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Subaru online sales “not for other models”

Test case: The Subaru BRZ might be the only model sold online.

BRZ internet experiment unlikely to translate to other Subaru models, says boss

Subaru logo16 Jul 2012


SUBARU’S online sales experiment with its in-demand BRZ rear-drive sports coupe is unlikely to be extended to mainstream models, according to Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior.

Mr Senior described the move to confine sales of the limited number of BRZs available to Australian customers to the internet as a once in a lifetime opportunity for his company to test the practicalities of the system and to gauge both customer and dealer reaction.

He said the trial would be reviewed at the end of the year to see if BRZ sales could continue online next year, when supplies are expected to more than double to between 40 and 50 a month.

“In December, we will sit down to review it – what we have learnt, what have the dealers learnt, do we continue with it or do we go back to the traditional method with the dealers,” he said. “So that is the exciting part of it.”

But Mr Senior said he believed it could only work on small-volume, high-demand models.

“I can’t see it transferring into other models,” he said.

The boxer-engined BRZ – developed in a joint venture with Toyota that has already launched its version, the 86 – was launched online today at a driveaway pricing deal of $37,150 for the six-speed manual and $39,730 for the six-speed automatic, with fewer than 120 cars available to internet customers.

 center imageFrom top: Subaru Australia's Nick Senior Subaru BRZ.

Toyota is aiming to this year sell 1200 86s – about 1000 more than Subaru’s supply of 201units – all through its dealer network.

Because of the small allocation of BRZs to Australia this year, only 60 of Subaru’s 103 dealers will get their hands on a demonstrator for online customers to sample.

Mr Senior indicated that not all Subaru dealers were happy with the arrangement, saying that on a recent dealer ‘road show’ around Australia some dealers had been “circumspect”.

He said he understood “completely” the dealer reaction, but said some dealers regarded the online trial as “a fantastic system because it is going to take a whole lot of angst out of it” at the retail level.

“There is a range of emotions, but again, in six months, we are going to have a look at it again after 150 cars and we will review it and see what happens going forward,” he said.

Mr Senior said those dealers allocated a demonstrator would be required to keep it “for some time” as no replacement would be available until late this year or early 2013.

He said that, if the BRZ supply situation did free up in 2013, it might be possible to give every Subaru dealer a demonstrator and revert to the traditional sales method.

“It is different selling 40 cars a month, as opposed to 10 a month, although it (40) sounds small numbers,” he said.

“If we are getting 40 to 50 a month next year, all of a sudden the entire dealer network may be able to have a demo, because at the moment we only have 60 out of 105 dealers participating.”

Mr Senior said Subaru used its experience selling some limited models, including the WRX STi 22B, to help shape the BRZ online sales system to provide a satisfying customer experience.

“When you do have low volume and high customer numbers, if you don’t get it right you can cheese off a number of people,” he said.

“This is about giving them transparency – of the vehicle, the stock, what’s available, if it’s not, when it will become available.

“That’s why we’re doing it. And, as I say, it is a trial for six months, to see what we learn from it.”

Mr Senior said Subaru distributors around the world wanted more stock, but were restricted from what they could get from Japan.

He said that under the arrangement of the Toyota-Subaru joint venture to build the BRZ-86, Subaru gets one car for every eight going to Toyota from the sole production line at Subaru’s Gunma plant in Japan.

“Are we going to miss sales?” he said. “Of course, we are going to miss sales, but we have been dealt a hand, and that’s it.”

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