Promise Kept: Subaru Climbs to New Heights in 2019
Back in early October, after Subaru’s 93-month streak of year-over-year sales increases came to an end for a variety of reasons, Subaru of America CEO Thomas J. Doll said the brand was still “on target to achieve our 700,000-vehicle sales goal for 2019, marking 12 consecutive years of sales increases.”
Despite a cooling new vehicle market, Subaru’s meteoric rise in the U.S. and its stable of all-wheel drive vehicles made the sales target appear an achievable goal. Turns out it was.
Subaru just barely cleared the bar, earning it another record.
As reported Friday, Subaru of America sold 700,117 vehicles in calendar year 2019, making it the best sales year in the brand’s U.S. history. A lot’s happened in the past decade, but one story that shouldn’t be overlooked is Subaru’s, um, ascent to mainstream automaker status.
Sure, it’s been around for decades, peddling a growing line of quirky AWD cars that no longer hide their spare tires under the hood, but in 2009 Subaru sold just 216,652 vehicles. Honda sold nearly 110,000 more Civics than that last year. Brand-wide volume growth of 223 percent for an already established automaker in the span of a decade is clearly proof of a successful product strategy. In that time, the brand’s market share doubled.
That strategy continued to pay off in 2019, as Subaru enjoyed a brandwide sales increase of 2.9 percent. Which shouldn’t imply that all of its models are on the upswing, as they aren’t. Only three Subaru models posted a volume gain for 2019: the revamped-for-2019 Forester, the redesigned-for-2020 Outback, and the new Ascent three-row crossover. The first two models stuck to their roots during their most recent overhaul, while the Ascent, first appearing on sales charts in June 2018, played it safe from the outset.
While we have a few quibbles with the Ascent, the hulking four-cylinder CUV is a Subaru through and through, and made to sell.
And without the Ascent, Subaru’s end-of-year celebration wouldn’t have been quite as jubilant. Subtracting Ascent volume from the overall brand tally, vanishing it completely from the company’s sales history, and Subaru volume drops 4 percent in 2019. The Ascent’s 81,958 U.S. sales last year handily outpaced the combined volume of the Impreza and BRZ. Put another way, it outsold the Legacy and WRX by a mile.
Has Subaru not capitalized on the American public’s unquenchable thirst for large utility vehicles, its volume would have slipped from 643,925 sales in 2018 to 618,159 sales last year. A strategic product developed and introduced at just the right time kept the streak going.
Which begs the question: what next?
[Image: Subaru, Matthew Guy/TTAC]
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