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Subaru: Down, but not out

Not so Imprezive: MkIII Impreza aims at a wider audience than ever.

With Impreza III here and a Tribeca 3.6 and Forester III looming, Subaru aims higher

6 Sep 2007

SUBARU Australia has admitted it will not catch up lost sales ground in 2007 but a target of 40,000 sales in 2008 would make it the brand’s 10th consecutive year of sales growth.

The company hopes to sell 38,000 vehicles this year – up just over one per cent on the 37,500 it sold in 2006 – and its sales are currently up about 3.3 per cent in a total Australian market that is up around nine per cent so far in 2007.

Australia’s ninth-placed brand overall in terms of sales, Subaru is also down on its forecast total market share of 3.9 per cent this year, but hopes to grow the figure to above four per cent in 2008. Subaru also points out that of the 40 per cent of the total market in which it competes, it has a 10 per cent share.

“We won’t catch up with the market this year,” said Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior. “The first eight months of 2007 were always going to be tough for us.”Impreza is replaced from this month, but with six months remaining for the current Forester, sales of which are 8.5 per cent down so far this year, expect to see value-added limited-edition versions appear as it enters run-out mode. Subaru hopes to maintain 1000 sales per month in the face of stiff new compact SUV competition.

Mr Senior said the new Impreza’s broader appeal through improved ride and refinement would help lift WRX sales from the 100 per month it struggles to sell currently to closer to the 350-400 monthly examples it shifted in its heyday.

The new WRX is expected to attract 25 per cent of a total of 1000 Impreza hatch sales per month – the same split forecast for the RX variant and far below the entry-level Impreza R share of 35 per cent.

The premium RS variant is expected to comprise 15 per cent of new Impreza buyers, while next September’s new Impreza sedan, which went on sale in the US last month, will bring Impreza’s total monthly sales target to 1200 units.

Mr Senior defended the new Impreza’s conservative new in-house design. “I don’t think anyone who’s actually seen the car has commented either way,” he said.

“It has great road presence, it researched well and customers say it’s a sophisticated design. Dealers, car clubs and customers have had no adverse reaction at all.”He said the Impreza’s high level of standard equipment justified a higher price than many small-car rivals. The new Impreza hatch range opens just $50 higher at $24,490, and hits a white-hot small-car segment that is now Australia’s largest vehicle category, allowing it to target growth areas such as late-40s females, families and empty-nesters for the first time.

“Make no mistake – we do ask customers to pay more for a Subaru, in line with our premium Japanese brand positioning. But we think buyers will deem the value of all-wheel drive, the standard safety features and extra specification to be worth an extra few thousand dollars. What we have is a premium small car at a premium price.”But Mr Senior said Subaru wasn’t getting carried away with its well-worn “premium Japanese” market positioning.

“European prestige is very different to Japanese prestige,” he said. “We have moved the brand considerably since going exclusively to all-wheel drive and we no sell more $50,000-plus cars than ever. We sold 300 examples of the Liberty STi and the belief is some would have gone to European buyers, but we’re not getting carried away.”

Read more:

First drive: First drive: Subaru's Impreza goes mainstream

Subaru kills off Japan's Impreza WRX

First official look: Impreza goes mainstream

Subaru opens its future model pipeline

Subaru uncovers Aussie Rex

Subaru loses STing

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