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Subaru’s CEO Tom Doll Discusses His Brand’s Ascent in Auto Sales

Published February 17, 2020


Matt Aukofer

Subaru refers to its dealers as “retailers” and views its relationship with them as a partnership, Tom Doll, president and CEO of Subaru of America, said during a NADA Live Stage session at the 2020 NADA Show.

“Our retailers are our partners,” he said. “We don’t look at them as adversaries where they win and we have to lose, or we have to win and they have to lose. We try to come at it from that perspective.”

Doll attributed Subaru’s top-tier ranking for dealer-manufacturer relations to this approach and his retailers’ buy-in with Subaru’s Love Promise activities.

“Yes, we have set these sales records over the last 11 or 12 years, but … we don’t sell anything. The retailers sell the cars,” Doll said. “So our job is to put the retailers in the position so that they can sell the cars and make their lives a little bit easier.”

The Love Promise activity takes place throughout the year, but Subaru also holds other promotions, such as Subaru Loves the Earth in April,  Subaru Loves Pets in October and the Share The Love campaign at the end of the year.  This year the Subaru Loves to Help program aided the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to help people with blood cancers. And the Subaru Loves Learning program works with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to pick and select award-winning science books.

“I can’t say enough about how our retailers have embraced these activities, because it ties the retailers to their local communities,” Doll added. “At the end of the year we have Share the Love where we and our retailers contribute to one of four national charities, or our retailers’ hometown charity that they select. And that’s really fun too because they raise a lot of money for their local hometown charities, and I get the opportunity to go to a lot of these check presentations.

“When you’re giving a hometown charity $25,000, $30,000, $40,000 at these meetings it really does make the hair on the back of your neck stand up because they are so efficient with how they can utilize the money,” Doll said. “What it does is it ties the retailers into our brand’s purpose–and purpose is very important. We have to have a purpose besides just making money. We’re here to really help each other and help our world.”

Subaru’s evolution into an emerging powerhouse in the North American market cannot be attributed to a single action or event, but is the result of a combination of factors, Doll added.

Subaru expects to sell 725,000 cars this year, a 4 percent increase over last year, and the 12th consecutive year of sales increases. Doll discussed Subaru’s new model lineup, upcoming safety features, drivetrain upgrades—including an increased use of electrification—and more with NADA’s head of Public Affairs Jonathan Collegio.

Doll discussed Subaru’s approach to incentive programs, the shortage of service technicians and how Subaru is addressing it, product quality, tariffs and trade, trends in mobility and electrification, and more.

Watch the video above to see the full discussion. More live coverage is available at the NADA Live Stage livestream.