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Leaked Documents Reveal Subaru Is Concerned With New 2020 Outback Quality

The new 2020 Subaru Outback is close to launching but the automaker is concerned with pre-production quality issues.


Customers are waiting for the all-new seventh-generation 2020 Subaru Outback to arrive in September and it should be a big hit with a more powerful 2.4-liter turbo engine, new Global Platform with improved driving dynamics, a roomier cabin, and improved safety tech. But Subaru’s success in the U.S. could spur problems for the new Outback according to a report from Automotive News.

Torque news recently wrote about dealer concerns about the Ascent and the new 2020 Outback quality. Subaru’s U.S. National Retail Advisory Board wrote in a September 18th resolution, “We continue to be concerned that Subaru is not making the necessary investments and changes fast enough to ensure that vehicles are being produced with the quality the brand and its customers deserve.”

2020 Subaru Outback

The new AN report says internal documents were leaked and say because production has ramped up at the U.S. plant in Indiana, suppliers cannot keep up with the demand for the new Subaru vehicles. The document is reported to say almost half of Subaru's North American suppliers are operating at quality levels below Subaru's internal target. To boost performance, Subaru is overhauling its own production processes and working with suppliers to fix the problem.

2020 Subaru Outback Quality issues

Subaru needs to get the all-new 2020 Outback launched with few quality issues this summer because it’s the brand’s most popular all-wheel-drive vehicle in the U.S. market. Issues with the all-new Ascent family hauler that launched last year is not helping the situation.

Tom Doll, CEO of Subaru of America at the Chicago Auto Show acknowledged dealers concerns with the new 2020 Outback quality. “A lot of it’s growing pains, right? But we’re not concerned at all about whether or not it’s going to get fixed or not. It will get fixed. We’re hopeful that it gets fixed fairly quickly.”

2020 Subaru Outback

The leaked internal report says, the new 2020 Outback in the pre-production stages, has had problems with brake noise, seat wrinkles, 2.4-liter turbo engine oil dilution, extensive smoking following cold engine start, and battery failure.

Subaru also just recently received a less than stellar report from J.D. Power in its IQS scorecard and the Japanese automaker is aware they need to improve quality in their vehicles. Subaru’s quality planning and management department is apparently experiencing a defect rate with the Ascent SUV that is twice as high as the company's internal goal.

High Recall Rates

Subaru has also been stung with multiple recalls, and an April report says 70 percent of Subaru vehicles are the object of recalls or service campaigns within two years of being purchased. The report says Subaru wants to lower the recall rate to an acceptable 10 percent.

Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA), says part of the problem is upstream and the design team in Japan needs to get some of these problems fixed before they ever make it to the U.S. plant. Problems “should have been identified during development and pre-production confirmation testing,” the report said. SIA also sites "workforce instability" has been brought on by the rapid on-boarding of new workers as they get ready to start 2020 Outback production.

Subaru’s impressive growth in the past 10 years has led to growing pains in Japan and the U.S. market. Customers are eagerly waiting for the newly-redesigned 2020 Outback to arrive and expectations are high for the new SUV/Crossover all-wheel-drive vehicle. As the 2020 Subaru Outback begins pre-production, there are internal concerns the new seventh-generation SUV will have quality issues. Stay tuned.

You Might Also Like: 5 New Technologies On Redesigned Subaru Outback To Know About Before You Buy The Old Model

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Photo credit: Subaru Global, Subaru USA


Eric Mendelsohn (not verified)    January 24, 2020 - 3:38AM

In reply to by Denis Flierl

I purchased a new 2020 Outback Ltd w the 2.5i engine in October 2019. I did a factory order to get specific items I wanted. They gave me a decent price for my 2015 Outback Ltd 2.5i. I took delivery the second week of November in Silver spring, Maryland. You need to be aware of the automatic rear hatch door opening mechanism in a garage. Turn it off if space is tight.

Charlie Prigge (not verified)    June 25, 2019 - 9:25AM

Its worth pointing out that not all defects are equal. I'd take a wrinkled car seat cover over defective brakes/airbags. I'd take a light switch defect that has never caused an issue over and engine oil defect. The 70% rate and/or 2-year time window doesn't really capture the risk/impact of these "defects". For example, the oil consumption defect of several years ago is WAY more significant than the defects I've seen reported in the last 2-3 years from the subaru brand. Grain of salt I suppose.

Digitaldoc (not verified)    June 25, 2019 - 1:17PM

Quality issue at Subaru... shocker. No problem, just buy some more ad time and make sure you show the cute puppy around the car, and the sales will be just fine.

