American Honda Sure Could Use A Hit Vehicle; Is it Acura TLX? – Forbes
American Honda could use a jolt, as sales of both Honda and Acura brands have suffered this year even amid a continued boom in the U.S. car market. Mike Accavitti hopes that jolt will come in the form of the all-new Acura TLX luxury-performance sedan that the Honda-owned premium brand will begin advertising next week and start selling in September.
Honda sales declined by 1 percent through June in the United States in a pretty robust market where major competitors continue to thrive. Honda has a relatively aged fleet and no huge product launches this year. So among other things, the brand is making a bigger deal of summertime clearance sales than many rivals and just completed a fun social-media based model-closeout campaign, “Cheerance,” last week.
“Last year we had the best summer event and July on record for the brand,” Susie Rossick, senior manager for American Honda, told me. “So we’ve had success with this emphasis.”
But Acura’s TLX looks like a much better bet to make a material difference to the company’s sales this year. Acura sales were down by 2 percent in the first half and plunged by 21 percent in June alone compared with a year earlier. For this disappointing turn, Accavitti — who recently became chief of the Acura brand as American Honda split its management from that of the Honda brand in the U.S. — blamed the phase-out of the TL and TSX models that TLX is replacing as well as the fact that the launch of the new sedan has been delayed a few months.
Now, he told automotive journalists, the aim of introducing the all-new TLX is nothing less than restoring Acura’s once-respectable place in the luxury-sedan segment as it joins the flagship new RLX sedan that was introduced last year. He’s putting Acura’s biggest-ever marketing campaign behind the TLX launch.
“It’s going to get us back into the the mid-size performance sedan market,” Accavitti said. The quality and technology in the vehicle including advanced handling aids, as well as the unprecedented marketing outlays, he said, indicate that “we’re turning our attention to sedans” while the brand’s MDX crossover continues to outsell all other Acura vehicles combined.
In fact, Accavitti would love to see TLX duplicate the success of MDX. Sales of the crossover so far this year are 55 percent ahead of the version it replaced last year, he said. And so far, Accavitti reported, Acura has fielded 40,000 “handraisers” who “actually want to be contacted by dealers” once TLX is available.
“That’s twice what we had for MDX,” he said. “So we’re anticipating fantastic [sales] results” for TLX.
Analysts say that Honda’s future-product pipeline may be somewhat more robust than the industry average, reportedly including a new version of the Honda Pilot large SUV for 2016 and a major overhaul of the Odyssey minivan for 2017.