By on January 6, 2020

2019 Subaru AScent - Image: Subaru

You read on Friday how Subaru exceeded its U.S. sales goal for 2019 by 117 vehicles, pushing its American volume to the highest point in the automaker’s history — up 2.9 percent from 2018, and more than 200 percent greater than its tally just a decade prior. A hard thing to achieve in a market that cooled off in 2019.

Subaru doesn’t see last year as a high water mark, however. For 2020, the brand has even loftier expectations, but everything will have to fall into place for it to happen.

With two shadowy products on the way but not imminent, Subaru will have to rely on boosted production of existing models, two of them revamped for the 2020 model year, as well as improved quality.

Both of these elements are in the process of being fixed, says CEO Tomomi Nakamura, formerly head of Subaru’s American arm. The brand’s head honcho freed up $1 billion to improve quality control after recalls earned it a black eye. Meanwhile, the brand’s wildly low 24-day supply of new vehicles in December will improve through increased output at the automaker’s Japanese and Indiana assembly plants, Automotive News reports.

Speaking at a media event last month, Nakamura said he wants to see an average of 45 days’ worth of new vehicles in 2020, adding that some models, such as the Impreza-based Crosstrek, ended the year with a 12-day supply. The industry average is north of 60, and sometimes even 70.

“We will be revamping our inventory around that number,” he said of the 45-day figure. “We may be able to hit an overall average of 45 days’ supply in the near future.”

Unlike larger automakers, Subaru’s sparse production footprint gives it the unusual ability to quickly unload all of the vehicles it builds. With overall sales on the rise, boosting capacity is a must. Output in Indiana is expected to rise by 30,000 vehicles this year, Nakamura said.

As for product itself, the CEO feels the redesigned Legacy and its wagon sibling, the Outback, will return greater sales in 2020, helping overall volume that received a big boost from the addition of the Ascent midsizer in mid-2018. Sales of the revamped-but-still-true-to-itself Forester also rose in 2019.

So, what’s the expectation for 2020? Volume of 720,ooo to 730,000, apparently.

“There is still growth possibility in the United States,” Nakamura told reporters, adding, “We think it is still possible for us to grow in the U.S. Sunbelt. We think that’s a frontier market for us. But it’s not just the Sunbelt. There is also the Snowbelt, especially the Northeast.”

While buyers in, say, Vermont have certainly adopted Subaru as a preferred brand, consumers in the sunny South have proven a harder nut to crack. There’s great regional differences in brand loyalty in the U.S., with various elements in play — among them, socioeconomic factors, consumer ethnicity, brand image, and weather. Standard full-time all-wheel drive is obviously a bigger draw in areas where there’s good reason to lose traction.

As for those two upcoming models, one is an electric crossover co-developed with Toyota. The other, billed as a global SUV, remains hazy, destined for a segment the automaker hasn’t yet revealed. Whatever the form these vehicles take, they won’t be on sale in 2020.

[Images: Subaru]

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27 Comments on “Having Pulled Off Another Win, Subaru Predicts Yet Another...”

  • avatar

    Any idea what the take rate is for AWD/4WD for SUVs and crossovers in So Cal, Texas, Florida, etc?

    • 0 avatar

      Well I was looking for pickups in TX and like 25% were 4wd compared to the 15% that are 2wd in my area. Not sure how that translated to SUVs

      Additionally I have a friend who’s a transplant from CA and their Expedition that they brought with them was 2wd, not something found around here very frequently.

      So yeah the take rate is not high.

      On another note I used to have a customer who was a wholesaler who liked to travel so he’d pick up a VW and drive it to CA to auction it off there and he’d buy a Subaru to drive back and wholesale up here. This was the early 90’s but he could clear ~$1,000 a week.

      • 0 avatar

        If the 2WD take rate is as high as 15% around here it must all be fleet sales. You’ll have a hard time finding even one 2WD truck in non-fleet trim at a dealer.

        My Houston-based FIL, on the other hand, had to do some shopping to find a 4WD pickup with his otherwise minimalist specs. When I go down there, I barely see any Subarus.

        • 0 avatar

          Bowen Scarf, technically the closest dealer to me does have 1 2wd XLT, but the remaining 2wds are XLs. Contrast that with Evergreen Ford, the one I could get to the quickest and there are exactly 0 2wd trucks showing in their inventory. But yeah fleets do buy 2wds, though not exclusively and the big ones don’t buy off the lot, they order them.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m near Daytona and within 100 miles of me 10% of the new Tahoes for sale are 4WD, 40% of the new Silverados, and 4% of new Traverses.

