Year-on-year sales were down by as whopping 68 percent.
The global pandemic had a huge impact on new car sales in 2020, but it wasn't bad news for every automaker. Many car manufacturers still managed to end the year on a high with record sales months. Subaru's US sales, for example, were up by 16 percent in September 2020 compared to September 2019 thanks to popular models like the Forester. In December 2020, Subaru shipped 63,558 in the US, a two percent increase compared to the same month in 2019.
It's a different story in the UK, however, where Subaru's sales figures were alarmingly low in 2020. Autocar reports Subaru delivered just 951 cars in the UK last year compared to just under 3,000 the year before - that's a dramatic year-on-year drop of over 68 percent. Ouch. "2020 was a horrible year," said Subaru UK Managing Director, John Hurtig.
"What can you say? It's just an embarrassing number. There's no more context, to be honest." However, Hurtig explained that Subaru UK had a "very high registration number" in December 2019," causing "a big backlog" in 2020. The company also pre-registered many of its cars in 2019 before the stricter emissions regulations came in January 2020 to avoid paying fleet-average emissions fines. These vehicles were sold as discounted pre-registrations.
Subaru's target customer base didn't help, either. "Our target audience, is, to be honest, older people," said Hurtig, who are most at risk from the disease. Hurtig also cites issues with Subaru's dealer network in the UK as a contributing factor to its disastrous sales. "We need the right dealers," he said. "It comes back to that. We can have the best marketing and brand awareness, but if the dealers aren't on the same page, it's useless. So this has to be developed hand-in-hand."
Another crucial factor was Subaru's lack of online presence during the pandemic as the company didn't offer a click and deliver service in the UK until recently. In the UK, the Subaru Impreza and Impreza WRX STi are also no longer a part of the automaker's model lineup after the automaker switched its focus on SUVs and crossovers, which has potentially harmed its brand image. Likewise, the new Subaru BRZ will not be sold in the UK and Europe. "I'm not defending [us]. The numbers are insane and ridiculous. There's not just one thing; it actually boils down very much to our organization, our aggressiveness, our way of working," Hurtig admitted.
Despite this, Hurtig believes Subaru's UK division will recover in 2021 as part of a radical overhaul for the automaker's UK and Europe division. "We've changed the management, we've changed the team, we've changed a lot of things during the second half of 2020. That's why we're now starting the recovery scheme."
With the UK in the midst of a third national lockdown, Subaru has had to adjust its projections accordingly. Despite the lockdown, Subaru is confident it can improve Q1 2021 sales by 30 percent.
New models such as the upcoming Forester facelift should also boost sales. Subaru also has the advantage of being classified as a "niche manufacturer," allowing it to avoid the strictest EU CO2 targets, so it still has a future in Europe. "2020 was a disaster for us," said Hurtig. "But from our perspective, there's a good way forward and a good future for us, which we are very much committed to."