NEW YORK – Late to the 3-row CUV party in the U.S., Subaru vows it won’t be a shy wallflower with its impending Ascent, shown as a concept vehicle at the New York International Auto Show.
“We’re not afraid of it,” Subaru of America President Tom Doll says of entering a hot but crowded segment with a vehicle that’s bigger than the Japanese brand’s product offerings heretofore. “We needed something larger.”
Doll acknowledges Subaru is a late-comer to the fast-growing 3-row CUV segment. “It’s a market we missed before,” he tells WardsAuto.
A finalized version of the Ascent will debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November. It will look different than the concept vehicle shown here, says Subaru spokesman Michael McHale.
The vehicle goes on sale early next year exclusively in the U.S. Subaru’s plant in Lafayette, IN, will build it. The automaker will base the production model on a modified version of the Subaru global platform that debuted last year with the Impreza and will serve all vehicles in the lineup.
“We believe this vehicle will help us take volumes to the next level,” Doll says of the Ascent.
Asked if the automaker not only wants its fair share of the overall CUV segment but also its unfair share achieved through major conquesting, he says, “We want our fair share. You could say that when we were smaller, we didn’t have our fair share. Now we’re just getting to that.”
As a realist, he realizes Subaru will not outsell major automakers.
But Subaru of America’s growth has been impressive nonetheless.
About a decade ago, the brand was selling about 100,000 units. Last year, it sold 615,000. It expects to sell 670,000 this year.
“We’re not going to be selling millions of cars in the U.S. like other manufacturers do,” Doll says. “We know our place, but there are certain segments we need to compete in.”
The 3-row CUV segment is one of them, based on customer demand. Many people in Subaru’s younger customer base are getting older and starting families.
A utility vehicle with a trio of rows fits their changing needs, Doll says. “It’s important to have a product that appeals to that customer base. We’re introducing a product our customers are telling us they need.”
At the New York auto show, Subaru also debuts its redone ’18 Crosstrek. The compact CUV first debuted four years ago. It is the third best-selling Subaru with 95,000 deliveries last year.
“The new Crosstrek has lot of the same cues as the previous one, but its overall styling is more dynamic and the interior is much improved,” Doll says.