More than 125 Subaru retailers last week heard new MD Lorraine Bishton rule out the agency model and commit to franchised retailers. “The dealer model is here to stay,” she said. “People buy from people.”

The event in North Yorkshire was part of a renewed focus on the Subaru brand by parent IM Group, which includes increased marketing activity and a fresh emphasis on PR. It comes as Bishton marks 100 days in the job after a broad-based career at Ford, JLR and McLaren.

Subaru, she said, will continue to focus on its rural retailers. “That’s where our customers are – we’re not looking to take them away into the city centre. We also know these customers are extremely loyal, buying Subaru after Subaru.

“Once you’ve sold someone a Subaru for the first time, there’s a very high chance they’ll buy another.”

Continued Growth

Subaru, she told Auto Retail Agenda, was the third fastest growing brand in the UK in 2023, up 73% in an industry up 17.9%. So far in 2024, the growth has continued, with Subaru sales up 54.7%. This includes a 16% mix of its Solterra EV, meaning it should be on course to meet the ZEV Mandate this year. “It’s something we’re monitoring very closely on an ongoing basis.”

IM Group has also invested in recruiting other senior Subaru executives. “There are six new members of the Subaru management team in total, and we’re only just getting started.”

Heritage Brand

Bishton, who joined the brand from McLaren Special Operations, added that “opportunities like this don’t come along very often – this is a great heritage brand, positioned for growth, that has an exciting future ahead of it in the UK”.