NADA analyst Maynard Brown recently had the pleasure of attending the Subaru National Business Conference in New Orleans and provided some insight from his trip. 

The team from Subaru is coming off of a record sales year & it appears as if they will easily exceed that number this year.  Dealers were pleased to hear that Subaru will be expanding their Indiana plant to increase Legacy & Outback production & retooling their microcar plant in Japan to build Imprezas.  Those enhancements should result in an additional 35,000 units per year for the North American market, which translates to a welcome 12% increase.  A welcome increase after struggling to maintain inventory after the Tsunami created shortages on most of their models during the majority of 2011.

They also introduced us to three upcoming vehicles & EyeSight, Subaru’s new collision prevention system.  Maynard was also given an early introduction to the 2013 XV Crosstrek & 2014 Forester, which he felt would give Subaru products to help maintain their positive momentum.  The XV appears to be an updated version of the old Impreza Outback; essentially a wider Impreza hatchback with about 9 inches of ground clearance.  Maynard Brown’s comments were that, “When I initially saw it, I was concerned that it would only serve to cannibalize sales from the 2013 Forester.  Then I saw the wider, longer all new 2014 Forester and my concerns were alleviated.”  There were no surprises in the redesign; I would refer to the changes as ‘evolutionary’ instead of ‘revolutionary’ as seen with many Subaru models.   However, the powertrain improvements & the increase in fuel economy should be enough to please most Forester loyalists.  Subaru’s fuel economy improvements come at a perfect time since sales statistics have indicated the new vehicle demand is being partially driven by consumers who are moving into more fuel efficient vehicles.  The XV will hit dealerships later this fall & the Forester should be available sometime in late 2013 offering consumers better fuel economy in configurations that are aligned with Subaru consumer’s expectations for versatility. 

Mr. Brown was also given the opportunity to drive Subaru’s newest vehicle, the 2013 BRZ.  He provided some comments on the drive, “ It is very rare these days to see a vehicle that I consider to be a steal at its MSRP.  The specs are not mind-blowing, at 200 hp & 151 lb-ft of torque, but the product is fantastic.  The vehicle weighs a bit less than 2800 lbs, it feels perfectly balanced, & the steering feel is about as good as any vehicle I’ve ever driven.  The 0-60 time was disappointing (>7 seconds), but that’s not the point of the BRZ.  Subaru was looking to produce an inexpensive lightweight 2+2 sports car & they absolutely nailed it.  I also heard rumors of the possibility of a future STi version in the pipeline; I could only imagine how amazing that vehicle could be with another 50-75 hp & 75 lb-ft of torque.

After the track time with the BRZ, I went to a demonstration of the EyeSight collision prevention system.  The system provides a level of safety technology generally reserved for luxury vehicles at a mainstream price.  EyeSight includes adaptive cruise control, brake assist, & throttle management on Limited trims of the Legacy & Outback.  I can say that the technology does what it’s meant to do, however it felt a bit crude compared to the safety systems that you’d find in a Mercedes or Infiniti.  The system had its limitations, but I think that Subaru will still get its share of customers.”

Maynard left the conference feeling very confident in Subaru’s prospects for the near future and stated,  “Subaru’s current & future product portfolio looks strong & the increased production will help them continue their sustained momentum.  I enjoyed spending time with the Subaru team in New Orleans & I am pleased to have been able to experience their latest product offerings.”