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Subaru may drop online-only BRZ sales strategy

Game plan: Buyers can only net a new BRZ with the click of a mouse, but may soon be able to wander into a Subaru showroom and pick one up straight away.

Still online-only, but customers may soon get to buy a Subaru BRZ from dealers

Subaru logo7 Oct 2013

BUYERS may be able to walk into a Subaru dealership and buy a BRZ sportscar off the showroom floor from next year, as the company re-considers its online-only sales policy.

Subaru introduced the radical online-only buyer model for the BRZ from its launch in July 2012 in response to serious supply constraints, but with extra stock now available, the company may complement this method with brick-and-mortar sales.

Similar to its Toyota 86 twin under-the-skin, the lower-volume BRZ has been a sell-out success over its first 15 months on sale, with both versions of the two-door 2+2 coupe attracting lengthy waiting lists. But as the early buzz fades, so too do the stock restrictions.

According to Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior, the company will decide whether to expand BRZ sales to showrooms over the next three months, although it appears buyers will still be able to buy their cars online on a build-to-order basis.

“We’re very happy how BRZ has worked but we also understand that there’s more availability of cars,” he told GoAuto last week.

“We will look at the online strategy moving forward and whether we should open it up to the network a little bit more to take advantage of the extra stocks that we may be able to have access to.

“Bearing in mind one of the primary reasons behind the online strategy was to help us manage the extremely short supply initially, and to also give us a bit of an understanding of how all that worked. We got a fantastic understanding.”

Mr Senior said the company had learned a great deal from being the first car-maker in Australia to sell its wares entirely online - a move since replicated by Mercedes-Benz’s entry brand Smart.

The company in many ways served as a test-bed in Australia for this virtual purchase model - both for the positives and the pitfalls. On the first day of the BRZ’s launch in Australia, a massive spike in web traffic played havoc with Subaru’s servers.

Subaru sold its entire 2012 allocation of $37,150 plus on-road costs BRZs in just three hours.

But, clearly, no car-maker here has the real-world experience with selling cars in this manner, in this market, to the same degree as Subaru.

That being said, don’t expect more mainstream Subaru models to be available online any time soon, says Mr Senior. The rest of the range is not restricted by stock restrictions to the same degree.

“There’s no plans at the moment to expand it to other models, but we are looking at BRZ, we’ll probably still continue it online, but will also look at expanding it to the network,” he said.

“What I don’t want to see, now that we potentially can get some more cars, is someone going to see an 86 at a Toyota dealer, and they can get it straight away, as opposed to our online which is basically order on demand.

“It is an emotional purchase,” he said, meaning that impulse buyers driven to buy one of the budget coupes may be swayed by immediate availability, rather than ordering online and playing the waiting game.

“Over the next three months we’ll have a look at whether we need to change the model for 2014,” he said.

BRZ supply has steadily improved since launch, with two shipments of ‘bonus’ cars - 140 and 200 units respectively - announced in November 2012 and January this year respectively.

Subaru sold 998 BRZs to the end of September this year, fewer than one-fifth the volume of the 86. As part of the co-development deal, Toyota gets the lion’s share of production allocation.

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