By on March 1, 2019

Expanding by leaps and bounds in the new millennium, Subaru effectively quadrupled its share of the U.S. market in the process. However, most of its production growth occurred in the last decade — leading to quality control problems unbefitting for a company that prides itself in sharing the same love as its customers.

Recalls are to be expected. No automaker can escape faulty components forever. But the frequency and scope of Subaru’s recalls (and scandals) over the past few years are especially bothersome, as they hint at an inability to catch mistakes, or perhaps a willingness to cut corners, as the company’s production volume targets the stratosphere. A new recall looming on the horizon will probably be the company’s largest to date. 

According to Reuters, Subaru plans to recall roughly 2.3 million vehicles globally over a defective brake light switch — an issue that could potentially confuse the ignition, making it impossible to start the car. However, that’s a secondary issue of the potential confusion it could create for motorists travelling behind the vehicle.

Affected vehicles include Impreza and Forester models manufactured between 2008 and 2017, according to the automaker. The outlet reported Subaru as saying nearly 2 million of the cars hail from North America, with another 300,000 located in Japan. That’s a lot of fixing to add to the company’s already long list of recalls.

From Reuters:

Since late 2017, Subaru has been reeling from a host of problems ranging from faulty components to inspection re-dos which, coupled with weakening sales in the United States, has forced the automaker to slash its full-year profit outlook to its weakest in six years.

Quality-related issues have cast a pall on the automaker which enjoyed years of rapid growth in the United States, where it won over affluent and liberal-minded consumers with advertisements featuring slogans championing love and inclusion.

Such branding boosted the image of the tiny automaker, prompting it to ramp up production in the United States, which accounts for around 60 percent of its global sales volume.

Unfortunately, the automaker’s feel-good image is being tarnished as Subaru evolves into a larger company. Last year, Subaru admitted to falsifying fuel economy data after being faulted for decades of improper final inspection procedures in 2017.

Meanwhile, recalls have gotten out of hand. Over the last 12 months, the manufacturer halted production to address a defective power-steering unit, recalled 320,000 cars with weak valve springs229,000 vehicles with faulty software, and a couple hundred crossovers that made it out of the factory only partially welded.

As Subaru is growing at an incredible pace, introducing new models in the process, the company has a pretty good excuse for losing its previously admirable reputation for dependability. However, that doesn’t bode well for future growth — especially once the general public stops seeing it as the ultra-reliable brand it used to be. Subaru is losing what makes it special, and those endearing ad campaigns can’t do all of the heavy lifting. Brand loyalists will eventually smarten up and start cross shopping if the company doesn’t turn this around.

[Image: Subaru]

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71 Comments on “Subaru Prepares For Largest Recall Yet...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    One of the most overrated brands on the market today.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    FYI, that headline should be rewritten – at first blush, the reader can’t tell if this is Subaru’s largest recall ever, or the largest one ever, period.

    Sincerely,
    FreedMike, the guy who once wrote the following headline for an astronomy lecture, and somehow kept his job: “Professor Helps Expose Darkest Rings of Uranus”

  • avatar
    redapple

    Ummmm

    Ohhhhh

    Ayyyyyy. Never mind.

  • avatar
    gtem

    I thought it was going to be a serious mechanical issue (owing up to decades of headgasket issues or the more recent oil burning class action lawsuit). This is peanuts.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      But, but, gtem – it’s Subaru. This is just another example of a poorly manufactured, over-hyped, piece of junk vehicle from a crappy vehicle manufacturer. The list of recalls exceeds any from any manufacturer in the history of automobile manufacturing. Finally, finally this will be the nail that seals the coffin. Boooohahahaha! //s

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      Unless you get rear-ended (no brake lights).

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Zaitcev

      There aren’t any head gasket issues though. Not to the extent I had them on Chrysler 2.0L.

