Subaru of America is shuffling lines and expanding its U.S. plant to build the upcoming Ascent three-row crossover.
Ascent production will begin in the second quarter of 2018, said Tom Easterday, Subaru of Indiana Automotive's senior executive vice president.
To prepare for the Ascent, Subaru is spending about $100 million and will hire about 200 workers, bringing the Lafayette, Ind., plant to 5,800 employees.
Adding the nameplate will require a reorganization of the factory, which supplies the bulk of Subaru's critical U.S. products: the Outback, Legacy and Impreza sedan and five-door.
The Ascent will be produced on the plant's A-line, which now builds the Outback and Legacy, Easterday said. Outback production will shift to the B-line, which already builds the Outback and Impreza.
Additionally, because the Ascent is larger than other Subarus, new carriers were needed to accommodate it. The carriers were installed during the annual summer shutdown, Easterday said, adding that more updates will take place during the winter shutdown.
"We looked at all the processes in the plant to ensure that there'd be enough spacing," he said, referring to the Ascent. "We revised work stations for ergonomics."
The addition of the Ascent comes on the heels of another investment at the plant. Less than a year ago, Subaru shifted Impreza production from Japan to Indiana, reclaiming plant capacity that had been used to build Toyota Camrys.
"It's gone really well," Easterday said of Impreza production. "The line used to be Camry until May 2016 and it was converted quickly."
Subaru plans to unveil the production Ascent next month at the Los Angeles Auto Show, with the first vehicles arriving in dealerships by next spring. The crossover will be sold only in North America.
It will debut as the automaker is cranking out monthly U.S. sales records. Through the first eight months of this year, U.S. sales totaled 423,728 vehicles, up 8.1 percent from the same period of 2016, despite a 2.7 percent decline for the industry as a whole.
Subaru is on pace to set its ninth consecutive year of record U.S. sales.
The steady sales growth has put more production demands on the company. Subaru completed an expansion of its Indiana plant's paint shop in February 2016, but is now expanding it again. This summer, crews knocked out the shop's east wall to further enlarge it.
That construction will finish by year end, Easterday said.