Subaru boss raises U.S. sales, N.A. output targets
Yasuyuki Yoshinaga: More capacity is needed to achieve 400,000 U.S. sales.
TOKYO -- Subaru boss Yasuyuki Yoshinaga is eyeing a higher U.S. sales target of 400,000 vehicles and will decide by year end how to expand North American output to meet the goal.
The 400,000 target compares with Yoshinaga's forecast for record U.S. sales of 330,000 in 2012.
Earlier, Subaru had hoped to boost sales to 330,000 in 2015, but its U.S. volume is running two years ahead of plan thanks to brisk demand.
The 400,000 units, which Yoshinaga described as an unofficial target, tops Subaru's official sales forecast of 380,000 in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2016. Yoshinaga said the time frame for hitting 400,000 would be about the same.
In May, Subaru lifted its medium-term U.S. outlook to 380,000 vehicles from 350,000. But, encouraged by a 26 percent sales surge to 271,582 vehicles through October, it is setting its sights higher. The official target remains 380,000 partly because constrained output is pinching dealer supply, Yoshinaga said.
"If they receive more vehicles, we can achieve about 400,000 units," Yoshinaga, 58, president of Subaru-maker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., told Automotive News.
"To achieve 400,000 units, we have to expand production capacity," Yoshinaga said. "We have to take further action, so I aim to develop a plan by the end of the year."
In May, Subaru said it plans to boost capacity at its only North American plant to 200,000 by mid-2014, from around 170,000 today. But Yoshinaga now says the company needs a further expansion to between 250,000 and 300,000 units a year.
Subaru's plant in Lafayette, Ind., has two lines. One makes the Subaru Outback, Legacy and Tribeca. It had a maximum capacity of 200,000 units. The other line makes the Toyota Camry for Toyota Motor Corp., which owns 16 percent of Fuji Heavy. That line's capacity is about 100,000.
Subaru will increase U.S. supply by ramping up exports from Japan and boosting U.S. capacity.
Subaru plans to increase annual output at its Yajima plant in Japan to 180,000 units next summer from 150,000 today. That will enable Subaru to deliver more vehicles to the United States.
But midterm, it needs to expand North America capacity -- especially to counter the profit-eating impact of the yen's unfavorable exchange rate on exports from Japan.
Yoshinaga said he is weighing several options, including:
Jointly making Subaru and Toyota cars on the Indiana plant's Camry line.
Building another North American assembly plant.
Adding another Subaru line at the Indiana plant.
The decision is pending. But Yoshinaga indicated the company is leaning toward a new line at Lafayette.
That option wouldn't require negotiations with Toyota, and it would be cheaper than building another plant, he said. Subaru also has enough land in Lafayette to spread out.
"Expanding Indiana is the biggest possibility," he said.
If Yoshinaga decides soon on the capacity expansion, he predicted, Subaru can reach 400,000 in annual sales by 2016.
Subaru said in May it will focus more on U.S. sales after plans to build its first assembly plant in China failed to win approval from Beijing regulators.
The United States is by far the brand's biggest market. Sales there account for 48 percent of Subaru's global volume.
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