The Subaru Outback was the flagship model for Subaru of America last year but things have changed. The 2020 Subaru Outback is all-new and completely redesigned, but sales continue to fall. The remodeled Outback rides on a new Global Platform, has improved ride quality, has been upgraded with a new cabin, and gets a new XT trim with a turbocharged engine. All trims are better than the outgoing sixth-generation model but sales continue to drop.
The all-new 2020 Outback arrived last summer but finished 2019 up only 1.3 percent over the previous year. In January the wagon was up 4.0 percent, February was only up 2.7 percent, March and April saw a massive -53.8 percent and -50.8 percent drop but this was when coronavirus hit and all Subaru models were down. In May Outback continues its decline down -36.8 percent, 11,382 vs 18,017 models delivered last year.
In contrast, the redesigned Subaru Forester had record May sales and is up 11.4 percent, and Forester now has 66,370 sales through May, Outback sales are 52,055 year-to-date. Did Subaru miss with the new Outback?
Subaru brings the sporty new 2020 Outback Onyx Edition with a turbocharged engine and geared towards those with active lifestyles. It gets new seats wrapped in a new water-repellant durable StarTex material for weekend off-road adventures.
In Subaru ads, they show young, active, customers taking the new Outback with kayaks, mountain bikes, and it’s shown in mountain outdoor settings. But when we look at an occupational breakdown of who is actually buying the Outback, it reveals a very different story. The large majority of Subaru Outback buyers aren’t buying the wagon for it’s off-road capabilities. They are buying the wagon for it’s all-weather abilities, cargo utility and safety.
Peter Tenn, a planning manager for the Japanese automaker, says the number one occupation buying the new Outback is educators followed by health-care workers (a lot of buyers are nurses), and the third group are people in technology fields. These buyers are all informed consumers who come to the Subaru dealer “armed with a whole lot of technical information,” Tenn says.
According to Subaru, the average age of Outback buyers is 45, and the gender split is 52 percent male, 48 percent female. Seventy-eight percent are married, and the average household income is $75,000 to $99,000. These customers are looking for a vehicle that will not only get them to work in all conditions, but they are also concerned with safety.
A large number of nurses are buying the Outback for it’s all-wheel-drive, all-weather capabilities. They need to get to work in all kinds of extreme conditions and they can’t be worried about getting stuck in the snow on the way to the hospital. This could account for some of the sales drop as health care workers have been focused on their jobs and staying healthy during this time, and educators aren’t out buying new cars.
Subaru didn’t miscalculate and knew the Onyx XT turbocharged model wouldn’t be volume-selling models. Subaru still offers the Outback in the base, Premium, Limited and Touring trims with the standard 2.5-liter engine, the same as the previous generation for its core customers. The new 2020 Outback still offers the same value and desirable features as the outgoing model.
Analysts at J.D. Power say younger buyers are returning to the market more quickly than older buyers. A big reason for the 2020 Subaru Outback’s decline is because of the age demographic who buy the wagon. They are sitting on the sideline and not returning to the market yet. Another reason is many buyers are waiting for the 2021 Outback. They know it’s smarter to buy a redesigned model after its first year of production when Subaru has most of the bugs worked out.
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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his reports are archived on our Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Subaru Report. Check back tomorrow for more Subaru news and updates at Torque News!
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Photo credit: Subaru, Della Subaru