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Subaru looking for niche leasing partners

Date: 21 May 2010   |   Author:

Subaru is looking to partner "two or three" leasing firms as it sets out on a five-year plan to treble its overall UK volume to around 10,000 units.

The brand has had minimal corporate impact in recent times, sitting outside the top 30 fleet brands in 2009 with just 1034 cars registered to fleet, and feels that despite good residual values, leasing companies are "nervous" of a brand they don't properly understand.

"We're trying to get close to two or three providers. At the moment, an Audi costing £8000 more is on a lower monthly premium and that makes no sense at all," Subaru's UK boss Paul Tunnicliffe told BusinessCar. "It's a question of building relationships with a number of people in the contract hire market, explaining what we're about and getting them to reflect our good RV in the monthly payment."

The process started late last month and Tunnicliffe said the plan is to target lower volume "niche" players rather than the biggest leasing companies in the market. "Corporate will be increasingly important. We've been slightly uneasy in the past, had a bit of a push and the volume wasn't profitable," he said. "We need to provide a profitable route to market."

Tunnicliffe said the Subaru brand is moving away from the "purveyor of performance cars - rally cars with big spoilers".

"We're looking to assert Subaru as much more of a supplier of lifestyle SUVs and estates," he said. The fleet proposition should be helped later this year by a model upgrade for the diesel Legacy estate, taking it down from the 161g/km CO2 figure that is so damaging to its fleet prospects. It may be joined by the classy saloon version, although the firm is worried the market for large Japanese saloons has recently been "something of a graveyard".

Tunnicliffe is also looking for the firm's Japanese headquarters to help the UK operation by swallowing some of the pricing difficulties caused by currency fluctuations, which make the Impreza diesel, launched last year but only now subject to a focussed product push, "£2000 too expensive", according to Tunnicliffe.

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