The only thing you can count on is change, and Subaru is changing the automotive landscape here in the U.S. A year ago, Volkswagen Group, the biggest German automaker and the third largest automaker in the world, outsold Subaru by more than 100,000 vehicles in the U.S. But this year, it’s a different story as the Japanese automaker has been steadily selling a record number of their cars.
Subaru is trying to figure out how to keep up with the demand for their vehicles, and VW is wondering why their sales are slipping. It’s a tale of two very different companies and business philosophies heading in opposite directions. In an article by Automotive News, they reported Subaru now leads VW by nearly 5,000 vehicles, 347,890 to 342,962, after being outsold 438,133 to 336,441 in 2012.
While Subaru is growing and increasing sales by 32 percent in October and 28 percent for the first 10 months of 2013, VW posted an 18 percent decline for October. For the first 10 months the German automakers sales were down 4 percent. The two companies are going in very opposite directions. And VW doesn’t have a clue how to fix it.
Automotive News reports VW's poor showing in the United States market is a source of frustration for top executives in Germany. VW Chairman Ferdinand Piech told Bloomberg this month. "We understand Europe, we understand China, and we understand Brazil. But we only understand the United States to a certain degree so far."
Subaru has done an excellent job of listening to their core and loyal customers. They conduct customer surveys and find out what their customers like, and more importantly, what they don’t like about the Subaru automobiles. Subaru asked their previous generation Forester owners what they needed to change. The Tokyo automaker listened and completely redesigned the new fourth-generation Forester.
Because of the changes, sales of the 2014 Subaru Forester increased 137 percent to 12,581 this year, accounting for more than one of every three vehicles the company sold here in the U.S. The redesigned crossover is not the only Subaru vehicle selling well. The entire lineup is experiencing increased sales.
While Volkswagen is the third largest automaker in the world, they don’t seem to be able to figure out the U.S. market. They should take a page from Subaru’s playbook and listen to U.S. buyers and ask them what they want. Just look at the success Subaru has had with the 2014 Forester SUV, sporty XV Crosstrek crossover and BRZ two-door coupe.