|Subaru is the car company Saab always wanted to be: a niche automaker with a loyal, growing following. It relies on horizontally opposed four- and six-cylinder engines and all-wheel drive, save for the new rear-drive BRZ sports car. Its deal with Toyota, which bought 8.7 percent of parent Fuji Heavy Industries after GM dumped its 20 percent, goes a long way toward Subaru's sustained success in the U.S. and globally. Even before the BRZ was launched, Subaru was making a profit in all its regions.
Local production helps. With the Japanese yen running at historic highs against the U.S. dollar ($1 = 78.32 yen at presstime, versus $1 = 146.25 yen on January 2, 1990), selling cars built in Japan is a costly business. Back in February, we asked, "How long can Japan's niche brands survive?" Nine months later, the picture is a bit clearer. For the first half of 2012 versus the first half of '11, U.S. industry sales were up by 15 percent. Add another month of sales, and you have these year-to-date changes for the little four through July:
The only automaker that didn't lose sales in 2009-'10 is on track for another record. Full-year sales rose 1.2% last year, despite tsunami.
Near-average increase. Mazda needs North American production capacity for its new '6 and its best-seller Mazda3.
Mitsubishi : 37,067/-28.8%
Company says the decrease is deliberate with brooming of Eclipse, Galant to concentrate on C-segment and electrics. Best-selling Outlander Sport is built in Normal, Illinois.
Suzuki: 15,260 /-3.7%
The next Isuzu? BMW's X3 outsold the entire Suzuki lineup in the first seven months of 2012. Swift B-car never will be imported so long as Suzuki has no North American production.