Outback bows out with huge sales share


Subaru is celebrating an exceptional growth in 2017.

NOW just weeks away from a crucial mid-life facelift, the current Outback is set to leave the scene on a high, having again been the hero performer of a remarkable brand sales run for 2017.

Subaru of New Zealand is delighted to have achieved a new annual sales record of 3343 vehicles in 2017 – 684 more than 2016, an impressive 26 percent increase year-on-year.

Even though the achievement came in a growing market in which the greater proportion of competing brands also registered growth, and also represented a sixth consecutive year of growth, Subaru’s performance in pure percentage terms is still well above the industry average, which has been determined to be about nine percent up on 2016. 

Subaru’s previous annual record, set in 2016, had already been surpassed in November and the extra 181 sales in December provided the cherry on top, it says.

The top performers were the brand’s newest road car, the Impreza, and its all-wheel-drive elevated wagons.

The Impreza and the XV achieved the highest growth of any Subaru products, a massive 103 and 78 percent increase in sales respectively.

However, the Outback continued to deliver the greatest proportion of registrations, once again bringing home the single biggest chunk of the brand’s Kiwi volume to comfortably retain long-standing status as the highest selling Subaru model ever.

The count of 1469 Outback sales is a 16 percent improvement on 2016. It nonetheless slipped slightly in respect to the overall slice of the sales pie, with the brand saying the car accounted for 44 percent of total Subaru sales in 2017. In 2016 and prior, Outback achieved more than half the total Subaru volume.

Outback underwent one significant change in 2017 with the Auckland-domiciled distributor determining, late in the year, to drop the two diesel editions – a surprise determination given that diesel is still a preferred option in the medium-large SUV scene.

However, the brand said its engine – unique in being the world’s sole horizontally-opposed four-cylinder mill – struggled to make penetration. Sales also took a dive in the wake of the Volkswagen dieselgate scandal; the brand locally felt that buyer confidence in all small diesel car engines took a serious knock after the Germans admitted to cheating on their emissions outputs in the US.

The diesel is not necessarily out of the game for good; it still avails in the updated MY18 Outback line that is about to hit the showroom.

The refreshed car (above) was unveiled at the New York motor show last April, but production only began in the third quarter of 2017 and the brand determined that America, as its biggest overseas’ customer, should have first dibs.

The salient change is that it at last delivers the latest technology upgrades that debuted in the latest Impreza which launched last February, with the climate control interface and infotainment systems being redesigned.

The latter has been upgraded with 6.5- and 8.0-inch displays and have the latest Starlink featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, more accurate voice recognition and a faster processor.

The model also adopts the latest generation of the EyeSight accident avoidance tech.

The visual changes restrict to C-shaped headlights with LED daytime running lights and a revised grille, plus a new bumper.

Higher spec models are expected to adopt headlight units that can adjust their beam in accordance with steering wheel input. The EyeSight system also avails automatic high beam activation. Tyre pressure monitoring and lane keeping assist functions are also improved.

Subaru has notified that the Outback also features reshaped wing mirrors, and tweaks to the suspension, braking and electric power steering systems.

The updated Outback should be quieter too thanks to a short-pitch chain for the continuous variable transmission, thicker rear wheel well aprons, and new sound-insulating glass for the front side windows.

Subaru has yet to advise any pricing amendments.

Meantime, local managing director Wallis Dumper has reflected that last year’s performance was “an exciting ride.”

“Our growth has come not only from our extremely loyal Subaru customer base who have upgraded their vehicle to the latest model, but also from a whole range of first-time buyers of our brand, who have been impressed with our new generation Subarus.”

He was especially proud of the XV, saying the latest model, a mid-2017 introduction, has been flying out the doors. An increased production allocation from the factory will help relieve demand for this model this year, he said.

Outback, he said, “continues to go from strength to strength and we see them everywhere on the country’s roads, transporting Kiwis and their families off on their adventures.”

The only off-road model that has still to upgrade to the brand’s new-generation platform and technology, the Forester, also achieved solid growth despite its age, ending up 20 percent ahead of 2016.  The current model is set to be kept on sale for some time year and, to offset any perception of it being one of the older offers in the sector, has just had a price and specification adjustment.

While the sticker has trimmed to $44,990, the car now additional standard features, including a powered tailgate, leather upholstery, heated electric seats, satellite navigation and EyeSight technology. Subaru NZ believes that this value package has increased the car’s appeal in a crowded segment.

Dumper says he is looking forward to continuing the sales momentum this year “as we roll out some exciting new developments throughout the year."