With eight months of 2017 in the bag, Subaru sales are up 13.1 per cent, to 34,806 vehicles, with a record August adding an exclamation point of 4579 units – up 36.2 per cent on the corresponding month last year.
Thirty-two consecutive months of growth places Subaru in unfamiliar territory as Australia’s fastest-growing top-10 vehicle brand.
The Japanese company’s impressive all-new modular architecture that underpins the latest Impreza small car and related XV compact SUV appears to have been the circuit breaker that has lifted the brand to a new level.
Sales of both critically acclaimed, smooth-riding vehicles have soared since being released this year, achieving about 1000 sales a month each since launch – well above previous rates.
Impreza’s August result of 972 units was 230 per cent up on the same month last year, while the XV’s 1176 units – up 139 per cent – made it Subaru’s top-seller in Australia for the month.
Barring some hiccup such as a supply drought, these two vehicles, along with the ever-reliable Forester medium SUV and Outback large crossover wagon, appear to have the capability to keep Subaru well ahead of the overall market growth rate that, year to date, is up 0.6 per cent.
Subaru’s Australian importer, Inchcape, has long concentrated on brand building, resisting the temptation to launch into brand-bruising discounting that, for many of its rivals, has resulted in boom and bust cycles.
If you look up the word “steady” in the dictionary, the definition is “Subaru”.
Its products also fit this description. Most models except the high-performance WRX, STI and BRZ sports machines are best described as a safe bet.
Subaru rarely leads with its chin, preferring tried-and-true technologies such as its well-proven all-wheel-drive system – standard on every Subaru sold in Australia for many a year (except the rear-drive BRZ sportscar co-developed with Toyota) – and boxer engines.
A bulletproof reputation has won the company a lot of loyalty from many older Australians who come back, model after model, to trade in their old Subaru for a new one.
At least, they trade them in if they don’t hand them down within the family, to children and grandchildren, or sell them to friends, leading to a bizarre situation where dealerships sometimes struggle for good second-hand stock.
By keeping new-car price discounting in check and second-hand cars in demand, resale values are kept at a premium.
As one of Japan’s smaller brands, Subaru (which is part-owned by Toyota) does not have the wherewithal to design and build models for every niche, so it is not a player in several top-selling segments such as one-tonne utes.
However, it frequently punches above its weight in segments it does contest. For example, the Outback has a 10.1 per cent share in the large SUV category.
With 7964 sales in the first eight months of 2017, Outback is just 50 units behind Toyota’s Kluger, despite the heft that Toyota can bring to sales and marketing in this country.
And despite being in run-out for most of the first half of this year, the XV holds an 8.4 per cent slice of the super-competitive small SUV segment. In August, that share jumped to 13 per cent as stocks of the all-new model flowed into customer’s hands.
Even unsung models such as the Liberty sedan and Levorg wagon do the business, between them giving Subaru more than 10 per cent of the medium car sector.
That could rise higher as the year progresses with the arrival of a broader range of Levorg variants, including a more affordable 1.6-litre turbo version.
The Forester – Subaru’s Australian top seller until the recent upsurge of the XV – holds 8.0 per cent of the medium SUV market.
While that is half the stake of segment leader Mazda CX-5’s 15.8 per cent, the Forester is still running seventh in a field of 22 contenders.
Subaru’s sports machines are also contributing, with BRZ sales running at almost double the rate of 2016, and WRX sales up 19.9 per cent in August.
Subaru’s overall market share this year has risen from 3.9 per cent to 4.4 per cent. This has potential for further growth before year’s end, judging by the August market share of 4.7 per cent.
By Ron Hammerton