Subaru dealer Rocky DiChristofano has taken the brand's pet-friendly reputation to heart.
The owner of Tucson Subaru in Tucson, Ariz., says pets -- dogs, especially -- are welcome at his dealership.
DiChristofano, 51, said his store gives treats to pets and has places around the property for owners to walk them. Pets, he says, are a part of Subaru's DNA.
And Subaru dealers are selling plenty of vehicles for furry friends to ride in, too.
Subaru of America's streak of monthly U.S. sales increases hit the 61-month milestone in December, and there appears to be no end in sight.
While Subaru's car sales are seeing a dip like the rest of the industry, the brand has maintained its footing thanks to the consistency of its crossovers: the Outback, Forester and Crosstrek.
But there is optimism about the car lineup in 2017. DiChristofano, chairman of the Subaru National Dealer Advisory Board, said dealers are excited about the launch of the new Impreza this year.
DiChristofano spoke with Staff Reporter Vince Bond Jr. about Subaru's momentum and his forecast for 2017.
Q: How was 2016 for Subaru dealers?
A: 2016 has been another record year for Subaru retailers. It's been a great year. The brand continues to be on the top of consumer purchase lists. All of the brand metrics are still really strong, and we continue to grow. Retailers are as excited as ever about the Subaru brand.
What are some of the factors behind that success?
We continue to build a product that consumers are interested in purchasing. The Love Promise and the commitment that retailers have made to the brand and to their local communities make us stand out as a brand in the marketplace to do business with.
What vehicles are you most excited about in 2017?
In 2017, we're really excited about the launch of the all-new Impreza and then continuing our momentum in the crossover segments with our Outback, Forester and Crosstrek product lines.
We're superexcited as a retailer body about the increased production that will be coming out of the Indiana plant, which is where the new Impreza will be. That will help us grow in 2017.
How can Subaru improve its relationship with dealers?
I think it has one of the best relationships in the industry with its retailer body and with its retail advisory board. If they just keep doing what they're doing, and we continue our strong partnership, we'll continue to the have the success that we've seen over the past eight to 10 years.
Why are they so good with dealers?
They do a good job of engaging retailers in the conversation and listening so that it's a true partnership. That makes it a win-win for both of us.
Are there any products missing from Subaru's lineup that you'd like to see?
At the L.A. Auto Show, I believe they showed the seven-passenger concept Viziv-7. We're looking forward in the next few years as retailers to re-entering that segment when the Tribeca stopped being produced. That will give us access to that segment of the market again and to larger families that have a need for a third-row vehicle. We're really excited about that.
What is the sales ceiling for Subaru? How high can it get?
I don't believe there is a ceiling, providing that they continue to focus on growth and invest in this brand in North America. [In 2017,] I would see sales approaching probably 670,000 -- maybe beyond. I think as we enter other product segments and they continue to grow, we're going to see even greater results.
How does it feel to sell a brand that has so much momentum?
It feels terrific. It's great to be with a brand that has shown the type of growth and potential in North America that Subaru has.
How do you feel about Subaru's advertising campaigns recently? Were they effective?
They continue to be effective and continue to connect with our customers and potential customers.
In the last five years, what do you think is the biggest improvement that Subaru has made?
We've taken on a focus in the arena of safety in our vehicles. We've become a safety leader in the industry. That has certainly driven some of our success as well. We continue to offer products that consumers want to meet their lifestyles and their needs.
The brand is considered pet-friendly. Is there anything that dealers do to make pets welcome at dealerships?
I think again, with the Love Promise that we delivered to our customers, pets are certainly a part of the Love Promise and a part of the DNA of the Subaru brand. I can't speak for all of the retailers across the country, but I can tell you in my particular dealership, pets are welcome. We put out treats for pets; we've got water bowls; we've got places for people to walk their pets around our property. We certainly encourage them to bring pets with them, dogs particularly, when they are in for service or just shopping for a vehicle. People take advantage of it. [It's] just another reason to be a part of the Subaru family.