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Subaru Boss Says How They Fix Past Quality Issues And Improve New Models Now

Does Subaru make quality cars? In a recent interview, Subaru CEO talks quality and what they are doing to improve it in the new 2021 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent.


Quality issues hit Subaru hard on its top models like Forester, Outback, and Ascent. The Japanese automaker has struggled with recalls on many of its cars in recent years. As Torque News reported recently, one of the most significant issues for Subaru of America is that they grew so fast in the past decade. Record sales caused quality issues as manufacturing overlooked the culture inside its factories.

As a result, workers cut corners to keep up with the demand for its all-wheel-drive cars. What is Subaru doing now about its quality issues? In a recent interview with Automotive News (by subscription), CEO Tomomi Nakamura revealed what the Japanese automaker is doing to fix past and present problems and improve future quality in the new 2021 Forester, Outback, and Ascent models.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Ascent, 2021 Subaru Outback
Photo credit: Competition Subaru

Nakamura told AN, "We are making good progress in quality reform. There are two approaches. One is to ensure we have the right quality for vehicles currently in development. The other is to react and come up with solutions to defects in vehicles already in the market."

Torque News reported last year, Subaru had a string of very costly recalls of its Forester, Crosstrek, and new Ascent SUVs. The Ascent was hit the hardest with transmission issues and even put on Consumer Reports ten least reliable cars list. It's not a list the Camden, N.J. automaker wants to be associate with.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Ascent, 2021 Subaru Outback
Photo credit: Competition Subaru

Subaru says they are now changing the entire development process to improve quality. Nakamura says, "And we definitely see an improvement." The Subaru boss says quality has improved in its top two models, the Forester SUV and Outback wagon.

Nakamura explains that's it's a slow process as the product cycle, and new vehicle development takes about five years for each model. The Japanese automaker started the recent "activity" and quality control process in 2018 when the new-generation Forester began production.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Ascent, 2021 Subaru Outback
Photo credit: Competition Subaru

The Subaru CEO says, "To see a 100 percent impact, it will take until the vehicles in the next full model changes."

How is Subaru dealing with older vehicle issues?

Unfortunately, Subaru is dealing with past quality issues in some vehicles before the new reforms took place. Torque News reported In 2018-2019 alone, Subaru of America announced at least 13 recalls for its all-wheel-drive cars. A global recall in March 2019 affected as many as 2.3 million Subaru vehicles worldwide.

Nakamura says, "There are a lot of vehicles to take care of. Retailers and customers aren't feeling that improvement yet. Retailers text me and say, "You don't understand the situation in the market. But we do understand."

One key indicator that Subaru quality has improved is the number of recent recalls. Torque News reported in September, recalls for Subaru of America spiked in 2019, with eighteen recalls affecting Forester (2), Outback (2), Crosstrek (5), Ascent (5), Legacy (2), and Impreza (2).

For the 2020 model change, Subaru only issued two recalls: the 2020 Subaru Outback and 2020 Legacy sedan. The two models had a brake pedal mounting bracket that may have had an insufficiently tightened or missing bolt. There have been no other recalls in 2020.

2021 Subaru Forester, 2021 Subaru Ascent, 2021 Subaru Outback

Tomomi Nakamura says he is confident about the improving quality of its vehicles. "Retailers are coping with these defects and working hard every day. They might not see that improvement yet. But I am putting all my heart and soul into improving quality, and I know the situation in the U.S. People might not be feeling the improvement right now. But it will come, and they will feel it."

Subaru Corporation also made organizational changes by establishing a new Quality Assurance Management Office that was operational on April 1, 2020. The new Quality Assurance office is under the direct control of the Executive Vice President, Atsushi Osaki (Chief Quality Officer).

Osaki oversees group-wide quality assurance and develops and manages the Subaru Group's organizational structure and systems to assure quality, maintain their effectiveness, and continually improve them.

Nakamura says, "So even though we see improvements in the vehicles developed today, retailers and customers are still dealing with those (older models) on the market, one by one."

Is quality improving in the 2021 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and Ascent models? Subaru's quality control plan seems to be working as Subaru has no new recalls in 2020.

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Denis Flierl has invested over 30 years in the automotive industry in a consulting role working with every major car brand. He is an accredited member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. Check out Subaru Report where he covers all of the Japanese automaker's models. More stories can be found on the Torque News Subaru page. Follow Denis on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Photo credit: Subaru, Competition Subaru


Gary A Turner (not verified)    December 8, 2020 - 6:22PM

With all the complaints about Subaru head gasket failures & leaking seals, it seems adding turbos will only make things worse? The WRX are not doing so well with turbos. Shorter engine life as well? W have a 2014 Forester and it has plenty of power yet no turbo. Some folks just want a basic, simpler & more reliable vehicle without a lot of 'features'.

Aritha Williams (not verified)    December 9, 2020 - 4:09AM

In reply to by Gary A Turner (not verified)

I am a Subaru fanatic I could never afford one I went out to the Lafayette Subaru plant in Indianapolis and I seen that whole big fleet of Subaru's this is to the Subaru owner of the company could you please send me one for Christmas I don't care if it's a 2009 outback if it's brand new I don't care I love those cars

VS (not verified)    April 14, 2021 - 10:35PM

In reply to by Michael Congleton (not verified)

The newer ones with the FB/FA engines use a silicone caulking seal called Fuji Bond and oil leaks with the timing chain cover, cam carriers, and oil pan are becoming a big issue now. Most Subaru's with FB engines that are 7 years or older are leaking. Dealers want at least $3300 to repair.

Peter (not verified)    December 9, 2020 - 7:40AM

In reply to by Gary A Turner (not verified)

I totally agree. I own a 2017 6-cylinder Outback. Tonnes of power and not terrible on gas. I watched a new outback pass me on the highway as the turbo kicked-in and a couple puffs of exhaust shot out the exhaust pipes. I could only think of the stress that turbo puts on that little 4-cylinder engine, and transmission for the sake of a couple miles per gallon...if that. Factor-in Subaru’s track record with turbos and the future costs of maintaining that turbo-punished engine. What a short-sighted, terrible idea this is for Subaru. They should have kept the regular 6-cylinder as an option at the very least!

Bill Gartner (not verified)    December 8, 2020 - 11:51PM

Subaru has lost their way. My 2018 Impreza is my 6th Subaru and will probably be my last. Transmission issues, radio and navagation problems, heated seats that don't heat the entire seat and l.e.d. headlights that cast a shadow in the normal field of vision. Add those to a dealer and employees who really don't care after the sale and I'm gone.

Frederick Trowbridge (not verified)    December 9, 2020 - 5:02AM

Any noted problems with 2016 Subaru Outback 4 cylinder ? Mine is just 34k miles only problem was paint, I know they have rebuilt their paint line since

Dcfis (not verified)    December 9, 2020 - 9:38AM

Subaru is a shell of it's former self. After over 20 years of Subaru vehicles they have each been worse than the last and I've done my best to give them a chance. So long Subaru, or should I say, The Company Formerly known as Subaru?

Jim Fed (not verified)    December 21, 2020 - 12:27PM

I think Subaru is having less recalls because they are turning a blind eye to real problems that are readily being discussed in many blogs. I have a 2015 Outback that I just replaced the battery for a 4th time. This is a common problem that many Outback owners are experiencing and my Subaru dealing honestly tells me that Subaru is aware and they don’t have a fix for it. What ???? I’ll never buy another Subaru and I will go out of my way to tell my story to family and friends and any social media outlet available to me. They’ve lost their way and now are even being dishonest about it ... which is the worst.