December 12, 2019 / 3:11 PM / 4 months ago

Subaru CEO expects record U.S. sales in 2020 despite market slowdown

FILE PHOTO: The 2020 Subaru Outback is revealed at the 2019 New York International Auto Show in New York City, New York, U.S, April 17, 2019. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

TOKYO (Reuters) - Subaru Corp (7270.T) expects its U.S. vehicle sales to rise to a record high in 2020, as demand for its SUV crossover models helps it buck the trend of slowing car sales in the Japanese automaker’s biggest market.

The company has been growing rapidly in the United States, the world’s No.2 auto market, roughly doubling the number of vehicles sold over the past 6 years, thanks in part to a ramp-up in local production capacity and a marketing strategy focused mainly on affluent and liberal-minded consumers featuring slogans such as love and inclusion.

Japan’s smallest automaker said that ongoing U.S. demand for its Forester and Outback models would likely boost overall sales in the country to 720,000 to 730,000 units next year, up by as much as 4.3% from the around 700,000 vehicles it expects to sell by the end of this year.

“We expect the U.S. market to slow only slightly next year, so we’re planning to see more growth in our sales. We think we can achieve this,” CEO Tomomi Nakamura told reporters in Tokyo.

He added that he saw room for the automaker to expand its share of the SUV market, which stands at around 7% at the moment, given that Subaru’s SUV models outsell its sedan models, which include the Legacy and the Imprezza.

“If competition in the U.S. SUV market continues, that segment will keep growing even as the overall market slows,” he said.

U.S. sales account for around 65% of Subaru’s total global sales of around 1 million units. By the end of November, sales of the Forester this year had climbed 6.4% from a year ago, while sales of the Outback, its best-selling model in the country, were up 0.9%.

However, the rapid growth in the country has coincided with a jump in global quality-related issues which has sapped profitability in the past year or so.

Reporting by Maki Shiraki; writing by Naomi Tajitsu; Editing by Kirsten Donovan

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