"That's not just a trim level for a car line, but what we would anticipate and what we want to do is really look at Wilderness as a subbrand for Subaru, something that we can build upon and that we think is a terrific fit for our brand and what we're all about," Walters said.
The Ascent, which debuted in the 2019 model year, will become key to keeping young Subaru customers in the brand as their families grow, he said. The three-row "filled what was a doughnut hole in our lineup. We would do really well with people before they got going with their families, and at the tail end as their adult children were leaving the household. But that was an area where we were losing our customers for that period in their lives, and then they were coming back."
In its first full year on sale in the U.S. in 2019, Subaru sold 81,958 Ascents. But sales took a hit during the pandemic, dropping 17 percent in 2020 to 67,623. Ascent sales are down 8.4 percent through the first five months of 2021 to 23,181 as the automaker deals with microchip shortages and other supply chain problems.
"I look at that as a segment that's going to become increasingly important to Subaru," Walters said of the large three-row crossover.
"It's a little hard to kind of gauge results and performance over the last year and a half just because everything's so crazy, but when we get back to just normal chaos, that's a segment that I would anticipate will continue to perform well."