’em). Same stuff trotted out – head gaskets/oil consumption/CVT/unreasonable fear of snow/rotted CV-joint boots/corrosion issues/gas guzzlers/etc. But still, Subaru continues selling and selling…

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        “Subaru continues selling and selling…”

        Considering the model years affected by oil consumption and the fix needed, Subaru probably wishes they DIDN’T sell so many cars. They’re potentially on the hook for ~1 million or so short blocks. Wonder how many of those customers will be repeat buyers?

        And now valve springs on top of that.

        Even if you have a newer Subaru that doesn’t burn oil, you still have the stank of the oil burner reputation that will perpetuate for the next decade or so.

      • 0 avatar
        stuntmonkey

        “I don’t understand why somebody with extra discretionary budget would buy an AWD system that they don’t strictly need for a little extra safety. Everybody should be like me and buy an extra sporty car instead, even though I have a family and live a comuter existence like 99% of the rest of the world.” (CRTL-C, CRTL-V)

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      “Clear class leader in crash protection,”. See this:

      https://hmg-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/videos/subaru-headon-1-1541184296.mp4

  • avatar
    nels0300

    The oil consumption issue isn’t done with and won’t be for a long time.

    I owned a 2013 Impreza that used about a quart per 1,500 miles since new. I got rid of that car.

    My wife’s 2013 Forester also uses oil and is currently in the middle of an oil consumption test. It’s going to end up getting a short block.

    Entire model years of anything with the FB engine are affected, as recent as 2015.

    Subaru extended the warranty on these cars to 8 years / 100K miles for oil consumption.

    Subaru is going to be paying for short blocks for a while.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    We are in the market for a CUV for my wife. She likes to “sit high” after driving a minivan for a long time. The Outback is on my list of possible replacements, but this article only reinforces my hesitation about the Subaru brand. That, and the local dealer is a piece of work. Damn, how hard is it to make a valve spring? The problem reminds me of GMs cost cutting in the 80s that ultimately led to the bankruptcy. Any way, I will be asking for a big discount in order to get over the past history long term reliability issues. That, or a really cheap 3 year lease.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    Subaru deserves credit for this record – which, at this time, is only about the nearly 7 years of monthly increases. Said increases, however, have long since ceased to reach the magnitude of those around the years 2012-2015; in fact, I wonder if a few of them may have been an “all hands on deck” effort, to wheeze forth the barest increase (urging dealers, perhaps, to trade in a personal vehicle) in order to keep the string/bragging rights alive.

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