Could the 2017 Subaru Impreza Sedan Be a Game Changer for the Sedan Market?
Subaru is what many would call a niche brand. You can almost picture its loyalists—trendy families who shop at Whole Foods and do yoga together. It’s also appealing to pet lovers (dog lovers in particular) and the more adventurous types who like to go off-roading. But where does the brand lose its appeal? The most apparent place is the mainstream sedan segment. Even its entry-level Impreza doesn’t do so hot as a sedan, but instead as a hatchback. In fact, according to Automotive News, 70% of Impreza sales are for the five-door hatchback, leaving just 30% for the sedan variant.
Subaru hopes to change the sedan landscape and its chances within it when it launches the 2017 Subaru Impreza, which will be continue to be offered both as a sedan and as a hatchback. The new model introduces the fifth generation of the Impreza and is the first vehicle to be built on Subaru’s new global platform, which Subaru promises is the “biggest overall performance evolution” in the brand’s history.
So how much does Subaru want its Impreza numbers to change? Not too dramatically. Ideally, sales of the sedan would jump to 40% of all Impreza purchases, putting the hatchback at 60%. At the same time, however, Subaru intends to keep its Impreza hatchback sales steady (hitting the same number of units as the automaker did for the 2016 model), while boosting sales of the sedan. That means Subaru needs to tap into the types of customers who are instead considering the Honda Civic or the Toyota Corolla.
It’s not an unrealistic goal for Subaru. Sales for the brand have been on the rise for the last several years here in the US, and in 2015 alone, sales of the Impreza skyrocketed by 20%. Plus, Subaru’s new global architecture should mean improved performance, better handling, and the best damn safety features we’ve ever seen from the Japanese automaker.
While Subaru has not yet announced a sales goal for the 2017 Impreza, Subaru is expanding its Indiana plant’s capacity this year to make room for more Imprezas. Production capacity will be bumped from 200,000 a year to 394,000, but this also takes into account the addition of Subaru’s as of yet unnamed seven-seater to assembly lines.
It is important to note, however, that while Subaru does aim to conquer more of the sedan market, its focus with the Impreza will still also largely be the hatchback. According to Automotive News, Subaru is very aware that people purchase from Subaru “for its image as a purveyor of wagon-style utility vehicles.”
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And while Subaru plans to encroach upon what has, until now, been more of Chevy’s, Ford’s, Toyota’s, and Honda’s territory, the brand is not concerned about the reverse happening. In fact, Kazuhiro Abe, project general manager for the Impreza, threw some serious shade at Honda: “I don’t have any worries [about the Honda Civic five-door]. It’s very sporty and stylish, but its utility is questionable.”
So I started this article with a question: “Could the 2017 Subaru Impreza Sedan be a game changer for the sedan market?” And I think, to a degree, we have our answer. Subaru has the potential to make a big play for the sedan market, and yes, I think ultimately it can get its Impreza Sedan sales up to 40% of total Impreza sales while still maintaining its Impreza 5-Door sales. But will it drastically alter the automotive landscape for sedans? I don’t think so. I think—despite a likely increase in its sedan sales—Subaru will remain to be known for its wagons/crossovers, for being a brand that makes utility vehicles for people who rely on good handling and optimal safety, and for being a brand whose philanthropy they can get behind. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
News Source: Automotive News (subscription required)
Timothy Moore takes his leadership inspiration from Michael Scott, his writing inspiration from Mark Twain, and his dancing inspiration from every drunk white guy at a wedding. When Tim is not writing about cars and money, he’s working on his novel or reading someone else’s, geeking out over strategy board games, hiking with his pooch, or channeling his inner Linda Belcher over beers with his friends. See more articles by Timothy.