VSurfn (not verified)    August 8, 2019 - 5:16PM

In reply to by Digitaldoc (not verified)

I drove Subaru cars (3) for 20 years, the last one 2014 XV Crossturd was my last. 55K miles the thing started falling apart, rear wheel bearing hubs, front axle shafts, oil control valve, AC compressor and condenser, idler pulleys, burning 1 quart of oil every 5K miles. Then there the stuff the dealers said were normal or could not be recreated, CVT shudder, CVT (torque converter lock) felt like a manual transmission left in gear when coasting, at time the CVT would surge forward when stopped at a traffic light, key would get stuck in the steering column (always when I was late for appointments).Bad road noise, lack of soundproof and isolation. Paint quality was so bad a mosquito would chip the hood or bumper, dash "noises snap crackle & pop" poor audio system and blue-tooth, seats were thin uncomfortable and wore out, handling was real bad on windy days, week engine performance (specially with a few passengers) over rated AWD, was drifting in snow when the traction control cut my throttle and came inches from hitting a parked car before AWD figured it out. This was the first car I ever sold before 100K miles. True Subaru employees should stop flooding social media, internet forums and TV/Radio advertisements with lies.

Hime (not verified)    December 15, 2019 - 9:59PM

In reply to by Digitaldoc (not verified)

They are junk! I had a crostrex for 2 weeks . Took a huge hit to send it back to the dealership. Sad! Americans work hard for their money that they spend on a vehicle. Subaru please dont rip off people. Do not think corporate is going to help. They pleaded the 5th. Do not buy them.

Martin Stabile (not verified)    June 25, 2019 - 4:05PM

Come on Subaru get your act together I've been driving Subaru since the 70s I have an Impreza 240000 runs like new 1998 they need to be made at that level of quality hopefully continued support with the improvements thank you

April (not verified)    June 25, 2019 - 5:56PM

I'm quite disappointed in the numerous issues I've had with my 2018 Subaru Outback. From running out of gas for the first time in my life at age 40 last summer with my kid in the car in 100° + heat b/c of the gas gauge recall to the infotainment system dying on me in a move across the country to the body of the vehicle being far weaker, for better gas mileage I'm sure, & easily dented unlike our '04 Outback to the non-userfriendly capability of using with the android vs. IOS. My extended family has driven Subarus for many years & the quality has unfortunately gone down. Depending upon how our new one is reliable going forward I don't plan on ever purchasing a newer Subaru again. :(

David A (not verified)    July 11, 2019 - 7:24AM

In reply to by April (not verified)

I've owned Subarus since '95 and definitely see a lessening of quality, in materials and workmanship. When we bought our last Impreza, we didn't even consider other brands. Those days are gone. And if recalls and reports of "growing pains" continue, we may no longer consider Subaru. Cars are too expensive to just hope for quality and reliability. Subaru is violating a trust.

Robert B. (not verified)    July 19, 2019 - 8:52PM

In reply to by David A (not verified)

After my wife's new 2019 Legacy Limited was towed for the third time in one month, a Subaru employee actually admitted to me that quality had gone down as production numbers went up. I was sorry to hear that.

Jimmy G (not verified)    July 12, 2019 - 2:20PM

In reply to by April (not verified)

My 2018 Outback ran itself out of gas in traffic when the tank was nearly full. Turns out a rodent damaged the fuel sensor electrical line. The car’s computer read the tank as empty and shut off the fuel pump while we were driving. My problem had nothing to do with the gas gauge recall. Very unpredictable and dangerous car. I’m going back to Honda!

April (not verified)    July 12, 2019 - 5:16PM

In reply to by Jimmy G (not verified)

That's just awful that happened! I've owned at least 3 Hondas & so nothing against them at all, but couldn't that have happened to any vehicle & not the fault of Subaru beings how it was caused by a rodent? I'm sure the shutting off of the fuel pump was a protection for the pump to not burn up, or maybe I'm missing something?

David Friedes (not verified)    October 28, 2019 - 6:09PM

In reply to by April (not verified)

