McMINNVILLE, Ore. — When production of the Subaru Tribeca ended in January 2014, the automaker was left without a three-row crossover just as that segment was heating up.
Subaru customers didn't seem to mind. The brand's U.S. sales grew by more than half over the next four years without the product, to 647,956 vehicles last year. It’s been a similar surge in Canada, where the automaker sold 55,570 vehicles in 2017, up from the 42,035 vehicles it sold in 2014.
But Subaru executives and retailers have made it clear that it was a problem needing to be fixed. By not offering a three-row crossover, Subaru owners with families were leaving the brand as soon as they outgrew their current model.
Four years later, Subaru has finally plugged the hole with the 2019 Ascent. It will be sold only in the U.S. and Canada.
The Ascent, set to land in Subaru stores in late June, is the largest model the automaker has ever designed. It is expected to have a sales volume of around 60,000 units per year in the U.S. It didn't say how many it expects to sell in Canada.
When it came to the Ascent's exterior design, Yasunori Kumagai, Ascent project general manager, said that a clear focus for the new nameplate was "to have a sense of scale and presence to exceed the Outback."
The crossover can seat seven or eight occupants, depending on the trim. The base trim comes with a second-row bench seat, while Premium and Limited trims offer optional captain's chairs. The range-topping Touring comes only with captain's chairs.
Peter Tenn, car line planning manager, said during the Ascent's media introduction here, the seating selection mix probably will be 70 per cent captain's chairs and 30 per cent bench.