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Top-10 Car Brands - Subaru Was 7th Before COVID, Now Drops To 10th In Sales

Before COVID, Subaru was selling a record number of Forester, Outback, and Crosstrek models. See how far they have fallen and finished 2021 compared with all other automakers. What can customers expect in 2022?

In 2019, Subaru of America was riding high and had set a new all-time sales record of 700,117 vehicles, up 3 percent over 2018. The Camden, N.J. automaker set its 12th consecutive year of sales growth and the 11th consecutive year of record sales for the Subaru franchise in the U.S. The Forester had its best year ever with 180,179 compact SUVs delivered to customers, and the all-new Ascent family hauler saw a triple-digit sales increase.

Subaru was looking forward to 2020, selling 750,000 all-wheel-drive vehicles, and setting more records. But everything changed with COVID. In 2019 before the COVID pandemic, Subaru was seventh overall on the U.S. sales list, with 700,117 vehicles sold to customers.

2022 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek sales outlook

In 2020, Subaru dropped 88,179 vehicle sales, and the Camden, N.J. automaker slipped to ninth on the top-10 U.S. automaker's list with sales of 611,938. Retailers were closed due to COVID, which hit the Japanese automaker hard. But it got worse in 2021.

In 2021 Subaru slipped further back and finished tenth best in auto sales with 583,810 models delivered to its U.S. customers. Subaru of America dropped 28,128 model sales from 2020 and sold 116,307 fewer all-wheel-drive models since the height of 2019.

2022 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek sales outlook
photo credit: Car Industry Analysis

Will Subaru of America experience another down year in 2022?

Subaru's production of the 2022 Forester, 2022 Crosstrek, 2022 Outback, and other models have suffered more than other automakers because of the global microchip shortages. Subaru's supply chain issues are due to several things, and keeping its inventory low before the pandemic and the microchip shortage was a significant factor.

Tom Doll, President and CEO of Subaru of America, has been the architect of the impressive sales and growth for the twelve-year run. Doll says, "While it (2021) wasn't the year we were expecting, our retailers, distributor partners, and colleagues at Subaru of America and Subaru Corporation stepped up to the challenge and delivered an industry-leading purchase and ownership experience to our customers. We look forward to improving conditions in 2022 which should allow us to return to growth mode."

Jeff Walters, Senior Vice President of Sales, said, "For 2022, we're confident our production capability will improve, and an exciting lineup of new vehicles, including the all-new Wilderness models in the Forester and Outback carlines, the all-new BRZ and WRX, as well as the first-ever Subaru EV, the Solterra, continues to build enthusiasm and interest in Subaru."

Subaru Corporation CEO Tomomi Nakamura told Automotive News (by subscription) recently that Subaru has the potential to regain its record U.S. sales pace quickly. But first, the brand must put the supply chain shortages in the rearview mirror.

2022 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek sales outlook

Why was Subaru hit harder than other automakers?

"Compared with the other manufacturers, Subaru didn't have a lot of inventory to start with. Also, we have a smaller model lineup than other mass-market manufacturers. So we are not able to multisource parts from a lot of suppliers because our overall volume is not that big," said Nakamura.

Nakamura says, "The current inventory level is extremely low, like 5,000 to 6,000 units. That's basically about a five-day supply for the U.S. market. Next year (2022), we will have to rebuild this inventory to normal levels. And we think that's going to take about a year, through gradual buildup."

Subaru will continue to use a "sold-order system" in which customers can pre-order the model, color, and trim level they want and put their order into the system. Nakamura says, "This system existed from years ago. When we have abundant inventory, we don't use it. But now, we've put it into action and evolved the system to make it better."

Will customers wait for a new car?

Nakamura says, "Of course, some people who put in sold orders might cancel if they aren't going to be able to get a car quickly. But overall, we think that a lot of customers are OK waiting."

Customers will continue to experience low inventory of 2022 Subaru Forester, Outback, Crosstrek, and other are models in 2022. Loyal customers are willing to wait for their new model to arrive from Japan or Subaru of Indiana Automotive.

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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 USA