The annual Consumer Reports “automaker report cards” are now out, and you could say Subaru schooled the competition this time around: Thanks to high marks from recently redesigned models, Subaru was the highest-scoring company in the much-watched evaluations, edging out Mazda, Toyota and Honda, the latter of which had been No. 1 for four consecutive years.
CR helpfully breaks out its results into a variety of different categories, providing a snapshot of how Subaru achieved this feat:
• Subaru had the highest average road test score in the entire industry.
• The Impreza also was the highest-rated Small Sedan and ranked No. 4 among fun-to-drive Small Cars.
• The Legacy had the seventh-best real-world fuel-efficiency in the Family Sedan class and was ranked fourth among 2012’s Most Improved vehicles.
• The Subaru Forester had the Best Visibility in the report, with the Forester 2.5X Premium scoring the fourth-best real-world fuel efficiency mark in the Small SUV category.
• The Subaru WRX STi ran the fifth-quickest 0-60 time in CR testing, with the WRX finishing sixth.
Equally impressive is the fact that Subaru’s sales numbers are showing all this third-party acclaim is being matched by high demand. Almost unnoticed in the industry’s strong finish to 2011, Subaru rang up its third straight all-time annual sales record last year. The company delivered 266,989 units, and while that represented a relatively small 1.2 percent increase, it was enough to ensure that Subaru is the only automaker to have raised its sales volume for four years in a row—even though it had to battle the same production problems as the rest of the Japanese OEMs during much of the past year.
Subaru then set yet another new volume benchmark to jump-start 2012, moving a January record 22,807 units that reflected a healthy 20.9 percent leap northward.
What’s behind the Subaru surge? As highlighted by Consumer Reports, fresh new products—and especially the 2012 Impreza—are attracting fresh new customers. Wholly transformed for the current model year, the compact Impreza virtually eliminated what had historically been a key drawback for the Subaru lineup: Weak fuel-economy numbers, which were primarily the result of the brand’s commitment to outfitting all vehicles with all-wheel-drive systems. But a new powertrain and significant weight savings combined to change all that on the new Impreza, capable of posting an EPA line of 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway/30 combined with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) or 25/34/28 with a five-speed manual. To slap those figures into context, they come out to improvements of 35 percent/36 percent/38 percent on the former and jumps of 25 percent/26 percent/27 percent on the latter.
And yes, that’s with Subaru’s hallmark AWD setup still intact.
The modernized Impreza first went on sale in November of last year, and in December, it’s first full month on the market, it pushed sales up by an eye-popping 86.68 percent; in January, the car had its best month ever in this country, rocketing to a 175.5 percent improvement on sales of 6,221 units.
The Subaru Outback and Legacy have been garnering impressive sales in recent months, too. Both set their own all-time volume records in 2011, as the Outback led the brand with 104,405 deliveries, up 12 percent, and the Legacy notched a 9.5 percent bump to garner 42,401 sales. Further, both jumped out to solid starts last month, setting more monthly sales records for the automaker in the first month of 2012.
The outlook for the rest of the year is excellent as well, particularly since the automaker is launching two all-new products in coming months: The Subaru BRZ sports car and the Subaru XV Crosstrek—sort of an Impreza hatchback for those who want to wander a bit further off ye olde beaten path. There’s also some serious anticipation building for the next-gen WRX and WRX STi. Subaru’s street icons will be spun off from the Impreza as true stand-alone models, and that should allow Subie engineers to focus even more sharply on improving their performance capabilities.
Said Thomas J. Doll, executive vice president and COO for Subaru of America: "This is a real break-through year for Subaru. Now that Impreza is reaching showrooms we can expect to see sales for this new model grow exponentially. Supported by solid sales from our other core models and with new models debuting this year we are very optimistic about our prospects for 2012."
As well they should be!