Acura turns attention to cars

2019 Acura RDX

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LOS ANGELES — Acura’s 2019 RDX crossover, which it calls the embodiment of its resurrected Precision Crafted Performance brand promise, has gotten off to a torrid start, attracting younger buyers with its A-Spec trim, conquesting more European luxury makes and bringing new customers to Acura dealerships.

With the redesign launched in June, the RDX recorded its sixth straight monthly sales record last month, while deliveries for the year are outpacing 2017 by 22 percent.

A home run

While other Acura vehicles have received some styling updates, such as the new grille design, the RDX was the first Acura to be fully redesigned since the brand re-embraced performance as a styling, engineering and marketing cue.

It’s been a home run, says Acura General Manager Jon Ikeda. And Acura is seeking more of them with the rest of its lineup, including its three sedans. Although sedan sales have waned, Ikeda says consumers can expect Acura’s car lineup to get the same treatment the RDX did.

The RDX transformation gave Acura a chance to deploy a new interface for its infotainment center, called the True Touchpad. Instead of a touch-operated screen on the center stack, users can access functions on a certain part of the screen — the top right corner, for example — by tapping the corresponding area of the touchpad, which is mounted just behind the gearshift buttons.

Ikeda said Acura was aware of the risks brands face when trying to be revolutionary with their infotainment systems. Ford’s quality rankings were hampered for years by its maligned MyFord Touch offering.

But “you have to try,” he said.

“We’ve got performance … we’ve got design,” Ikeda told Automotive News during the Los Angeles Auto Show. “Technology is the third piece when it comes to the premium segment. Those are the three pieces emotionally [where] you have to get a buy-in so people pay the kind of money they’re willing to pay.”

Focus on core models

While sibling brand Honda showed a new midsize crossover in Los Angeles, Ikeda said Acura isn’t looking to expand its lineup with more crossovers, opting to focus on getting its core models right.

In Asia, Acura sells a subcompact crossover called the CDX that shares a platform with the Honda HR-V. But an Acura spokesman said the RDX can reach down into that smaller segment with its pricing and sway consumers with its added room. The RDX starts at $38,295 including shipping for the base, front-wheel-drive model.

The RDX’s A-Spec trim, meanwhile, is drawing younger buyers. The brand said 45 percent of A-Spec buyers are under 45, compared with 23 percent for other trim levels.

“We have a very efficient lineup,” Ikeda said. “That’s our approach. We’re disciplined that way.”

“We see 70 percent SUVs, when it used to be the other way around,” Ikeda said.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in the future,” he said. “What’s critical is that we stay disciplined and balanced. [We’ll] do our best to hit home runs with our sedans also.”

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