Special Coverage

Greater L.A. Auto Show

LOS ANGELES – Subaru is expecting to sell 300,000 light vehicles in the U.S. in 2012, double its volume of just five years ago.

Indeed, the brand in the next six months will build more vehicles than in any other period in its history, largely through incremental production increases in the U.S.

“With the current capacity we have and the lost sales we had this year, we probably would have sold 300,000 (units) this year had the products (been) available,” Subaru Chief Operating Officer Tom Doll says in a media scrum at the show here, referring to units lost post-Japan earthquake.

By adjusting linespeed, Subaru will be able to squeeze out more units at its Lafayette, IN, plant, Doll says.

He foresees sales next year of 110,000-120,000 Outback cross/utility vehicles, 35,000-40,000 Legacy midsize cars, 50,000-plus next-generation Impreza compact cars and 70,000-80,000 Forester CUVs.

Vehicles built in Japan, such as the Forester, continue to sell at a profit, but the margin is shrinking due to the strong yen, Doll says.

“We’re making money on those cars, but clearly profitability has been impacted. With the yen between ¥78-¥80:$1, it’s causing pressure on the margins in general. Right now, the cars are still profitable, the lines are still profitable, but not as profitable as they were when it was ¥100-¥110:$1.”

Parent Fuji Heavy Industries is willing to ride out the yen’s run-up for the time being, Doll says.

But long term, the auto maker is anticipating that “if the yen stays at these levels, something is going to have to be done.”

Subaru shows a concept version of its upcoming BR-Z rear-wheel-drive sports car here. The production model goes on sale in the spring and will debut at the Tokyo Motor Show Nov. 30.

Subaru in 2012 also will bring to market a production version of the XV concept.

Officials here say the model will be sized below the Forester and named the XV Crosstrek. A new WRX with a new turbocharged engine also is expected, as well as a 300-hp STi model.

Subaru does not provide a timeline for the product introductions.

Subaru blames inventory shortages related to Japan’s natural disasters for its flat sales in the U.S through October, down 0.3% from year-ago to 215,631.

But with better dealer stocks in place, Doll says a fourth-quarter spike in deliveries could push the auto maker ahead of 2010.