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Subaru Forester fights back

Pack back: Subaru has added features valued at $3500 to the Forester X to counter stiff opposition.

Reigning champ Subaru Forester gets luxury lift as rivals make a grab for SUV crown

6 Jun 2012

SUBARU has ramped up the value of its Forester with a special X Luxury Edition as rivals assail its position as Australia’s top-selling compact SUV.

With an all-new model due in 2013, the Forester has slipped to second place on the medium SUV sales charts behind Nissan’s X-Trail this year, while Mazda’s hot-selling new CX-5 has dominated the segment for the past three months.

Despite this, Forester remains Subaru’s top seller and a major contributor to a record-busting year for the company to date, with Subaru range sales up 10.2 per cent over the first five months of last year.

To keep Forester firing, Subaru Australia has stacked its base X model with a range of extra features, including leather trim, 16-inch alloy wheels, foglights, front seat heaters, front wiper de-icer and heated door mirrors – a collection the company values at $3500.

As well, the Forester X Luxury Edition is being sold for a discount price of $32,990 driveaway – about $1800 below the regular advertised driveaway price for the five-speed manual petrol model, depending on buyer location. Automatic costs $2000 extra.

So far this year, Subaru Forester sales have dipped 6.6 per cent in a market segment up 21.7 per cent, although the popular SUV last month clawed back some ground with 1109 sales – up 10.5 per cent on May last year.

The Forester has been Australia’s favourite compact SUV for the past four years, despite a sales dip last year due to stock shortages after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

2 center imageFrom top: Subaru Impreza sedan and XV.

This year, the Forester has been joined in the Subaru range by the smaller XV SUV that has quickly become Subaru’s second-best seller, adding more than 4000 sales to the brand’s tally since its showroom launch in February.

The company said XV might have done even better except that sales have been constrained to date due to a shortage of the high-end S variants to meet unexpectedly high demand.

Subaru managing director Nick Senior described the Australian market’s continuing love affair with SUVs as a seismic shift in the market – one of the biggest in such a short time.

“Five years ago, passenger cars represented 62.2 per cent of the market and SUVs 17.7 per cent,” he said.

“Compare that to 50.4 per cent and 28.0 per cent respectively in May this year.

“SUV sales have exploded because of their versatility, fit with the Australian way of life and the fact that drivers appreciate the field of vision and sitting higher.

“Also, our ageing population likes the ease of entry and exit offered by SUVs.”

Mr Senior said new engine and transmission technology had reduced the cost of running SUVs dramatically – one of the barriers to purchase.

Last month, Subaru’s Impreza small car accounted for a third of all Subaru sales, with its 1033 units marking a big monthly improvement over April, when it achieved just 628 sales.

The new Impreza, which was launched in February, is still finding its feet in the market, trailing last year’s sales volume by more than 50 per cent.

All eyes will be on Subaru next month when it wheels out the BRZ sports coupe – its version of the sportscar shared with Toyota, which introduced it locally this week as the 86.

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