As U.S. Auto Industry Declines Again, Subaru Reports All-time Record Sales in August 2017

Subaru’s eight-month-old U.S. monthly sales record of 63,177 units, reported in December 2016, fell by the wayside as Subaru of America posted its 69th consecutive year-over-year sales increase in August 2017.

Subaru sales last month jumped 5 percent over August 2016 to 63,215 units, breaking the brand’s all-time record by a scant 38 units.

Why is Subaru’s August growth and record achievement so important? There are four key reasons.

First, Subaru made major headway with a balanced approach of success from new and old models alike. While the Subaru Crosstrek, newly launched for the 2018 model year, reported by far its best month ever with 12,823 sales — a 46-percent improvement — its big brother, the Outback, climbed to a record August result of more than 20,000 sales. In fact, the Outback is now entering its fourth model year, yet sales just jumped over the 20K mark for only the second time ever.

Second, “Given the overall auto industry conditions,” Subaru of America president Tom Doll says, “these sales results point to the continued strength of the Subaru brand.” Subaru’s record results accompanied the U.S. auto industry’s eighth consecutive month of decline. August volume was down 2 percent (and would likely have fallen 1 percent if not for Hurricane Harvey’s southeast Texas impact) across the market.

Decreased volume was reported at Acura, BMW, Buick, Cadillac, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Jeep, Kia, Lexus, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Nissan, Porsche, Ram, and Smart. In other words, most auto brands failed to match August 2016’s output.Third, Subaru’s consistent growth — the brand hasn’t reported a U.S. decline since November 2011 — occurred with what persists as a limited product lineup. Subaru offers a niche market sports car that’s overshadowed by its Toyota sibling, a compact sedan/hatch, that car’s sports sedan offshoot, a fast-flagging midsize sedan, an oversized subcompact crossover competitor, a compact utility vehicle, and the Outback, a vehicle most deserving of crossover designation. The Ascent, Subaru’s first three-row vehicle since the failed Tribeca, won’t arrive until 2019.

Yet with this tidy lineup, Subaru is outselling Volkswagen by nearly two-to-one, Mazda by more than two-to-one, and Mitsubishi by a six-to-one margin.

Finally, Subaru’s accomplishments are noteworthy because the company’s sales figures reflect true demand. Subaru’s incentive programs are more significant now than they were a year — Subaru’s Yasuyuki Yoshinaga said that would happen — but it’s still the only major automaker that cuts prices by less than $2,000.

Subaru
Aug. 2017
Aug. 2016
% Change
2017 YTD
2016 YTD
% Change

Outback
20,327
17,358
17.1%
124,161
109,448
13.4%

Forester
15,528
19,658
-21.0%
118,768
114,769
3.5%

Crosstrek
12,823
8,787
45.9%
64,323
60,549
6.2%

Impreza
7,462
5,319
40.3%
58,265
40,284
44.6%

Legacy
4,210
5,800
-27.4%
33,559
41,369
-18.9%

WRX/STI
2,528
3,194
-20.9%
21,646
22,488
-3.7%

BRZ
337
302
11.6%
3,006
3,062
-1.8%

Subaru Total
63,215
60,418
4.6%
423,728
391,969
8.1%

In August 2017, for instance, ALG says Subaru’s average per vehicle incentive spend was just $1,170. That was up 20 percent compared with August 2016 (the industry’s average per vehicle incentive spend was up 13 percent) but still 69-percent lower than the industry average of $3,799.

Moreover, the next-lowest incentive spend per vehicle, at American Honda, was twice as costly as Subaru’s, according to ALG. As a percentage of its average transaction prices, while the industry cut prices by 12 percent, incentives translated to just 4 percent of the average Subaru transaction price.

[Image: Subaru]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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