The 2022 Subaru Outback and Wilderness trim are Subaru of America's most popular SUVs, it's made at the Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) plant, and they could sell even more of the midsize SUVs if they had enough factory workers. A report from Automotive News (by subscription) says recent events have exposed a weakness in the ability to produce Subaru's most popular model.
Automotive News reports that record-high gasoline prices, the lowest unemployment rate in decades, a lingering pandemic, and long-term demographic trends have left assembly plants like SIA scrambling to find enough workers to fill their assembly lines.
photo credit: Schumacher Subaru
Why the Subaru plant can't get enough workers
The report says more competition is now taking away workers for factory jobs. "Automakers are being forced to raise starting wages on these once-coveted jobs just to stay ahead of other employers such as Amazon warehouses and fast-food franchises, as well as their nearby suppliers and manufacturers in other industries."
The labor shortage has made it harder for automakers like Subaru to restock depleted retailer inventories of the 2022 Outback, Wilderness trim, Ascent, Impreza, and Legacy models made in the U.S. and has shown some of the downsides of building factories in locations like Lafayette, Indiana.
photo credit: Schumacher Subaru
Automotive News says Subaru of America struggled to keep up with demand from its sole U.S. factory near Lafayette, Indiana, even before the COVID-19 outbreak. "The pandemic only worsened the situation and caused delays in-house and at nearby suppliers as Subaru had to lend out some of its team members to keep local suppliers running," says AN.
"We're making up ground on being understaffed, but we're still higher than pre-COVID-19 attrition and absenteeism as well," said Melissa Hubler, senior manager for human resources with the Subaru of Indiana Automotive plant.
Hubler said," Until the market stabilizes to the point where we can predict attrition with accuracy, we're going to continue to recruit talent because, again, it's just such an unstable market. We don't know when that attrition is going to normalize."
What does it mean for Subaru customers?
The outdoor-themed 2022 Outback Wilderness has been a big hit with Subaru's active customers. There will be a long wait (four-to-five months) for these models.
Even after the microchip shortage and other supplier parts improve, Subaru retailers will still be in short supply of its most popular model, the 2023 Subaru Outback and Wilderness, set to arrive this fall, made at Subaru of Indiana Automotive. "It might take longer to get U.S. assembly and component plants back up to speed," says the Automotive News report.
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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: Schumacher Subaru