Subaru Australia managing director Nick Senior told CarAdvice at the launch of the 2017 Subaru Impreza in Japan that the current sales levels of about 400 units per month should increase when the new model arrives.
“We want to improve on that but we haven’t set any volume targets at the moment. We haven’t set pricing, obviously. We’ll leave that as late as possible, before locking that in prior to mid-December launch,” Senior said.
As for pricing, there’s little to go on just yet – but you can realistically expect Subaru to maintain its minor premium over rivals such as the Hyundai i30, Mazda 3 and Toyota Corolla, not to mention the car generally considered as the class benchmark, the Volkswagen Golf.
“We’ve been a bit above them because a lot of those have entry-level cars and we don’t compete at that bottom end of the market. But do we see volume opportunity in the Mazda 3 and Golf? Sure, but it’s not going to be at that rock bottom $19,990 pricing,” Senior said.
“That’s where the potential for us is,” Senior said of appealing to buyers who want something a little more premium. “While the Mazda in particular has an entry level, there is a significant volume in their mid- and upper-range models so that’s where we want to pitch ourselves and see if we can get a bit of that action.”
CarAdvice understands the current Impreza has been hamstrung to a degree because of supply issues, but the new model will be built both in Japan and the US, which should see an increase in available stock.
“It’s an interesting one because, with the Indiana line coming on stream, [it] is potentially going to offer a little bit more opportunity, you would think so. Having said that, last month the US sold 19,000 Foresters in a month for 60,000 units, which is all time records and the Forester is still produced in the Japanese market, so we are not seeing that production free up just yet,” he said.
“We have got a lot of support from FHI [Fuji Heavy Industries] and we have a good launch stock of Impreza, but there’s still a little bit of uncertainty in what quarter one and two [are] going to hold [in 2017].
Senior also pointed out the new model needs to appeal more to younger buyers. The current model hasn’t had the cut-through with those purchasers - not because of pricing, but because of its lack of up-to-date infotainment and its squarer styling. But the more stylised new-generation models should have enhanced kerbside appeal, while the standard media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity will tick that box.
“That’s part of our challenge with Impreza - is to get more younger people, more females to get into Subaru, and give them a Subaru experience that’s enjoyable for them, hopefully then you can keep them in the brand,” he said.
When asked if the lack of a $20,000 model – or even a smaller light offering at an even lower price point – has been the biggest issue in getting younger buyers into the brand’s showrooms, Senior suggested that there are still those buyers, they’re just not buying brand new Subarus.
“It’s not the biggest issue, but it is an issue, and it’s one of the reasons why we focus so much on Subaru Assured, our certified used cars because that for many now is the entrée into Subaru.
“You drive around, whether it’s Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or Perth, the number of Subarus with P plates on them is testament to the opportunity. So that’s why we concentrate on used cars and I think this new Impreza ticks a lot of the boxes for younger people that we haven’t been able to potentially tick before – infotainment, sporty, quality, design, etc etc,” he said.
To give you an idea of how important the company thinks the new Impreza is to our market, the Australian media group that CarAdvice attended the event with was the only international group invited.
The brand has also revealed that the line-up is expected to consist of three or four models, all automatic (there is no manual Impreza anymore) and all powered by a new 2.0-litre four-cylinder boxer engine and CVT automatic gearbox.