      • 0 avatar
        gtem

        There were absolutely headgasket issues on every generation of the naturally aspirated EJ25 motors, albeit with increasing longevity and decreasing rates of failure with every newer generation. My brother has done a number of them, most recently a 2009 Forester that had just cracked 100k miles (starting to weep externally).

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    I only though of Suburus as reliable till 80k miles. Meaning never had unexpected repairs till then. But then got stupid expensive after that.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Historically, you’re on the money. The older ones are pretty solid once you upgrade to Felpro MLS headgaskets and make an allowance for the CV boots, maybe a few emissions related sensors. They’re easy cars to work on, something the B&B hivemind can’t seem to fully appreciate. Once you get into the late 2000s, that’s where it seems quality of certain components took a dive, things like wheelbearings become a short lived item, interiors are cheaper, etc. Newest ones SEEM to have conquered the headgasket issue once and for all, and the oil burning woes are behind them. Subaru CVTs seem to hold up fine as well. I’d be incredibly leery of an Ascent, but a regular NA 2.5L Forester or Outback or 2.0L Crosstrek, no problem, I’d buy without reservations.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        I see so many clapped out Subaru’s that are owned by people who could in no way afford the head gasket fix (and their exhaust doesn’t stink) so how overblown is the Subaru headgasket issue?

        If you really want to see high mileage Subarus chugging along visit Santa Fe. It sounds like stereotyping giving the high LGBT population of the city but Subaru is basically the “Official Car of Santa Fe.”

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Boulder used to be See Through Rustwagon Subaru Heaven too, but now that the average house there is a million bucks, those folks have been priced out. Now it’s Brand New Outback Heaven.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            Santa Fe is sharply divided…

            Half-broke artist community driving rusted out Loyales and BRATs with 300,000 mile 1st gen Outbacks. Dining in holes in the wall you never heard of (but OMG the taste – found a little Salvadoran place during my honeymoon).

            Little middle class in between.

            Filthy rich from old money (in trading, jewelry, land, semi-retired Hollywood types, politicians) who are likely to have a ranch outside of town and a Land Cruiser or Land Rover with an Outback/Crosstex/Forester for their better half (regardless of gender) to drive. Eating things made by chefs who have Michelin Stars.

            Realestate prices are double Albuquerque.

            For the tourist (price-wise) its like a dry Hawaii.

            Santa Fe: The City Different…

          • 0 avatar
            FreedMike

            My girlfriend wants to visit – she’s deep into arts and crafts, so it’d be hog heaven for her. I’d do a three-day romance-weekend type thing down there.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            @Freed…

            Ten Thousand Waves Spa (they have cabins to rent too)

            Get couple’s massages, get a private Japanese bath.

            We went there on our honeymoon and I really want to book it again. (Although it might result in the birth of child number 3. :-) )

        • 0 avatar
          pragmatic

          you.tube.com/watch?v=wcriGgtIVm8

          The great Greg Brown, Boomtown

          The rich build sensitive houses and pass their staff around.
          For the rest of us, it’s trailers on the outskirts of town.
          We carry them their coffee, wash their shiny cars,
          hear all about how lucky we are
          to be living in a boomtown…

          It’s a Boomtown
          got another Boomtown
          and it’ll boom
          just as long as boom has room.

          The guy from California moves in and relaxes.
          The natives have to move – they cannot pay the taxes.
          Santa Fe has had it. Sedona has, too.
          Maybe you’ll be lucky – maybe your town will be the new boomtown

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          PDan, the older (late 90s, DOHC EJ25s) ones you see around probably got new headgaskets way back at the 70-80k mile mark with the first owner, and have been fine since, and/or simply didn’t fail: failure rate is by no means 100%. The mid 2000s ones can soldier on with an external HG leak for quite some time, as long as the coolant and oil levels are monitored.

        • 0 avatar
          Pete Zaitcev

          Dan, this sounds like my cue to talk about my buddy who has a Subaru DD with 315k miles.

        • 0 avatar
          NormSV650

          And cracked windshields!

