Glass Half Full: Subaru's Halfhearted Sales Celebration in a Time of COVID

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
glass half full subarus halfhearted sales celebration in a time of covid

It hasn’t been a normal year, and all the plans you and I and even Subaru had for 2020 have more or less fallen flat. This year will not see the Japanese automaker grow its volume over 2019 levels. Targets set in the Before Times will not be met.

So why worry? Celebrate what you got.

That’s what Subaru did after tabulating its August sales tally, noting that the figure — representing a year-over-year loss of 17 percent — was actually its best showing so far this year. And once again, Subaru brass north of the border didn’t have to pretend.

“Thanks to the dedicated efforts of our retailer network, we are able to count August as the best sales month of 2020,” said Thomas J. Doll, President and CEO of Subaru of America. “Our retailers are continuing to sell at very high levels of sales efficiency given their on-ground inventory levels while at the same time providing a Love Promise customer experience. We are grateful for their outstanding efforts.”

This August featured two fewer selling days that the same month last year, and last August also happened to be a monthly record for Subaru of America. Given these two things, one could say Subaru’s traveled a long distance down the road to normality (April sales in the U.S. were down 46.6 percent, year over year).

Passenger cars sales aren’t even close to being back to normal, though. In fact, the very low-volume BRZ was the only car model that didn’t sink by double-digit figures. The range-topping, high-margin Ascent at least undercut last August’s tally by a smaller measure, down 9.6 percent. And there was one gleaming point of light in the Forester, which grew its monthly YoY sales by 1.1 percent. That model’s back in the black for the year.

Subaru traditionally boasts the slimmest inventory of all mainstream automakers, and the pandemic hit the company hard. Sales might not be representative of actual demand. That said, Subaru sees continued improvement in its crystal ball, with Senior VP of Sales Jeff Walters stating, “We expect improving inventory and the arrival of 2021 models at our retailers will further improve our sales results in September and the fourth quarter.”

North of the border, Subaru Canada was once again celebrating what’s been a boffo summer for the brand. You’ll recall that July 2020 was the brand’s best July to date, and that trend continued for August. Volume rose 11.5 percent, year over year, with the Forester leading the pack. That model saw its sales rise 28.6 percent over the same month last year.

Elsewhere in the lineup, the Outback grew its monthly fan base by 26.9 percent, with the Ascent coming in third with growth of 15.2 percent.

Does the lopsided cross-border showing reflect itself in year-to-date tallies, you ask? Not one bit. On that score, the U.S. is actually in the lead. Subaru of America reported a YTD volume drop of 20.5 percent in August, compared to Subaru Canada’s 22 percent drop.

[Image: Subaru]

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  • Subuclayton Subuclayton on Sep 01, 2020

    Article aside, thank you for using the word "normality". Thanks to Warren G. Harding, the originator of the stay at home presidential campaign, people repeat his call for a "return to normalcy". There is no such word as "normalcy" even though it has made its way into a lot of poor dictionaries. (See "foundering and floundering, uninterested and disinterested, fortunate and fortuitous, (all of which are real words) that people use interchangeably but erroneously.


    Well, as soon as Subaru decides to build a suitable replacement for my Subamarine, I will buy it. As long as they don't pull a Jeep and price it steep. OO oo that rhymed.

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.