Subaru Says Sedans Are Still Working, Doubles As Contingency Plan

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Ford’s announcement that it will eventually eliminate every sedan from its domestic lineup has forced the automotive media to consider which automaker will be next to cart theirs off to the guillotine. Due to the growing popularity of crossovers and their inherent profitability, it’s probably just a matter of time until another manufacturer tosses all of its sedans in a burlap sack and drowns them in the proverbial river.

General Motors seems ready to abandon the Chevrolet Impala and Sonic, and Cadillac’s ATS, CTS, and XTS will soon be replaced by two unnamed sedans. Buick’s Lacrosse also looks to be a likely candidate for execution, and rumors exist that Caddy’s CT6 may also be destined for death. However, while rumors swell that American automakers are just years away from from killing the four-door car, Subaru says sedans remain totally relevant.

As a smaller but rapidly growing manufacturer (domestic sales have tripled since 2010), it’s dangerous for the brand to become too reliant on a single segment. If the market suddenly shifts, Subaru knows it’s better not to get caught with its pants down. In fact, it’s almost as if the company’s national manager of product communications, Dominick Infante, is counting on that. 

“Gas prices are starting to come up now,” he told Motor Trend in a recent interview. “So a good hedge for better economy is having a sedan.”

That’s not to suggest Subaru hasn’t tried to alter its lineup to cash in on the current market trends. Its Forester and Outback have become more SUV-like with every generation. The Crosstrek, which was introduced in 2012, quickly matched the Impreza in terms of sales and currently exists as the brand’s best-selling model in North America. Subaru is also launching the three-row Ascent this year to compete with the rest of the world’s midsize crossovers.

Meanwhile, the company’s car sales have declined. In the first four months of 2018, sales of the Impreza fell 16.3 percent and the Legacy dropped 13.9 percent. WRX and STI sales have also declined a bit. Still, it’s not as dire as it sounds. The revamped Impreza actually saw a significant increase in sales last year, and looks to be on schedule to surpass every other year that wasn’t 2017.

“So we still make the Impreza and the Impreza hatchback,” Infante said. “They do get better gas mileage than, say, a comparable CUV like the Crosstrek, so we do sell those so if the market does change that’ll help sales of sedans.”

Subaru says entry level cars like the Impreza are also important in getting people set up with their first car, while sporting models like the BRZ or WRX help to attract younger buyers cut from a different cloth. However, it intends to keep both via its enviable level of brand loyalty and fill any gaps with new models like the Ascent.

“[Customers] stay with the brand except for this one area, when they have children starting to become 8 years old or so,” explained Infante. “[That’s] when they tend to say, ‘OK, my Outback or Forester is too small’ and they want to transport other kids [and] families, so then they leave the brand and they would go to our competitors. So they could buy a Honda Pilot or a Highlander and then come back when their kids are out of high school and buy an Outback.

“It’s kind of funny, they would come back or they would have their second car which would stay being a Subaru but we would lose them in that one area … Basically it’s an open door where the customers are just walking out. Now we’ve got something to fill that in and keep them in a Subaru.”

2019 Subaru Ascent Limited, Image: Subaru of America

[Images: Subaru]