Managers, National Commercial Fleet Account
We hear wonderful news about Subaru.
Ron: We have received great accolades this year. The latest being from Automotive Lease Guide (ALG). We have been rated the number one manufacturer in predicted resale value by ALG for the third year in a row. Additionally, this year, Consumer Reports has ranked Subaru the number one manufacturer out of the top eighteen manufactures selling cars in the U.S. As a matter a fact, all of our models have received the top rating by ALG, as well for the highest predicted resale value.
Tina: And the Consumer Report award is based primarily on reliability and roadability so it just doesn’t get any better than that.
Let’s talk about Subaru’s most popular fleet vehicles.
Tina: Our three most popular fleet models are the Legacy mid-sized sedan, the Forester small SUV and the Outback mid-sized crossover. All have done very well in “predicted resale values” for many years in a row now. For the 2013 model year, the Legacy and Outback have both been refreshed inside and outside. They have also received a new CVT transmission and Boxer engine. With this combination, came increased fuel economy. The Legacy is now getting 32 miles to the gallon highway while the Outback is getting 30 miles to the gallon highway which is spectacular for a vehicle that size. The handling of both vehicles has greatly improved. I know that it’s hard to believe, but once you drive the 2013 models, you fall in love with Subaru all over again.
Ron: Some people find it hard to believe that our all-wheel drive models, the Legacy sedan, the Outback crossover and the Forester small SUV, get the same, or in some cases, better gas mileage than the competition’s two wheel drive vehicles. This has been reported to us by some of our customers with actual driver MPG experience.
Now does Subaru have anything yet in the hybrid line?
Tina: No hybrids yet. We will have our first hybrid later next year.
Tell us how the ordering process works for fleets.
Tina: The majority of our fleet customers order through their fleet management companies. We also have some customers that order through fleet-minded Subaru dealers. Our order process is transparent to users and customers, like any other manufacturer.
Fleets consider the total cost of ownership when they are looking at vehicles. Subaru must have a very good story to tell.
Ron: As far as total cost of ownership is concerned, this is something Tina and I have been promoting for a number of years because we are both former fleet managers and we certainly understand the value of the total cost of ownership. With Subaru, the resale value and mileage, which are the largest portions of total cost of ownership, are factors where Subaru excels. Our mileage keeps increasing every year and our resale value, as we mentioned, is tops. You just can’t beat our resale value year in and year out. We are rated the number one manufacturer in predicted resale value. This is something we understand as former fleet managers and we continually educate fleet managers we call on so they can really take a look at the value they are receiving with Subaru.
Let’s talk about the safety aspects of all-wheel drives.
Tina: Fleets used to consider all-wheel drives primarily for snow-belt and mountainous territories because everybody knows all-wheel drive is good in snow and hilly terrain. But what they don’t realize is that all-wheel drive is also a benefit to the driver on dry pavement and rainy conditions. With all- wheel drive, when you stop at a light on a rainy day and then start up, your wheels will never spin in a Subaru. That is a tremendous safety advantage for Subaru drivers. We have seen an increased presence in fleets because fleet managers are recognizing that the total cost of ownership for Subaru is comparable to the two wheel drives that they are offering. They are offering Subaru across the entire country instead of restricting it to just to snow-belt areas. This has been very beneficial to our sales growth, the fleet manager and to drivers. Many times fleet managers spend too much time administering snow-belt eligibility with too many drivers applying for snow-belt exceptions. All of that is eliminated when the fleet manager adds Subaru to their primary vehicle selector.
Ron: We get customer letters all the time. And interestingly enough, we actually get customer letters from Florida saying, “I have lived in Florida for twenty years and the Forester is the best vehicle I have ever driven in the rain.”
What are some of the other safety features in the Subaru?
Tina: Subaru does not compromise on safety. All safety features, except back-up cameras, are standard on all of our vehicles, even our base models. We have a strong commitment to safety and all of our vehicles have been the top safety pick for many, many years. In fact, in 2010 when it became more difficult to receive the IIHS best top safety pick, Subaru was the only manufacturer to have been designated as the top safety pick on five models.
Subaru has introduced a new safety feature in the US called EyeSight. Its two cameras are mounted by the rearview mirror to monitor traffic and react to conditions even before you do. Basically, EyeSight sees the problem and initiates action to help avoid the trouble. EyeSight will also sound an alert and flash a visual warning if there’s danger of a collision and will apply the brakes automatically if you don’t. Eyesight also includes adaptive cruise control and warns drivers when they’re swaying outside their lane.
Ron: As you probably know, Subaru is the only manufacturer in the world that builds a Boxer engine with symmetrical all-wheel drive. We consider this combination the ultimate in active safety. It gives you better handling, better control and a lower center of gravity. In the end, you have the utmost in drivability and performance.
Tina: We also do very well with the NHTSA safety ratings. To get a five star rating in the rollover category, the vehicle must be a sedan. The Subaru Legacy and Impreza sedans are two of the few vehicles that have the five star roll over ratings.
Why wouldn’t anybody want a Subaru?
Ron: That’s a ‘hard’ question to answer, not an ‘easy’ one. Unfortunately, in the corporate world today there are some companies that are not following best practices and are only interested in the cap cost or upfront cost of the vehicles they are putting on their selector list. Obviously, Tina and I believe, and try to convince accounts, that the total cost of ownership is a more realistic way to make vehicle decisions. However, each company has their own agenda as far as what factors are most important in determining vehicle offerings for their drivers.
Is corporate America still concerned about Subaru as an import nameplate?
Tina: The issue of buy American versus import seems to be declining. We are a world economy. We do have a plant in Indiana and employ 3,300 Americans at that plant, in addition to other Subaru employees nationwide. It is a diminishing issue although it does arise occasionally. In selected cases, we have found there are people that want Subaru vehicles for very good reasons and will just wait until management changes and then revisit the issue.
Is there anything you can share about upcoming models?
Ron: We are coming out with an all new Forester. It is going to be a very early announcement. Early in spring, 2013, we will have the 2014 MY, all new Forester. We are very excited about it, as it will have increased gas mileage among its many improved features. With the price of fuel surely heading up again at some point, we are really looking forward to, and are really excited about, our new Forester.
Tina: Subaru doesn’t share a whole lot of information about future product but we can say the new Forester will be a little bit larger. As Ron mentioned, it will get better fuel economy and it is going to look a little more aerodynamic but you will still know it’s a Forester.
Tina Kourakos is Manager, National Commercial Fleet Accounts and reports to Charles R. Reed, Manager National Fleet Sales Operations, Subaru of America, Inc. Tina is responsible for expanding and servicing the national commercial fleet customer base for Subaru. Tina joined Subaru in 2006 and has 20 years’ experience in Fleet.
Prior to joining Subaru, Tina worked as Sr. Manager, Fleet & Safety for Sanofi-Aventis Pharmaceuticals and Assistant Director, Strategic Sourcing for CIGNA Corporation.
Ron Lasman is Manager, National Commercial Fleet Accounts, and reports to Charles R. Reed, Manager National Fleet Sales Operations, Subaru of America, Inc. Ron is responsible for expanding and servicing the national commercial fleet customer base for Subaru. He joined Subaru in 2002 and has 35 years’ experience in Fleet.
Prior to joining Subaru, Ron worked as Director of Fleet Services for MEDIQ Incorporated and as Fleet Manager for Sears Cleaning Services. Ron has also worked for ARI and Rollins Auto Leasing, as well as several Philadelphia auto dealers.