By on October 1, 2019

Image: Subaru

One aspect of Subaru’s incredible growth spurt in the U.S. market was its ability to post consecutive monthly year-over-year sales increases with boring regularity. It seemed like nothing, barring the outbreak of a second civil war, could upset the brand’s uncanny knack for ending the month with more vehicles sold than in the same month a year prior.

Last month was the 93rd such month, and it also happened to be the brand’s best sales month in the country to date. Over 70,000 Subarus left the lot in August; a striking number, considering the brand sold just 187,699 vehicles in all of 2008. Of course, back then the brand’s market share was less than one-and-a-half percent. Last year, Subaru’s slice of the U.S. market stood at just a tick below the 4 percent mark, with this year poised to rise well above it.

While new achievements and milestones still await Subaru in the U.S., September will not go down in history as the 94th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.

The streak is broken.

On Tuesday, Subaru was forced to issue the grim news. In reporting the brand’s 9.4-percent sales decrease, Subaru claimed the volume loss came down to due to “low days supply and three fewer selling days compared to September 2018.” Labor Day weekend, always a popular time to buy a new car, also intruded into August this year.

“Due to the rapid sell-down of the last generation Legacy and Outback models, our yearly, month-over-month sales streak of 93 consecutive months came to an end in September,” said Subaru of America president and CEO Thomas J. Doll in a statement. “We look forward to robust sales in October and are on target to achieve our 700,000-vehicle sales goal for 2019, marking 12 consecutive years of sales increases.”

Subaru Ascent

The automaker’s lineup remains fresh in the U.S., with a redesigned Outback and Legacy appearing for 2020, hot on the heels of the revamped Forester and all-new Ascent that bowed for 2019. The Impreza and its Crosstrek platform mate donned new clothes in 2018. Tallying up every model, the brand’s volume is still up 4.4 percent through the end of September.

 

Still, it was a bad month for the rising brand. Every model posted a year-over-year decline for the September, with only the Forester, Ascent (which went on sale in June of last year), and the venerable Outback seeing a YTD sales climb. Not since June 2016 has Subaru seen a lower sales volume in a warm-weather month.

Is Subaru groveling over the broken streak? Not officially, and perhaps not even behind the scenes.

“With the all-new 2020 Outback and Legacy starting to arrive at retailers and a strong book of presold orders waiting to be delivered, we look forward to strong sales in October and the remainder of the year,” said Jeff Walters, the brand’s senior VP of sales.

If the year-over-year streak starts anew this month, the brand can expect a new annual volume record come New Year’s Eve. Subaru is already 51,659 units ahead of where it stood on October 1st of last year, with the brand requiring less than 20,000 additional sales to break 2018’s record.

[Image: Subaru, © 2018 Matthew Guy/TTAC]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

51 Comments on “Subaru’s U.S. Winning Streak Draws to a Close...”


  • avatar
    ravenuer

    “….It seemed like nothing, barring the outbreak of a second civil war, could upset the brand’s uncanny knack for ending the month with more vehicles sold than in the same month a year prior….”.

    Well, perhaps the 2nd civil war HAS broken out in the US.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    First: The winning streak probably ended months ago, and the cookie jar is now empty.

    Second. You can fool all the lesbians and extreme dog lovers some of the time, and you can fool some of the lesbians and extreme dog lovers all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the lesbians and extreme dog lovers all of the time–with regards to quality. Ha ha.

    I’m still waiting for my CV boot refunds from the 1980s. And the carb defect fix. And the constant valve adjustment. And the brake seizure fixes, and …

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      Quality is not as important if you’re a lifestyle brand. It just has to be decent. The cultural cachet you get from conforming to the norms of your group outweigh quality issues that don’t rise to say, the level of Detroit in the malaise era.

      God help them though if something goes wrong. Their upper-middle class, completely woke demo are currently the taste makers of our society. Yeah, I threw up a little in the back of my mouth when I said it.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      And the head gaskets. Don’t forget the head gaskets!

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Perhaps what’s needed is a hot dance remix of “Making Love in a Subaru” by Damaskas!

    https://youtu.be/-IKoGt-Pk8A

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    You can only go so far with a narrow matketing image like subaru pushes.

    I wouldnt consider one for the same reason I wouldnt consider a nissan. I dont trust CVTs for long term reliability.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    A hiccup for Subaru could portend a flu for the whole market.

  • avatar

    Quality sales, which is something GM and Ford don’t seem to understand. What good are GM’s stellar profits if they offer mediocrity.

  • avatar

    Quality sales, which is something GM and Ford don’t seem to understand. What good are GM’s stellar profits if they offer mediocrity.

  • avatar

    Quality sales, which is something GM and Ford don’t seem to understand. What good are GM’s stellar profits if they offer mediocrity.

  • avatar

    Quality sales, which is something GM and Ford don’t seem to understand. What good are GM’s stellar profits if they offer mediocrity.

  • avatar
    thejohnnycanuck

    It’s fall. Most of the lesbians were busy bulking up for the upcoming winter months.

    Those plus size Carhartt overalls aren’t cheap you know.

