Last year, Acura Canada launched a new version of the RDX crossover utility and the new ILX model that replaced the old CSX and will soon take over the hole left by the TSX’s expected departure.
The RDX has been a hit, though the ILX – particularly in the United States – has had a lukewarm reception. With the sound of one hand clapping ringing in its ears, Acura has promised to upgrade the ILX powertrain and is adding plenty of content in an effort to keep buyers happy. Acura officials are quick to caution against early judgments about their commitment to reinventing Honda’s upscale brand, however. It’s early days, they say; judge us on the entire plan, not pieces of it as they roll out, one by one.
That’s fair. Acura has barely embarked on a top-to-bottom overhaul of its underperforming self. By 2015 or so, however, a new Acura will have emerged from the ashes of the old one – that is, if all goes according to plan. The overarching goals are to deliver better-looking, more engaging and bullet-proof vehicles that are entertaining to drive and affordable to own, especially when compared to rival products, and to sell them through Top Tier dealerships.
A key part of the “new” Acura is what’s being called the “Concierge Experience.” This is so key to Acura, the term itself has been trademarked. In any case, this concierge idea combines a new dealership environment with personalized one-to-one contact with an Acura Concierge – personalized, on-call assistance similar to what you get at a decent hotel. The goal in Canada is to juice sales from 17,154 last year to at least 20,000 by 2014.
New models will of course be central to what’s happening here. On that note, the 2014 RLX sedan arrives this spring in showrooms, followed quickly by an all-new MDX SUV. The latter will have a direct-injected 3.5-litre V-6, just like the new engine in the RLX, new styling, more features and sharper road manners with the emphasis in ride comfort.
Acura is hardly alone in its vision of coddled customers. Buyers with money to spend on upscale luxury cars want to feel special and Acura plans to do just that – along with all its rivals. As trade journal Automotive News recently noted, these customers want uncluttered showrooms, personalized treatment and dealerships filled with well-trained, knowledgeable personnel.
“Luxury vehicle buyers want service – not just repairs done right, but the kind of pampering they get at high-end hotels, restaurants and boutiques. It’s all about the extras,” notes the industry publication.
Exactly, says Honda Canada executive vice-president Jerry Chenkin. The company plans to give Acura customers a “premium experience” from the moment they walk into the showroom to the time they make a purchase and right through the entire ownership experience.
For the present, the move to swath Acura customers in the joys of ownership remains a work in progress. But progress will come quickly, says Chenkin. It must. All the luxury car brands are heading down this highway at high speed. Laggards will suffer lost sales and countless defections from once-loyal owners. It’s a tough racket, this business of selling fancy cars.