"It was like the Tale of Two Cities. I had massive, mass-market retail properties, Honda and Toyota, and I had the true exotics, Ferrari and Maserati. And then, I had The Little Engine That Could, or however you want to describe Subaru," Boch said.
"Toyota and Honda numbers went down quickly. But the Ferrari and Maserati numbers, they plummeted! That whole exotic niche got destroyed, and destroyed on multiple levels," he recalled.
"Those customers, with the markets like they were, they did not want to spend the money. It also got hurt imagewise. Even people who had the money — and they had the money — couldn't pull up to work after laying off 100 people in a new exotic car."
Meanwhile, Subaru defied gravity. It was the only major brand whose sales improved year over year, straight through the Great Recession. Boch said the "props" for that achievement go to Tom Doll, CEO of Subaru of America, for making the brand "cool and desirable," and to management in Japan for tailoring cars and crossovers specifically for U.S. tastes.
"At Subaru, I gotta tell you, we thought we were gonna get killed, but we're in meetings after the first couple of months [of the recession], looking around at each other and saying, 'We're up! We're up!' We were up in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2010-2011. It was completely contrary to the industry. We were the only manufacturer whose sales improved in the recession," Boch said.
It's also fair to say Subaru of New England has historically had higher market share than the brand's national average, partly because Boch's father, Ernie Boch Sr., who founded Subaru of New England, always required exclusive dealerships.
Subaru's all-wheel drive is also a popular feature in snowy New England. Ernie Boch Jr. said Subaru's market share in Vermont, for instance, is so high it's "freaky."