I had a 2017 outback limited. Aside from the somewhat difficult to use audio Starlink system, I had no problems in in 3 year lease. I would say the car was a bit easy on the pit dents, but most cars these days are given the thinner sheet metal for weight. I got my wife a 2019 premium outback. So far my only problem has been idiots that scratch the car/ping. While the cloth interior does not look terribly durable, only time will tell. At 13 months look brand new. I just leased a 2020 outback touring xt-man is this thing loaded. The audio system and screen I think are first rate. This appears intimidating but actually at 61, I am finding this fairly easy to figure out. The leather in it is top notch- internal components appear top notch and plastics which are few, do not appear cheap in any way. I love my other two subarus. I have not kept them long term beyond 3 years so it is hard to say how well they will stand up. However, look at the depreciation factor, and you will see that subarus are right up there with the best in holding their value. Many people have been able to get 300,000 or more miles out of them. The safety features are first rate and second to none, and the crash tests put it at the top. So, while a few people have had problems, and earlier subs had oil issues, the newer ones have not had this problem. Dollar for dollar my 2020 feels a lot more expensive than what it stickered and surely what the sale price was for the lease. Also, the site now has remote start with ability to set heat/air on seats and inside, lock/unlock and start remotely AND the car does not turn off when you open the door as it used too on the outbacks. Just start remotely on phone, go in, put foot on brake and push the start stop- you will see it goes green and audible chirp, and then move shifter to drive and you are set to go.

XTman (not verified)    June 26, 2019 - 2:27AM

My 2014 Forester XT has been running 5 years without any problem or defect whatsoever. My wife's and my kids three 2019 XVs (Crosstrek) and one Forester are running without a hitch. I'm waiting eagerly for the 2020 Outback XT. Following the recent flood of publications concerning the current Subaru reliability issues. I'm going to put my purchasing plans on hold, waiting for a year or two until the reliability clouds clear. I refer mainly to the 2.4l turbo engine "oil dilution" issue. It means that loose rings enable gas seepage into the engine oil, reducing its viscosity and consequentially, causing premature engine failure.

shawn (not verified)    June 26, 2019 - 6:17PM

Anyone with a set of basic tools and online video tutorial can service a camry, but it takes quite a bit more time and effort to do the same routine maintenance on my outback, and the list of possible catastrophy (head gasket, turbo failure, interference fit timing) hangs over my head when planning a trip. Buying a used subaru is not very wise from my experience, unless you are a mechanical enthusiast with a spare vehicle.

Ed B (not verified)    June 27, 2019 - 7:32AM

The results when demand exceeds supply - QC suffers. Simply delay the launch to showrooms until you get it right. Better a delay in releasing versus a myriad of recalls and consumer complaints after the fact.

Ken Mahren (not verified)    July 17, 2019 - 11:23PM

Bought a new 2019 Outback 2.5i, now have 3500 miles on it. Have not had any issues at all with it and I'm very impressed with the eyesite technology. For me, at least, the 2019 Outback has been trouble free. Here's hoping it stays that way. It may be that getting the last year of a "generation" is the way to go, most if not all of the issues have been worked out.

Robert B. (not verified)    July 19, 2019 - 8:35PM

My 2014 Crosstrek has been completely reliable and free from problems, as was my 2003 Forester. However, my wife's brand new 2019 Legacy Limited was towed three times in one month. The dealership couldn't figure it out, and she lost confidence in the car, so got rid of it. I'm almost ready for a new car, and planned on a Subaru, but now I'm questioning that. Not sure if I'll stick with Subaru or look at something else.

Stephen B. (not verified)    August 17, 2019 - 11:35AM

As far as I know all my Canadian purchased Outbacks (2010, 2013, 2017) came from Indiana. The video, How Subaru Makes The 2020 Outback in Indiana Plant, says: "Subarus built in the Indiana plant are for U.S. customers only, and no vehicles get exported from this assembly plant." and "U.S. customers are the only ones who get the new 2020 Subaru Outback made in Indiana." Gee, I wonder where my 2020 Outback will be built since I'll get one of the first ones to land with my Canadian dealer? I wonder why the video producer thought this was enough of a big deal to make the same mistake twice. Hmmm

Eliot (not verified)    August 25, 2019 - 12:19PM

Currently own 2015 Subaru Outback and am shopping for a new car. In addition to numerous recalls and small issues, the engine was pulled at 31,000 miles for a number of leaks and now at 41,000 miles the left back wheel bearings have been replaced. However, even with the wheel bearings replaced and new tires, the front end still vibrates. This is my first and last Subaru!

Rick G. (not verified)    September 12, 2019 - 11:20AM

What do you mean by pre-production? How does that differ from Production?
Are pre-production vehicles on dealer lots now that are being sold as new production vehicles? How can you tell if you are purchasing a pre-production version?

I was supposed to take a test drive in a new 2020 outback this week. The day of the test drive the dealer called me and said they were ordered to halt all test drives and sales of the 2020 Outback. What's the scoop on this?

How concerned should I be about the 2.4-liter turbo engine oil dilution, extensive smoking following cold engine start, and battery failure. Might these issues be prevalent in new 2020 Outback purchases from a dealer? Are these issues easily fixable?