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    at least one out of every twenty-five new cars is a Subaru. Pretty impressive for the brand the brought you the Justy, the Brat, the Baja, the XT, and the SVX.

  • avatar

    So bubble burst finally. Analysts were wrong apparently that growth will continue indefinitely, i.e. forever. Exit growth enter recession.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    There are many other leading indicators of always should be a whopper of an economic slowdown (globally, probably hitting EMs hardest, but walloping developed nations also, at least as hard as ’08-’12).

    Many of these indicators are highly technical, while others are non-technical, yet potentially as indicative of this incoming slowdown.

    Aside from the biggest and most accurate of them all, job losses/layoffs/declining labor participation rate (this is huge because it affects consumption, velocity and circulation of money, confidence, etc.), there other lesser known, but potent ones, that involve automobile purchasing patterns, including:

    1) Rate of light pickup truck sales;

    2) Class 8 Truck orders and sales;

    3) Subaru sales growth or decline.

    We are in for a massive economic downturn, for reasons to voluminous to expound upon here, but declining Subaru sales in the U.S. is one of the few, reliable signs of economic apocalypse (Subarus are purchased/leased by a very specific subset of the population, with closely clustered educational attributes and professions/occupations).

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    There are many other leading indicators of always should be a whopper of an economic slowdown (globally, probably hitting EMs hardest, but walloping developed nations also, at least as hard as ’08-’12).

    Many of these indicators are highly technical, while others are non-technical, yet potentially as indicative of this incoming slowdown.

    Aside from the biggest and most accurate of them all, job losses/layoffs/declining labor participation rate (this is huge because it affects consumption, velocity and circulation of money, confidence, etc.), there other lesser known, but potent ones, that involve automobile purchasing patterns, including:

    1) Rate of light pickup truck sales;

    2) Class 8 Truck orders and sales;

    3) Subaru sales growth or decline.

    We are in for a massive economic downturn, for reasons ***too*** voluminous to expound upon here, but declining Subaru sales in the U.S. is one of the few, reliable signs of economic apocalypse (Subarus are purchased/leased by a very specific subset of the population, with closely clustered educational attributes and professions/occupations).

  • avatar
    Heino

    What an absolute shame. After five Subarus and the ensuing head gasket issues with three of them. SOA kindly gave me a $500 as a courtesy to the f up. Now own a Toyota Hybrid, but apparently both companies have bought stock in each other. I guess it is more important to get new clients than care about your legacy.

  • avatar
    AlexMcD

    September was low because the Outback supply ran out before the 2020s came in. Missed by about 3 weeks.

    • 0 avatar
      87 Morgan

      two less selling days this September compared to September 18′.

      And yes, that matters a lot. August had 5 Saturdays, which most likely propped up August sales as well. So YOY and MOM look bleak but the reality is September 19′ was not great, but not as bad really as it looks. I think October will be a decent harbinger of what the market is doing.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I don’t know that October will be that great. The Baseball playoffs are started, the NHL and NBA seasons will start, the NFL and college football have already started, and most stock market crashes occur in October. Between inattention and fear for retirement savings, the public may not be interested in new cars.

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    Subaru is a company that has managed to convince people who dont know much about cars that they are the best regardless of the facts. For example we are friends with a highly educated couple from India with two kids that are MD’s, but the four of them have zero mechanical aptitude. Regardless of the facts I have presented to them about the brand, they all drive Subarus and are convinced there is nothing better. I am convinced that the thing Subaru does better than any other company is marketing themselves to people like my Indian friends. Whoever is in charge of advertising for them is a genius.

    • 0 avatar
      bullnuke

      TOTitan – “Regardless of the facts I have presented to them about the brand”. What facts are you citing to support “convince people who dont know much about cars that they are the best regardless of the facts”?

      • 0 avatar
        TOTitan

        Head gasket issues that have been ongoing since the 70’s, declining quality as production has increased, uninspired handling, the high cost of repairs, and Subarus use of CVT transmissions which needs no further explanation.

        • 0 avatar
          jh26036

          How about maybe they just like them? I’ve had my share of Subaru problems too but they still provide a decent, fairly inexpensive, safe transportation. A great part is when you trade them in, they’re actually still worth good money even at 6 figure miles.

          Uninspired handling compared to what? These are generic family automobiles. You trying to sell them on skidpad and slalom metrics?

          • 0 avatar
            Lorenzo

            My sister has a Subaru, and has had all of the problems associated with them. She kept track of out-of-pocket repairs on her Forester for ten years. The first year was $62. The tenth year was $9600. Then she got another Forester!

            Ownership of Subarus in the Northeast where she lives is kind of a private club. It’s getting to be less exclusive, but it’s still a club. Subaru is the Volvo of the 21st century.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          The head gasket issue was put to rest with the 2.5 redesign in 2009. I’ve not seen extraordinary failure rates for the CVT; mine did at 75k and Subaru completely covered the replacement. Other than that, at 135k miles my 2013 Outback has needed no extra service besides oil changes, a battery, and tires. It’s still tight as a drum and handles our torrential downpours with aplomb.