      • 0 avatar
        bullnuke

        Grrr… Wheelbearings. My wife’s ’11 Outback has one growling on a rear wheel. You’d think they’d be perfect after 139k miles and 8 years in Western Ohio. This and the required timing belt replacement at 118k miles are going to break me as well as the…the… – well, nothing else has gone wrong so I can’t seem to complain much.

        • 0 avatar
          ToddAtlasF1

          Once you replace the wheel bearing that is growling, you’ll be able to hear the other one. Don’t believe the 2009 stuff about head-gaskets not being an issue anymore. That was about when cam position sensors became a maintenance item though. I always feel sorry for the Subaru owners who have to get their timing belts done before their head-gaskets fail. So much duplicate labor.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Todd I have not seen much online grousing about HG failure about FB25 series engines, but certainly have seen even the final years of EJ25s weeping externally.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            It is possible that the EJ25s installed through 2014 in some North American models cover the most recent head gasket issues, but the engines that replaced them have expensive issues that have been seen, up to the oil consumption issue that a bunch of Subaru customers have only been able to address by trading in the wagons. IIRC, every one of them traded for another Subaru. That’s why money spent on great marketing trumps money spent on engineering. I couldn’t talk any of them into attempting lemon law action either. They’re like beaten spouses.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            Subaru’s not the only ones that went through teething troubles with low tension oil rings and 0W-20 synthetic oil, Toyota had big issues in ’08-’09, BMW was struggling for quite some time on a number of their engines, Volvo’s 3.2L, VW 2.0Ts, etc. By the sound of it, the Subaru oil burning was likewise constrained to the first few years of FB25.

            As much as some Subaru loyalists might overhype the quality of their cars (goaded on my Subaru’s own marketing/ad dept), the internet hivemind has an equally irrational hatred of the things. I apperciate them for what they are, and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy one or recommend one now (aside from the Ascent).

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            Are you familiar with Holts Radweld: Radiator Leak Repair? It is also known as Subaru SOA635071 OEM Coolant System Conditioner. They put it in every new car they sell. Subaru literally puts stop-leak in their new cars’ cooling systems. They’re the fly-by-night used car outfit of the OEMs.

            There are lots of things we agree on, and I admire your resourceful approach to car ownership. You’re as wrong as can be about Subaru though. There’s no reason that adopting a bunch of fuel saving technologies is going to cause them to start making the good cars they’ve failed to provide thus far. I’ve also seen a serious drop off in the quality of the replacement parts they’ve sold me in the past two years. I doubt that means they’ve started putting better stuff in the new cars.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        My sister is looking to replace her 2011 Explorer and I just can’t come around to recommending the Ascent to her. CVT’s give me the heebie-jeebies. They aren’t so much repairable as replaceable, and that gets very expensive, very quickly.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          How much life is expected? I had to give back my Altima with 140K (half of which was heavy NYC bumper to bumper traffic) and the CVT was fine. Not fun, mind you, but reliable. However, these hybrid versions came with Toyota-sourced CVTs…not sure if the same can be said for the Jatco units in standard models.

          You can get full life out of the head gaskets in the affected Subarus – my BIL managed to do so for nearly 150K. He was hyper-gentle on the car if that matters. Anytime he went to sell it the first question was “do you have documentation for the HG replacement?”…I got the same on my old Chrysler 2.2…mine did blow but it took a tad over a quarter-million miles to do it.

          • 0 avatar
            ToddAtlasF1

            The planetary gearbox-based CVT used in Toyota’s Synergy Drive is completely different in mechanism from the belt-variator CVTs that have a deserved bad reputation. Look at a schematic of a planetary gearbox. Synergy drive varies the ratio be controlling the relative speed of a ring gear with an electric motor. A belt variator varies ratios by expanding and contracting pulleys that rely on friction to turn a belt. Belt CVTs are wear items. Synergy drive is one of the most durable automatic transmissions yet created.

