Subaru BRZ: Slow to the Dealer, Fast Off the Lot – NY Times – Ruge’s Subaru

20 Jun
By JONATHAN SCHULTZ
2013 Subaru BRZ.

Buoyed by positive press and tight supplies, the rear-wheel-drive Subaru BRZ spent the least time in American showrooms than any car in May, according to Edmunds.

The service tracked the days to turn, commonly known as churn rate, for the coupe in May, its first month of sales. Demand for the 271 units sold by dealers translated to a churn rate of four days, Edmunds said. The Scion FR-S, which was co-developed with the BRZ, experienced a five-day churn.

With so much competition for so few BRZs — initial interest from customers in Japan was four times higher than the automaker’s projections — how could Subaru so severely underestimate demand for the coupe?

One conclusion seems to be a lack of certainty by Fuji Heavy Industries, Subaru’s parent, that a brand built around all-wheel-drive capability could readily stretch to accommodate a lightweight, rear-drive sports car.

“The BRZ being rear-wheel drive, we made a conservative production request,” Michael McHale, a spokesman for Subaru of America, said in a telephone interview. “We pegged our allotment roughly to sales of the WRX,” he said, referencing the brand’s rally-oriented all-wheel-drive sports car.

That conservative approach has led to gripes from every market where the BRZ would be sold. “There are only so many that can be built in the year, and if you want more, you have to take from another market,” Mr. McHale added. “And nobody wants to give up their allocation.”

Contrary to most Japanese automakers, who have been shipping production overseas to preserve their profit margins in the face of a strong yen, Fuji Heavy Industries intends to increase domestic production in the fiscal year ending in March 2013. Subaru has not announced its 2013 production targets for the BRZ, but American dealerships are expected to receive 6,000 units by the end of 2012.

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