  • avatar

    Former Subaru owner here, they should just go ahead and pre-mix the oil with the coolant.

    • 0 avatar

      you lend credence to my claim it’s more the marketing than the actual product.

      pet rock anyone?

      • 0 avatar

        Every new Subaru for years has been delivered with “Subaru Cooling System Conditioner,” aka “Holts Radweld” coursing through its radiator, thermostat, hoses, cooling passages, and head-gaskets. An excellent rule for stop-leak is that you don’t put it in anything you plan on owning for more than another month. Subaru is truly the fly-by-night of new car outfits.

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      It’s an easily preventable problem if you flush the coolant 30,000 miles maximum. Every Subie owner I know that has 100,000 miles has had the gasket problem. I also let it slide on my first Legacy, not understanding the problematic combination of aluminum boxer chemistry and geometry. But I was diligent on my second Legacy and never had the problem after 150,000 miles. Just change the coolant on time, and you’ll be OK.

  • avatar

    I can’t come up with much of a reason for AWD/4WD in Florida (except for driving on the beaches), but in So Cal, there are a lot of mountains and desert nearby. Same goes for Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada. Texas has desert and even some mountains. And they also drive on beaches down there.

  • avatar

    Until Subaru stops underpowering their Crosstrek, Forester and Impreza, I won’t be heading to their dealerships. I need AWD in the Northeast, but their vehicles are just so uninspiring these days. Their puppy ads can only do so much for the brand that has no place for performance enthusiasts.

  • avatar

    they understand marketing, unlike the clueless, corrupt, and incompetent General Motors.


  • avatar

    Lots of Subaru hate out there.
    I get it.
    But the trolls flapping about head gaskets can go away. It s coming up on 10 years since that was fixed.

    Hate all you want but you cant argue the facts.
    Best active safety (Car & Driver test last year. (beat Volvo))
    Class leading Crash worthiness.
    Class leading Resale.
    AWD system that rivals Land Rover (check out the videos on youtube)
    Class leading Quality.
    Class leading Fuel economy.

    Yeah. They build nothing but crap. Yep.

  • avatar

    Subaru’s next step should be developing the world’s best rear electric motor-driven AWD system. Existing systems from Toyota/Lexus and Acura show the potential of doing AWD this way but there is still room for improvement: the motors are too small and don’t respond fast enough. Subaru has the capability to make this better. It would substantially improve fleetwide fuel economy without much if any downside if executed correctly.

  • avatar

    Subaru is best known for super-symmetric AWD.

  • avatar

    I’m confused. Why is having a 24 day supply necessarily a bad thing? Wouldn’t this indicate that they’ve forecasted the demand appropriately, and isn’t this how they manage to sell their wares without resorting to incentive spending? Wasn’t it just the other day there was the story of incentive spending and Subaru was at the bottom of the back with something like $1,500 per car? Couldn’t more manufacturers learn from Subaru, the relative quality or lack thereof being an entirely separate issue?

    I’m genuinely curious.

    • 0 avatar

      60 days’ supply has been the long-term target/rule of thumb for the U.S. market (and more recently probably more like 70). Going significantly over this number (usually because of poor sales) is a very bad thing – it ties up capital, and nothing good happens to vehicles that sit for too long (ex. flat spots on the tires, 12V battery deterioration).

      Lower days’ supply sounds like a good thing. But when you are down to 12 days of Crosstrek inventory, you are losing sales. Remember that the days’ supply figure is an average – the inventory is at >600 U.S. Subaru dealers. So if I want a Crosstrek and you don’t have one, or if I really want a Limited and all you have are Base CVT models, or if I’m shopping for a Premium Manual, you see the issue. Not to mention options – and body color, which is huge for some buyers.

      If I order exactly the Crosstrek I want, it has to be shipped from Gunma. Shoving me into a model that I don’t want, or persuading me to get a color or a trim that doesn’t fit my long-term needs, results in an immediate sale for the dealer, but doesn’t do Subaru and me any favors in the long term.

      (All of this might make you wonder if there would be better [and less expensive] models for vehicle ordering and distribution in the U.S. market. Other places use different methods.)

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