Even though it is the last remaining Japanese brand not selling a subcompact in the U.S.,Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru won’t be jumping on the B-car bandwagon anytime soon, a company official says.
“The thing with the B-sector is you have to ask how you make money at the lower levels,” Michael McHale, Subaru of America Inc. spokesman, tells Ward’s in a recent phone interview. “You look at the pricing on the B segment – it’s a tough segment to make money.”
Subcompacts begin at just under $10,000 in the U.S. for a bare-bones model. More well-appointed grades typically start in the $14,000-$15,000 range.
The U.S. subcompact segment was revived a few years ago when the Big Three Japanese brands, anticipating increasing gas prices and a resulting movement by Americans toward small cars, re-entered the sector.
Toyota Motor Corp.’s Yaris,Motor Co. Ltd.’s Fit and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s Versa all went on sale in the U.S. in 2006, joining Corp.’s Chevrolet Aveo, Motor Co. Ltd.’s Accent and Kia Motor Corp.’s Rio.
Motor Corp. is bringing its Mazda2 to the U.S. next year, while Motor Co. will begin retailing the Fiesta.
The two lowest-volume Japanese brands selling in the U.S.,and , have plans for a U.S. B-car, although the Suzuki Swift is on hold.
Subaru-makerretails several subcompact vehicles outside the U.S. and once played in the sector in the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s with its Justy model, still offered in other markets.
That car has a colorful history, being manufactured both by Subaru and others (the model now sold in Europe is a rebadged/Daihatsu), and is famous as the last vehicle sold in the U.S. with a carburetor.
Subaru also sells in Japan a rebadged version of equity-holder’s subcompact Toyota bB/Scion xB as the Subaru Dex.
Sales in Ward’s Upper Small segment are bucking the industry’s decline, down 18.2% vs. the total light-vehicle falloff of 23.8% through November.
’s Versa is the best-selling B cars in the U.S. this year, with 76,097 deliveries through November, Ward’s data shows. ’s Accent and ’s Fit place second and third in volume, respectively.
For now, small-car lovers among Subaru fans will have to settle for the compact Impreza sedan and wagon, as McHale says the electric version of Subaru’s Stella minicar also is not slated for the U.S. Subaru began selling the Stella electric vehicle to approved lessees in Japan earlier this year.
Fuji engineers, however, are working on the next generation of Subaru’s EV technology, which will proliferate globally, a source tells Ward’s.