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Subaru’s Australian Forester sales top 150,000

Big numbers: Subaru's ever-popular Forester compact-SUV has cracked 150,000 sales in Australia since its launch here in 1997.

Subaru’s top-seller – and Australia’s favourite compact SUV – breaches 150,000 sales

14 Apr 2011

AUSTRALIA’S best-selling compact SUV for three consecutive years, the Subaru Forester, has racked up more than 150,000 sales since first going on sale in 1997, eclipsing the Impreza as Subaru Australia’s best-seller.

Although Suzuki and Toyota also claim they did so with the Vitara and RAV4 respectively, Subaru says it pioneered the compact SUV genre with the Forester – a market segment now so beloved by Australians that it overtook sales of the traditional large car last year, with 114,761 compact SUVs sold in a 36.6 per cent sales boom.

Echoing this sentiment, the Forester has long been Subaru Australia’s best-seller and outsold the Impreza – the brand’s top-seller in most markets and Australia’s second-favourite Subaru – in almost every month since the beginning of 2000.

The Forester’s success exceeds expectations. Apart from a light refresh and new engines earlier this year, plus the addition of the hot S-Edition halo model, the Forester range has dropped none of the new-model bombshells usually required to retain customer interest.

The first two generations of Forester offered an appealing mix of car-like proportions and the promise of passenger car-style handling but greater off-road credibility – thanks to chunky tyres and a low-range selector on manual variants – than many rivals. It was the SUV that didn’t look like one.

2 center imageLeft: The evolution of the Forester.

Quirky touches like frameless doors and the horizontally-opposed ‘boxer’ four-cylinder engine gave the Forester character, boosted – no pun intended – by the availability of turbocharged models with bonnet air-scoops that added a little WRX-inspired sparkle to keep dads happy with their family wagon.

Families were further attracted to the Forester when in 2003 it became the first car to be awarded a five-star safety rating by ANCAP.

The current generation Forester, launched here in mid-2008, lost some of its predecessors’ individuality, ditching the frameless doors and adding 110mm of height to make it more obviously an SUV – and offer enough space to keep customers out of competing Honda CR-Vs, Mitsubishi Outlanders and RAV4s.

The diesel Forester, launched here in mid-2010 but primarily aimed at Europe, now accounts for 20 per cent of the model’s local sales, according to Subaru.

Early this year, Subaru’s first all-new ‘boxer’ petrol engine in 21 years debuted in a mildly updated Forester range, which received a new WRX-engined S-Edition halo model – Australia being Subaru’s first export market to receive this variant.

The S-Edition got a 14 per cent power hike over the existing turbocharged XT Premium flagship, plus the Forester’s first five-speed automatic transmission – surprisingly, the automatic transmission choice from the model’s conception to the present day has remained a ponderous four-speed.

Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior said, “Forester in many ways now reflects Australia’s view of the modern family car: flexible, fun, safe and practical.”

Although 150,000 new Foresters have been sold, the number of people choosing a used Forester is potentially even higher.

Mr Senior also reflected on the number of young people buying used Foresters. “It puts a smile on my face when I drive around and see how many original Foresters are being driven by P-platers. Obviously it is seen as a safe, practical and fun vehicle by these young kids,” he said.

With 3353 sales year-to-date, the Forester is clinging to compact SUV segment supremacy over the RAV4 by 0.1 per cent. The model’s best-selling year was 2008, when 14,423 customers signed on the dotted line.

The Forester’s best month was June last year, when registrations peaked at 1690 – possibly coinciding with the launch of the diesel variant.

Subaru says Foresters have been used as rapid response paramedic ambulances in metropolitan Victoria and New South Wales, and for general ambulance duties in rural locations.

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