Subaru CEO Tomomi Nakamura expects first back-to-back U.S. sales declines since 1990s

A decline in 2021 would mark the first time since 1995 that Subaru has notched back-to-back years of sliding sales in U.S.

Since 1996, the brand’s annual sales have declined only three times, in 2002, 2007 and 2020. But from 1987 to 1995, its sales fell every year.

Subaru’s tepid sales come even as rivals continue to zoom ahead — with automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp., Mazda Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co all reporting double-digit percentage gains for the first 10 months of the year.

Hyundai-Kia sales were up 29 percent through October.

Subaru’s slowdown puts it further off track to resume its once-torrid sales pace.

Before the pandemic, the all-wheel-drive niche player was targeting U.S. sales as high as 730,000 vehicles in 2020 — enough to tally a remarkable 12th year in a row of record U.S. sales.

But Nakamura predicted a return to growth as the microchip shortage gradually ebbs.

Subaru is still finalizing its U.S. sales outlook for 2022, but Nakamura said the company is eyeing a volume of about 650,000 vehicles.

That would represent a rebound from the anticipated 2021 decline, but only bring Subura’s U.S. sales back to the level reached in 2017.

“There is still uncertainty surrounding the semiconductor situation. So, we don’t really have a firm target at this point,” Nakamura said. “But industry demand will be around 15.5 million or 16 million (in the U.S.). Considering that, we are looking at a number in the region around 650,000 units.”

Earlier this month, Subaru announced that profits plunged by nearly half in the July-September quarter as the supply chain bottlenecks crimped production.

Subaru also lowered its worldwide sales target to 830,000 vehicles in the full fiscal year ending March 31, 2022. It had originally forecast global shipments of 1.0 million vehicles.

Subaru also lowered its outlooks for operating profit, net income and revenue.

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