The network has been investing heavily as part of new Subaru franchise standards launched four years ago. Retailers who meet the requirements have been rewarded through higher margins on new car sales – Subaru says this more than compensates for the financial outlay.
“Dealers who were initially angry about the changes are now seeing the benefits,” says Sam Burton, Subaru UK sales director. “As a result our two-year rolling block exemption contracts make no huge changes to the existing standards.”
He does not rule out setting up sponsored retailer programmes to help dealers invest in high-cost city sites, but says Subaru has no plans to run a wholly-owned network.
Subaru is on track to retail 10,000 cars this year – sales to August are up 20 per cent at 5731 units – compared with 8173 units in 2002. Next year Burton has his sights on 13,000, thanks to the new Legacy which will account for 3600.
“We also have an opportunity to expand into the B-segment and at least one other sector which will add more volume,” he says, although the B11S concept shown at Geneva this year “is ahead of its time and will not see the light of day”.
Subaru has the option of launching a new Justy small car next year, based on the Suzuki Ignis, subject to getting the pricing right first. It's aiming for sub-£10,000. The other model is likely to be a full-size SUV, exploiting the AWD system.
New Subaru Europe president Hiroyuki Ikeda believes the company needs to improve its European position and has singled out the UK as an important market to grow. “We need to improve in the UK and we have a great opportunity to do this with the new Legacy,” he says.
Ikeda wants to boost European sales from 40,000 this year to 55,000 next year. His long-term target is 100,000, one per cent of the market.