          I didn’t buy my car for its handling finesse. I bought it because I liked the combination of reported reliability, ground clearance for our frequent high water situations, and the ability to get my bike to off-road trails. It has met all those benchmarks splendidly.

          • 0 avatar
            bullnuke

            Dave M. – Your opinion probably doesn’t count as you actually own one. Only second- or third-hand stories or stories about vehicles from more that 10 years ago concerning the crappy Subaru brand should be held as the gospel Truth About Cars. LOL!

        • 0 avatar
          bullnuke

          TOTitan – same regurgitated old Subaru woes from ancient times when talking head gaskets – I could tell you about 3 old Toyota Celica’s in my family, each with failed head gaskets at 100k miles but that would similarly be old ancient stuff as well. As far as declining quality, nothing in the last 10 years really sticks out for quality unless you have some real information to the contrary. Repair costs for timing belt renewal at 105k miles are equivalent to those of a Honda Civic belt replacement, so there’s that (FB engines have been using chains since 2013 or so). CVT’s are used by pretty much everyone except the declining Mazda brand (my wife’s CVT has 152k miles on it with no issues). As for handling, with the exception of the WRX and BRZ, Subaru’s are appliances much like Camry’s, CRV’s, et al – not sporty enthusiast vehicles. You can trot out other things like FB engine oil usage – Subaru acknowledged the issue and replaces the short block without charge and extends the warranty (something sainted BMW won’t do with their oil eaters) or low-beam bulbs life (Subaru replaces those for free on my wife’s ’11 Outback). Might have been more honest to tell your East Indian friends that you just don’t like Subaru’s and leave it at that.

          • 0 avatar
            TOTitan

            I recommended that they buy Toyotas. They are the most reliable and they added a launch gear to their CVT’s which makes their CVT the best. Here is a video from the guy at engineering explained reviewing Toyotas new trans. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HanImTejIVM

    • 0 avatar
      Slocum

      The Subaru sneering is really odd. I just bought Outback (a 2020 ‘Onyx’ XT edition with the turbo). Why? We needed something that could tow 3500# (boat and RV), and had decent snow and off-road capabilities (not joining Jeep week in Moab, but getting to trail heads down rough fire roads). We didn’t need a 3-row, though it would have been OK. What else did we consider? Grand Cherokee, 4Runner, Passport, Pilot, Ascent, Telluride, Rav4 Adventure. Why did we end up with the OB? No Grand Cherokee due to long-term reliability concerns, no 4Runner due to outdated/crude interior and controls, ponderous driving on road, and bad fuel economy. No Telluride because the dealers here have none in stock around to even test drive. The Passport was probably the closest, but it’s pricier for an equivalently equipped vehicle (the ‘Sport’ model is pretty spartan). Also don’t like the push-button transmission or digital speedometer, and the fuel-efficiency is significantly worse (24 hwy vs 30). The 5000# towing limit might have come in handy and there’s more cargo volume, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the disadvantages. The Pilot is more money and less capable off-road than the Passport. The RAV4 Adventure edition does have a 3500# limit but with a much less powerful engine than the OB and that model is basically the same price as the Onyx turbo we bought. So that made no sense. And no Ascent because we didn’t really need the extra size and it didn’t handle as well or feel as refined as the OB. What do you think would have a been a better choice?

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Subaru today is Volvo in the 80s and 90s. Durable but not reliable, pricey but not expensive, relentlessly practical, a quiet signifier of smart money. Beloved by outdoorsy computer professionals, immigrant doctors, and equine reproductive specialists.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    One thing I have learned after being involved on a few “Car Forums”-

    CVT transmission hate is rabid-despite NO evidence to support (CURRENTLY) they are a bad choice.

    The same people who CVT’s are those who are enamored with 5-speed manuals-of which there is practically NO MARKET DEMAND for.

    Curious-isn’t it?

    • 0 avatar
      MeJ

      You are totally right.
      I owned a Crosstrek and loved everything about it. And I tried to dislike the CVT as I was supposed to (according to all the car guru’s and reviewers), but it turned out to be a perfectly fine transmission. A non-issue.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Exactly. When I first got my ’13 I expected to hate it as well. After 10 minutes of adjusting to the no-shift feeling, I got over it. Not sure what the challenge is for others.

        My only other automatic transmission car is my Trooper. THAT GM 4-speed transmission needs a pricey rebuild every 80k miles or so. So far transmission #3 is holding it’s own at 235k miles….I’m just waiting for the shoe to drop….

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Lou_BC: I was considering a F350 long box as a camper/retirement rig. My local dealership had a 10k discount on a...
  • Corey Lewis: Should be able to find one for sale, I had bookmarked a Levi’s Edition actually. I’ll see if...
  • Lou_BC: Got busted for not using hand signals.
  • eggsalad: Your memory is still intact. I had a brown, manual, Diesel wagon. So there. https://www.curbsideclassic...
  • Dave M.: I’ve driven a couple of this and last generation Avalons. No LeSabre can match the handling and...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Timothy Cain
  • Matthew Guy
  • Ronnie Schreiber
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Chris Tonn
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth