More stories related to 2005 NAIASDETROIT – Subaru of America Inc. predicts its U.S. sales will top 200,000 units this year, up from the 187,402 units the auto maker delivered in 2004, a top company executive says.

“That is going to be a big breakthrough for us,” Fred Adcock, Subaru executive vice president, says here at the 2005 North American International Auto Show.

It also would mark a significant jump vs. the small 0.3% increase Subaru recorded in 2004 vs. 2003 results. The auto maker hopes to sell 250,000 vehicles in the U.S. by 2007.

Most of the sales increase expected this year will come from Subaru’s first 7-passenger vehicle, the ’06 B9tribeca (previously called the B9X) midsize cross/utility vehicle, which is debuting here and goes on sale this summer.

“Certainly we’ll get some incremental volume there,” Adcock says. “Our dealers have been asking for a vehicle with a third-row seat for years. It’s going to help keep our customers who outgrow our vehicles, and we’re also going to see new buyers come to the brand.”

Adcock predicts annual B9tribeca sales will be 25,000-35,000 units.

Subaru’s sales in 2005 also should benefit from an updated Impreza, Adcock says. Deliveries of the aging sedan, which is due to undergo a facelift this summer, declined 11.8% in 2004 vs. 2003.

But attaining Subaru’s growth projections may be difficult. The auto maker is a minor player in the incentives game, and competitors increasingly are offering all-wheel-drive wagons – a niche Subaru once had to itself.

“Certainly, when you’re a category of one, you have less to worry about. It makes it a little easier,” Adcock says. “But I really think this is the best lineup Subaru has ever had in the U.S.”

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com