          • 0 avatar
            gtem

            golden, my sister in law got 186k highway miles on her 2010 Rogue before it croaked, I had a friend buy a ragged and beaten up ’09 Altima with 180k on (presumably) the original CVT. So yes they are not absolutely guaranteed to crap out at low miles. But the failure rates seem to increase with more weight and higher torque (Pathfinder with CVT), and the Ascent is exactly this: high torque turbo 4, 4400lb+ curb weight.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    karma I suppose, for using parts suppliers who hire modern day human trafficked peasant workers from the 3rd world

  • avatar
    jatz

    Subaru is hugely successful selling cars I don’t like to people better educated and higher earning than myself so I freakin’ hate, hate, hate them!!!!

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    I say this as a former Subaru owner, I really think the brand’s reliability is incredibly over stated. Yet owners will swear up and down they are bulletproof despite major repairs like head gaskets going out on a regular basis.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      jacob_coulter – Which of your 2010 to the current MY 2019 Subaru’s had or have head gasketing issues? A link to a site detailing such major head gasket failure/repairs for this range of Subaru MY’s would be appreciated. A few “eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence” of these failures would also, likewise, be helpful. Second- and Third-hand uncorroborated information or rumors is/are unhelpful. As an aside, the current year is 2019, not 2009. I must be currently somewhere in your future or you may be residing somewhere in the past. (“all apologies to Arlo Guthrie”)

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Meh, people still hold the Chevy Citation and Vega against GM here so sorry, 2009 is in play pal.

        • 0 avatar
          geozinger

          @Art Vandelay re: Vegas and Citations: Those cars are older than and have been out of production longer than probably half of the B&B commentariat. But, that doesn’t prevent them from using them in a comment…

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          LOL! Agreed, Art. But no one should dare make a negative comment about a two year old model of a favored brand or vehicle – that is true heresy that requires breaking out the pitchforks and torches. ;-)

        • 0 avatar
          johnds

          Sometimes it takes only 1 experience to sour the company. I know so many former GM owners who act like the Chevy Citation or 70’s/80’s GM car tried to kill them. They are so pissed off by that experience they have sworn GM off.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        I do appreciate the Alice’s Restaurant reference though. That song was a staple of the Atlanta Airwaves every Thanksgiving but I haven’t heard it since 96 Rock became a crappy top 40 station.

    • 0 avatar
      Trucky McTruckface

      Subaru has long been a substitute for people who can’t afford a real Volvo, so this is no surprise. Yuppie Volvo owners loved to prattle on about the durability of their cars, in spite of the inevitable glovebox stuffed full of repair receipts. Of course the crunchy Subaru owners do the same thing, ignoring the reputation for eating head gaskets and the fact that the cars are pretty chintzy and mediocre from the get go.

  • avatar
    vehic1

    That would be “expandED by leaps and bounds” and “most of its (largest)production growth occurred in the first HALF of the last decade”.

  • avatar
    James Charles

    Subaru and Mazda are more competitive against each other than most think especially in the SUV/CUV market. They want to appear more prestigious than the common, Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi.

    I suppose Honda can be thrown into the mix. These three manufacturers are not huge players so they need to differentiate themselves as being more exclusive. Quality is their fight.

    Subaru has slipped against Mazda and Honda a little, maybe because they are chasing volume a little to hard.

    Subaru is a good vehicle, out of the three I mentioned it would be my second choice sitting between Mazda and the lowly Honda.

    But, if I was chasing a reliable SUV or CUV I would buy Korean because not enough value can be realised with one of the Japanese brands.

  • avatar

    How no one mentions Ford? This thing has a blue oval on the front. No wonder it is screwed up.

  • avatar
    Liam Gray

    Every person I know with a Subaru talks about how its the greatest car they have ever owned and then rattles off a list of insane repairs that they have had to do with a car that has under 100k miles. Then they talk about how good it is in the snow. Do they not realize there are a million other awd options? Have they just owned Subarus so long that they think major repairs at 60-80k miles is normal? I don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      They’re a counter-culture status symbol. The world’s best-selling head-gaskets just give their target market something to talk about at the dog park. Their advertising agency is worth every penny, and that makes them unique in the industry.

