TOKYO -- Subaru, flush with record profits and poised for a sixth straight year of record U.S. sales, may be a little too hot for the liking of Yasuyuki Yoshinaga.
The brand may have trouble keeping the legions of new customers it has attracted because not all dealers can keep up with recent skyrocketing sales, warns Yoshinaga, president of Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru's parent company.
Getting dealers to invest in new service facilities is his top priority. He sees it paying off for dealers in the form of a targeted 42 percent increase in per-store sales by 2020.
"Over the past several years, our U.S. sales have increased dramatically, and so have the number of new-to-Subaru customers," Yoshinaga said. "The real contest will be keeping those customers satisfied with our vehicles and our service so they will purchase a Subaru again. This is the most important thing."
Through June, Subaru's U.S. sales have put it among the market leaders, shooting up 16 percent in a market up only 4 percent. But dealers haven't led in taking care of customers.
Subaru ranked fourth from last in J.D. Power and Associates' 2014 Customer Service Index, which measures customer satisfaction with dealer service for maintenance or repair work. Subaru scored a 776, well below the mass-market brand average of 797 and ahead of only Dodge, Jeep and Ram.
The lackluster showing could undermine rosy sales forecasts at Subaru, which has been on a tear in the United States. The company wants North American sales to soar 25 percent to 600,000 units by fiscal 2020, which ends March 31, 2021, from 478,000 units in the fiscal year that ended March 31.
At a dealer meeting in Seattle last month, Yoshinaga urged his retailers to pour money into more than just flashy showrooms. The problem is the oft-neglected garage, where dealers often lack such basics as enough service bays to work on cars, he said.
"Generally speaking, the first investment goes into new-car showrooms. Now we are investing into service facilities to improve our customer satisfaction," Yoshinaga told Automotive News. "For example, some stores need six service stalls, but they only have three. That makes our service weak."
At a meeting during the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in January, Subaru of America Inc. gave its dealers details on its "Fixed Operations Expansion," or FOX, program which will provide recommendations and cash to support dealers' investments in lifts, added service bays and other equipment. The amount will vary with the size of the dealership.