TOKYO -- Subaru will expand production capacity at its existing assembly plant in Indiana, rather than build a new factory, and will start making a new model there in 2016, the company said today.
At a press conference to unveil the plans, Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, president of Subaru-maker Fuji Heavy Industries Inc., said Subaru expects U.S. sales to climb 9 percent to 365,000 units in 2013.
"We'll be selling 1,000 cars every day," he said. Global sales will rise 6 percent to 750,000.
Yoshinaga said details of the capacity expansion will be finalized by March 31 and announced after that.
The company is considering several ways to boost output at its Lafayette, Ind., factory, its only overseas assembly plant.
It could add a line to the two already there, extend the line that is currently dedicated to Subaru or possibly glean capacity from the second line, which makes Camry sedans for Toyota Motor Corp.
Imprezas in Indiana?
"We are considering many options," said Jun Kondo, Fuji Heavy's deputy president and global manufacturing chief. "It was decided expanding the current plant was better than building a new one."
Subaru declined to identify the new model to be made there. But it will likely be the Impreza, the Impreza-based XV entry-level car or the Forester crossover. Those vehicles are all imported from Japan now.
The Impreza is the brand's No. 2 selling vehicle in the United States, after the Outback wagon. Impreza sales roughly doubled to 81,799 units in 2012 after the introduction of redesigned version. The Forester ranked third, with sales of 76,347 last year, unchanged from 2011.
The decision comes as Subaru seeks ways to boost North American output to meet booming demand for its cars there after a fourth year of record sales.
400,000 by 2016
Yoshinaga told Automotive News in November that his company could sell 400,000 units in the U.S. as early as 2016, up from a record 336,441 in 2012. Subaru's 2012 U.S. sales rose 26 percent, well above the industrywide gain of 13 percent.
Subaru needs to build more vehicles locally, partly to offset the foreign exchange losses that hobble exports from Japan.
Last May, Subaru said it would boost capacity at its Indiana plant to 200,000 by mid-2014, from around 170,000 then.
The new expansion would come on top of that.
Yoshinaga did not give a target capacity for Indiana. But in November, he said Subaru would likely need a further expansion to between 250,000 and 300,000 units a year.
Two lines at Lafayette
Subaru's Lafayette plant 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. It has capacity of about 100,000.
The United States is by far the brand's biggest market. Sales there account for 49 percent of Subaru's global volume.
Separately, Yoshinaga confirmed that Subaru would begin selling its first hybrid vehicle in Japan this year. He declined to give details. But Kondo said it would be all-wheel-drive.