Subaru's B9 Tribeca fuels record sales year, but SUV not living up to expectations

According to Lafayette's Journal and Courier, Subaru is preparing to announce that its controversial B9 Tribeca has propelled the automaker to a U.S. sales record in 2005. But all is not as it seems.

Through the end of November, Subaru's sales are up a healthy 5-percent to 176,803 (2004's record year saw 187,402 units shifted), but that's largely because the automaker has increased the segments in which it offers vehicles. The brand's first 'real' SUV, the B9 Tribeca, has been finding new homes at the rate of about 2,000 per month, but that rate is well short of the automaker's projections.

The Indiana-built B9-Tri was expected to sell through 35,000-40,000 examples per year, but around 27,500 units appears to be what U.S. roads will bear in 2005. Sales may be suffering due to a number of factors, including the SUV's challenging aesthetics, limited third-row seating room (when so equipped), high average transaction prices, or simply because of higher gas prices and increased competition among crossovers in the Subie's segment.

Regardless of the uninspiring sales totals, Subaru is planning on increasing production in 2006 in order to export about 5,000 units to Japan, Europe, and Australia.

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