Acura’s Success Hinges on Crossover SUVs

2016 Acura RDX
Source: Acura

Much like with Honda, it’s easy for the automotive press to get down on Acura. While there was a time when the Japanese luxury car maker built some of the best front-wheel-drive cars on the planet, long gone are the days of the Integra, the original NSX, and even the third generation TL. For the last several years, Acura’s sedan lineup has felt like it’s been made up of slightly nicer Hondas, and there was little reason to buy a TL over a fully loaded Accord. As a result, sales have suffered, most notably for the RLX, Acura’s full-size luxury sedan.

In January, 176 were sold in the U.S., and in February, only 173 were sold. Those sales figures put the RLX behind even the slow-selling Hyundai Equus. If the rest of Acura’s lineup sold equally poorly, it would spell disaster for the brand, but luckily, its SUV lineup is selling incredibly well. In fact, Acura’s SUVs are selling so well, Acura is building its comeback on their success. Just how well are the RDX and MDX selling? Well, in 2014, the Acura RDX was the top-selling car in its segment, topping the Audi Q5, the Mercedes-Benz GLK, and the BMW X3. As for the MDX, it couldn’t top the Lexus RX’s sales, but it still sold more than the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and the BMW X5. Considering how hot crossover SUVs are as a segment, the fact that Acura is dominating those segments bodes very well for the brand’s future. It might not have the full-size luxury sedan market figured out, but Acura clearly has its crossover SUVs dialed in.

At the New York Auto Show this year, Acura’s General Manager Mike Accavitti said told Automotive News that his team is focusing on a “solid core of vehicles” that can then be expanded into other segments where they can be competitive. While that likely means that Acura won’t be rolling out a Boxster competitor any time soon, it makes sense for the brand to put its efforts into making sure it has a solid hold in the segments that are the most popular.

Acura NSX
Source: Acura

Acura hasn’t completely abandoned sedans and performance cars though. A new NSX is set to go on sale soon and is expected to give exotics like Ferrari and Lamborghini a serious run for their money. Acura also recently updated its small car, the ILX, and it introduced a new midsize sedan, the TLX, to replace both the TSX and TL. Neither the TLX or the ILX are quite as dynamic or luxurious as some of their competition, but they do both offer quite a lot of content for a low price.

As for crossover SUVs, Acura has a refreshed version of the RDX coming this month, and a refreshed version of the MDX launched in February. Much like with the TLX, Acura is more focused on adding features to its SUVs than making radical changes to their styling or powertrains. New options on the RDX will include adaptive cruise control and automatic braking as part of Acura’s goal to offer “tremendous value on a luxury scale.” Acura has some serious competition when it comes to offering a lot of value though. Lexus is a serious contender now, especially with crossover SUVs, and its sedans offer plenty of thrill while still being comfortable and reliable.

Additionally, Hyundai has made incredible progress with its Genesis sports sedan. There isn’t a Genesis crossover SUV, but if Hyundai spun its luxury arm off into a more distinct division, it would be a possibility. Considering how much Acura has improved in the last few years, it looks like Accavitti’s approach is working. He’s making sure to play to his companies strengths, making marked improvements with each update and redesign, and is selling vehicles that really do offer a lot of car for the money. They might not be the flashiest or most prestigious, but to people who are value-conscious, it’s hard to argue that they aren’t appealing.

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