  • avatar
    Ryan

    Hi Liam,

    I read your post and wanted to share my full disclosure experience(s). Toyota is my favorite automobile manufacturer, I owned 4 of their automobiles – new. Subaru is a close second for me. I’ve owned 3, new Subaru’s. I have also owned 4 Honda’s, of which I easily had the most issues with.

    Combined, I put roughly 100,000 miles on the 4 ‘Yota’s (one was involved in an accident that was deemed a total loss after four months of ownership), 115,000 miles on the 3 Subies, and 90,000 ,miles on the 5 Honda’s.
    Of the four Toyota’s the biggest repair I had was a malfunctioning cruise control stock. This issue was fixed under warranty and I was provided with a free loaner during the process. My Subaru’s gave me not one issue between the 3 of them. I did put new tires on one of the them but I chalked that up to aggressive driving and mileage wear and tear.

    My Honda’s were my problem children. My Civic burned at lest a complete quart of oil in-between oil changes. No leaks in my garage, the engine had to have been burning it off. My second Civic had a moon roof with a mind of its own and Leaked a plenty. Of the 3 new Fit’s I owned one of them had the A/C compressor die on me. I was covered but with less than 15,000 on the odd, I was skeptical. Two recalls on one of my other Fit’s as well as he dreaded air bad recall on my last Fit. I currently own my first Mazda, No ploblems as of yet but Ive only put 35,000 miles on it in the last two years.

    • 0 avatar
      markf

      So you ave bought 13 new cars? What length of time does this cover? If the Honda’s were so problematic why did you keep buying them? If the Suburus so great why a Mazda now?

      • 0 avatar
        Ryan

        Good Evening Mark,

        Yes, I have purchased at total of 13 new Mazda’s/Subaru’s/Honda’s/Toyota’s, as stated. (My math turned a bit sour in my post above) In addition I have owned 1 used Hyundai, 1 new Ford and 3 Used Fords. I traded each Subaru before I hit 40k on the odometers. No of these brands we purchased back to back. Of the three Subaru’s , I enjoyed the Crosstrek the best. My job in while I was in college required to travel quite a bit. I would buy base Civic’s and Fits to make the most of my automobile allowance. I didn’t buy them back to back to back, either. Truthfully, to this day the Honda Fit remands my favorite subcompact. A hoot on the back roads, in 5 or 6 speed variants. I changed my purchases up each time. Jumping from brand to brand. Sometimes based on need (Ranger and 2 Tacoma’s) some based on MPG’s, other just based. on the fun to drive factor.

    • 0 avatar
      Liam Gray

      There’s definitely the outliers – I just had a friend that traded in his Legacy with 198k miles that blew a headgasket. It was the first major issue he had since new. I’ve known way more folks who have had issues though. I live in New England, so they’re super common here. Between the repairs, the cheap interiors, and the mediocre driving dynamics, I just don’t get it. I was a died in the wool Mazda fan for years, but we had an ’05 3 and an ’08 5 that were both problematic. Suspension parts, electrical gremlins, not good but at least they were fun to drive. A minivan with 3 pedals is hard to hate.

  • avatar
    hriehl1

    2010 Forester; did timing belt last summer at 115K with no head gasket symptoms. Now at 124K we need new head gaskets. Given Subaru’s poor history with head gaskets, it’ll be hard to justify returning to Subaru for our next new car.

    Given how trouble free our 2012 Mazda5 (with a stick!) has been at 105K and counting, perhaps their Forester-class CUV is worth a look.

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      I’ve seen that head-gasket failure timing play out again and again with Subarus from 2008-2014. The head-gaskets last that little bit longer than they did, and that necessitates taking the engine apart after having already done the timing belt.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      Hard to believe they went south so suddenly. No signs of minor oil weepage/dampness at the gaskets prior to this? Did you check yourself?

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