Subaru profits fall by half last year among recall maladies

However, U.S. Subaru sales continue to improve

Subaru took a financial beating last year, according to its freshly released earnings report. During the full fiscal year, which ended March 31, the carmaker's operating profits effectively halved. Net income dropped 33% to 147.81 billion yen, or $1.33 billion, and revenue fell 2.2% to 3.16 trillion yen ($28.5 billion).

Subaru states that its operating income declined by 48.5% to 195.5 billion yen, or to about $1.78 billion. According to Subaru, this was not only due to a decrease in sales, but also due to recall campaigns. Total production decreased nearly 6% to 989,000 units, and production stoppages at the Gunma plant were partially to blame for that — but Impreza, XV and Levorg sales also sank. The redesigned Forester did start out well in the summer, but sales in the first half of 2018 were more modest with the outgoing generation still in the showrooms.

The Gunma manufacturing plant, Subaru's sole factory in Japan, ground to a halt in January 2019 to remedy issues with Forester, Crosstrek and Impreza electric power steering units, and that cost Subaru nearly 10 days of production, corresponding to around 30,000 vehicles. Earlier, there was a 500,000-vehicle recall in Japan due to fraudulent final inspections.

Automotive News also lists other recent Subaru maladies, such as a low-fuel warning recall and stop-sale for all U.S-market Outbacks and Legacys, and the earlier, global recall to repair valve springs on the boxer engines of 411,000 vehicles. This particular recall hasn't been problem-free, as there have been cases where subsequent engine failures on BRZ models have been suspected of having been caused by slapdash recall work. There is also a new, large-scale recall in the horizon for Subaru, as a brake light issue on 2008-2017 vehicles necessitates the recall of some 2.3 million vehicles.

However, it's not all bleak for Subaru, as U.S. sales are going strong. The carmaker predicts 2019 will be the 11th straight record year, and U.S. retail sales climbed 7.7 percent in April, which was the 89th consecutive month with increased sales. But still, not all Subaru markets are equal: On the North American market, Subaru sold 717,000 vehicles during the past fiscal year, an enormous percentage of its total sales.

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