Promise Kept: Subaru Climbs to New Heights in 2019

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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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2 of 42 comments
  • JGlanton JGlanton on Jan 06, 2020

    In spite of Subaru having such a bad navigation system that it makes me nostalgic for the days of holding a Thomas Guide on my lap and flipping pages between downshifts

  • HuskyHawk HuskyHawk on Jan 06, 2020

    Visited a Subaru dealer last Friday to drive the Outback. Talked to the sale rep who was an old timer. The key for them is that the Ascent is a hit and really doesn't cannibalize any existing sales. Maybe a few Outback shoppers. The Outback is nice. It's a much better platform than before, and road manners are excellent. Interior is better though I don't like HVAC on the touch screen. It is however, not exciting. Superb value as an appliance though.

  • Cprescott I remember when Fords were affordable.
  • Cprescott As a once very LOYAL FORD buyer, I had to replace my 22 year old Ford (bought new in 1997) once it finally started to have problems at 180k miles. I would have gladly purchased something like this from Ford but they abandoned me as a car buyer. Oddly, Hyundai still builds cars in a variety of flavors so I became a customer of theirs and am very happy. Likely will consider another once this one gets up in mileage.
  • SCE to AUX A friend once struck a mounted tire that was laying flat in the middle of her lane on the PA Turnpike. She was in a low late-90s Grand Prix, and the impact destroyed the facia, core support, radiators, oil pan, transmission, subframe, and suspension. They fixed it all.
  • Dukeisduke Lol, it's not exactly a Chevrolet SS with Holden badging.
  • Dukeisduke Years ago, I was driving southbound along North Central Expressway (south of Mockingbird Lane, for locals), and watched a tire and wheel fall out of the bed of a pickup (no tailgate), bounce along, then centerpunch the front end of a Honda Accord. It wasn't pretty.