TOKYO -- Years ahead of schedule in achieving his North America sales goal, Subaru's global boss said he will lift the company's sales target next spring as he races to boost supply.
Subaru has plenty of room to expand capacity at its Lafayette, Ind., assembly plant if extra output is needed beyond the increases already planned for next year, said Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, president of Subaru-maker Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.
Any additional capacity expansion will likely happen there, the company's only plant outside Japan, rather than in Japan or in a new factory somewhere else, such as Mexico, he said.
The ramp-up comes as Fuji Heavy struggles to meet red-hot demand for Subaru's all-wheel-drive vehicles while preserving its corporate culture as a nimble niche player. In recent years, tight supply has been the only factor restricting rampant growth.
Citing brisk demand, Yoshinaga predicted that Subaru will hit its North America regional sales target of 600,000 vehicles in 2015, five years ahead of his original schedule. Achieving the goal would deliver an eighth straight year of growth and a seventh straight year of record sales.
Sales might be even higher if Subaru had more vehicles to sell. Capacity-constrained Subaru of America started December with the fewest units on hand it has had any month this year, enough to last a mere 16 days at its November sales pace, according to the Automotive News Data Center.
"We have to revise our target a little bit upward," Yoshinaga told Automotive News. "When we announce the next fiscal full-year results in May, we will announce revised target numbers for the next three fiscal years: 2016, 2017 and 2018."
Yoshinaga did not disclose new targets. They are still being discussed with Subaru's North American business unit, he said.
In the meantime, Subaru is ramping up capacity at its factory in Lafayette, Ind. Next year, it will add production of the redesigned Impreza compact.
In addition, it will boost annual production capacity for Subaru vehicles to 394,000 by the end of 2016 from 200,000 now. The plant currently has another 100,000 units of capacity dedicated to making the Toyota Camry, but Subaru will stop making cars for Toyota there by the fall of 2016.
Then in 2018, Subaru will tack on production of a new three-row crossover. That will come on top of the Impreza as well as the Legacy sedan and Outback crossover, which already are manufactured there.
Subaru has not decided yet whether another capacity expansion will be needed to accommodate the new crossover, Yoshinaga said.
But there is plenty of room to grow in Indiana, he added.
"If we use the current lines, we can increase capacity a little," Yoshinaga said. "But if we build a new assembly line, we can have huge production capacity."
A big increase wouldn't be easy, though, he noted. There are strict environmental regulations that an expanded factory would have to meet, and it would prove challenging to find the required additional workers, he said. A sudden increase would also put similar strains on suppliers in the region.
But one thing Subaru is unlikely to do is to follow the migration of automakers setting up factories in Mexico.
"If we have to increase production capacity," Yoshinaga said, "it will be in the U.S. because that is where the demand is."