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Subaru Tells Dealers Bigger Service Departments Are Needed

Just the Facts:
  • Subaru of America says dealers must add technicians, service bays, lifts and loaner cars.
  • A bigger service department might require building a new facility several blocks away from the showroom.
  • Subaru predicts U.S. sales will keep increasing at record pace, supporting the need for bigger service departments.

CHICAGO — Subaru's success is giving dealers growing pains.

After five straight record years, Subaru of America is telling dealers to expand their service departments. Specifically, add technicians, service bays, lifts, loaner cars and increase the size of their waiting rooms. It's an effort to make the service experience better for Subaru's vehicle owners.

"We have to work with (dealers) to get the right plans in place to make sure that these customers feel the love when their car comes in, that we have a loaner car available for them, the car gets properly assessed," Tom Doll, president of Subaru of America, told Edmunds.

In particular, Subaru wants to make certain "the service advisors, the technicians are not too overburdened with work that they can't do a proper fix and redeliver the car to the customer in the right way," he said.

During an interview at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show, Doll said the automaker and its dealers have experienced phenomenal growth during the past five years. With the profits dealers are generating from sales in the front of the dealership, "we need to help them develop the back," Doll said.

Subaru sold about 424,700 vehicles in 2013, a record, and the company predicts that a record will be set in the 2014 calendar year, possibly as high as 460,000. The combined sales were recorded by Subaru of New England, an independent Subaru distributor in the Northeast, and Subaru of America. In comparison, combined U.S. sales totaled approximately 187,700 units in 2008.

One of the models selling at a record pace is the Forester, which was redesigned for the 2014 model year. Subaru has a 19-days supply of Foresters, Subaru communications spokesman Michael McHale said. The industry considers a 60-day supply to be average.

Doll estimates that 40-45 percent of Subaru of America's 625 dealers require a service-department expansion. In geographic areas where the dealers are landlocked, he expects many of those dealers to build a separate service department, possibly blocks away from the showroom.

Subaru estimates that there are approximately 3.4 million Subaru vehicles on the road.

"We are working with (dealers) on a plan and how the plan will be executed," Doll said. "Our goal is over the next two to three years to get this kind of all squared away."

Edmunds says: Bigger service departments and more technicians should please Subaru owners.

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