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Subaru faces Impreza insufficiency

Small-car delay: Subaru's next-gen Impreza is unlikely to hit local showrooms before the second quarter of 2012 as many Japanese suppliers struggle to recover from the March tsunami.

Japanese quake to dry up Impreza supplies as Subaru delays next Impreza until 2012

Subaru logo5 Jul 2011

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

SUBARU has revealed it could run out of stocks of the current Impreza by November after confirming the Japanese earthquake could delay the Australian release of its fourth-generation small car by up to nine months.

Widely expected to go on sale here in October this year, the Mk4 Impreza hatch and sedan range is now unlikely to hit local showrooms before the second quarter of 2012 as many Japanese suppliers struggle to recover in the aftermath of the devastating March 11 quake and tsunami.

Exacerbating Subaru Australia’s frustration are dwindling supplies of other important models such as the Forester and Outback.

These factors, along with a general market slowdown so far this year, could see Subaru’s overall 2011 volume and market share take a tumble to about 32,000 units – about 8000 shy of last year’s sales tally of 40,025 units.

“(The next-generation Impreza) was scheduled for very late this year, but it has been delayed because of the issues in Japan and we don’t have a definitive production date as yet,” said Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior at Friday’s Australian International Motor Show opening.

“So it will be definitely next year - I hope in Q1 but...”

2 center imageMr Senior said Subaru’s entire model line-up had been affected by the Japanese disaster and that the recovery process is now allowing local stocks to slowly approach pre-quake levels.

But he warned that improved supplies of the Impreza and other models would be short-lived.

“A lack of stock has had a major impact on us, in April and May in particular. We are starting to get back to some normality, however, and we’ve had a few Imprezas coming through in June and July and a few in September, but after that we will run out. It’s going to be very thin by the end of October.

“We’ve had a different impact with different models – Impreza in particular because it was the end of the model. There is always a break before a new model and that has complicated Impreza.

“With Forester some models and variants are going to be hard going into Q3 this year, but we are seeing a lot more light at the end of the tunnel… but there will be some trouble around Q3 and early Q4.”

According to Mr Senior, the Japanese catastrophe has raised questions about manufacturers and suppliers being so heavily reliant on a single point of sourcing.

“What we’ve seen in Japan is going to change the whole automotive industry and how they do things in the future in terms of single-sourcing components, reliance on factories in isolated geographical areas (and so on),” Mr Senior said.

“I think what we know and what we see is that everybody is taking a long look at how they manufacture vehicles, and if there is an extremely rare experience like what we have seen in Japan and if there are decisions that can be made based on that.”

Meanwhile, Subaru’s next-generation WRX and STI performance models, which will be loosely based on the Mk4 Impreza but won’t wear an Impreza badge, are still up to two years away from introduction and will wear significantly different sheetmetal to the Impreza.

On the horizon after the new Impreza range in 2012 will be the production version of the XV Concept – a compact crossover wagon that is yet to be officially confirmed but should slot beneath the top-selling Forester.

“I hope (the XV) does come to production – it is a huge opportunity for us in terms of fitting in the bottom end of the compact SUV market,” Mr Senior said.

“I think it is a car for Australia. That’s why we are extremely excited and keen for the factory to push the green light on production.”

Mr Senior refuted suggestions Subaru could release a front-wheel drive version to take on conceptually similar rivals such as the Nissan Dualis, Kia Sportage, Hyundai ix35 and Mitsubishi ASX, saying that any production version of the XV will be economical and efficient enough not to have to stray from the company’s AWD ethos.

“There is still a lot of development in the petrol engine yet and so there is a lot to be gained from weight-saving for a dramatic reduction in fuel consumption in those vehicles (without having to resort to FWD),” he said.

“And AWD gives us a huge point of difference in the marketplace. We are not another me-too clone with a 2.0-litre engine and front-wheel drive - we are something different.

“If we throw ourselves like we have in the past in that crowded mix we become lost - we become swamped - and hence we need to be different.

“If others zig, we want to zag.”

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