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Automatic choice for Subaru sales growth

Ready to grow: The addition of a diesel automatic to Subaru's Forester range will give the Japanese brand a further boost in 2015.

Subaru Australia boss says he is happy with current line-up and sales targets

19 Mar 2015

A THREE-FOLD increase in diesel Forester sales will ably assist the new Liberty and Outback in pushing Subaru's growth rate this year, according to the company's local boss.

The Australian arm of the Japanese car-maker finished last year with 40,502 sales - the latest in a long run of record sales - but the addition of a continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the diesel-powered Forester gives the brand a combatant in the largest part of the SUV segment.

Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior said the introduction of a self-shifter should push diesel Forester sales from 60 to 200 per month, depending on supply.

"The addition of the CVT to the diesel is important, given the fact that last year nearly 20 per cent of all medium SUVs were diesel automatics,” he said “That is a major chunk of the segment where we didn't participate and that has cost us. Hopefully our new entrant will help in this regard.""40,502 was where we finished last year, I would like to see that volume – capacity permitting – rise to 42,000, that is with battling every month to get production," he said.

Subaru says it is the only mainstream Japanese brand to grow sales and share last year, despite having the Liberty and Outback models run-out.

The introduction of the new mid-size models has exceeded expectations since going on sale mid-January as it gathers more new buyers to the brand than any other model launch in the brand's history.

"We have waiting lists on new Liberty and Outback for some models out to May.

Outback is up 367 per cent over last year, and February was the highest ever Outback sales with 890," Mr Senior said.

The road-biased Liberty is running at a similarly high rate above its 2014 performance (343 per cent) but even taking pent-up demand and new-model enthusiasm into account, the brand is benefitting from the "seismic shift" in the market.

"The continued love affair Australians have with SUVs, it's only a matter of when not if SUVs overtake passenger car sales in this country,” he said.

"Ten years ago passenger cars were 64.7 and SUVs were 16.6 per cent of the market, it's dropped to 45.1 per cent and 35.4 per cent. The tipping point where SUVs will pass passenger car sales will happen a lot quicker than people think."The Subaru Australia boss said he is happy with the company's current line-up and does not see the need to put the Subaru badge into new segments.

"There's always a hunger for a car to compete in every segment, but from a brand point of view, around 40,000 and the line-up we have at the moment, it's a nice number of cars to which we can commit resources and focus.

"I think we've got a reasonable mix at the moment that we can focus on and market properly, at a brand and dealer level, where we are we're pretty comfortable," Mr Senior said.

Returning to the 4x2 and 4x4 light-commercial market – where it once sold the popular Brumby ute – doesn't hold any serious appeal for the Japanese car-maker.

"If you get into that 4x2 and 4x4 market – you think the small car market is competitive – that LCV segment is now very competitive, everyone plays in it so what is your point of difference if you are going to get in there? Be happy with your lot," he said.

Mr Senior said increases to unemployment is the only caveat for his prediction of another one million-unit sales tally for 2015.

"I can't see it going backwards, particularly in Melbourne and Sydney there's a lot of perceived wealth out there and lot of people doing well out of the housing market looking to use equity to buy new cars.

"I think part of the growth in the European brands has been on the back that, but that trickles through the whole market.

"I think with the competitiveness of the market and lower interest rates ...

the market will increase slightly. The only real barrier to growth would be if unemployment rises. The fundamentals suggest to me the market will grow ever so slightly," he said.

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