COLUMBUS, OH – While it has been studying introducing its small CDX CUV in the U.S., Acura says such a model may not be the sales slam dunk one would think.
While it’s true the market for small luxury crossovers has grown sharply this year – up 21.0% through September per Wards Intelligence data – their collective volume is relatively meager (95,557).
Meanwhile, sales in Wards Lower Luxury segment, which include Acura’s own ILX sedan, were down 3.0% in the same period, but tallied a more robust 418,497 units.
“There’s obviously a market for and people that want to buy (small luxury CUVs), but there’s also a valid market (for small luxury sedans),” Jonathon Rivers, senior product planner for Acura in the U.S., tells Wards in an interview Oct. 24 during an ILX media drive.
Rivers points to data from Audi showing its entry-level sedan is doing better than its entry-level CUV.
Through September, Audi sold 15,579 A3s compared with 14,630 Q3s.
“It’s not so much about because of that we won’t introduce a crossover or enter that segment…but it just lends some credibility to the strength of sedans,” Rivers says.
However, this year BMW and Mercedes are seeing better results with their smallest crossovers than their smallest cars.
The BMW X1 CUV outsold the 2-Series coupe in the January-September period, 22,286 to 7,252, respectively. Mercedes’ GLA CUV – albeit by a slim margin – has outsold the CLA sedan, 17,235 vs. 17,148.
Acura continues to study offering the China-market CDX, which rides on the same platform as Honda’s subcompact HR-V CUV, in the U.S.
“It’s a model that interests a lot of our people, so we have our R&D guys looking into the possibility,” Jon Ikeda, group vice president-Acura U.S., told Wards in April 2017.
More recently, Acura renewed its trademark for the CDX name earlier this year with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Rivers says another reason to keep an entry-level luxury sedan around is they typically sell well among the young buyers coveted by automotive brands. The ILX has the highest percentage of millennial buyers in its segment, Acura claims.
“Smaller CUVs generally have an older customer in the data we’ve looked at,” he says.
That’s not surprising considering such models are more expensive than small cars. For instance, the Mercedes GLA begins at $33,950 and the CLA at $33,100. Among the Audis mentioned, the Q3 is $1,000 more to start than the A3.
To make the ILX more palatable to the less-well-heeled luxury intender, Acura has dropped pricing of the car, refreshed for ’19 and on sale this month in the U.S.
The vehicle now starts at $25,900 compared with $28,100 for an ’18 model.
“That’s actually the original ILX pricing (from ’13),” Rivers says. “The vehicle has significantly grown throughout the years and improved. The level and amount of features and technologies you’re getting is tremendous.”
For ’19, Acura has given the ILX the brand’s new signature diamond pentagon grille, as well as reworked the rear of the car, moving the license-plate holder off the decklid to the rear bumper for a sportier appearance, Rivers says.
The ILX also gets new wheel designs, a red interior similar to those in the RDX midsize CUV and NSX supercar, as well as a 30% faster touchscreen interface.
The brand also makes its AcuraWatch suite of advanced-safety assistance systems standard for ’19, which Acura says is unique among most of its segment competitors.
Rivers acknowledges the lower ILX pricing may overlap that of sister-brand Honda’s Civic, but cross-shopping of the two compact cars by buyers hasn’t been “as much as you would think.
“An ILX buyer is a little bit different than a Civic buyer,” he says. “They know they’re coming in at a higher price point.”
The Civic sedan starts at $19,450 for ’19, while the higher-powered ’18 Civic Si, most similar performance-wise to the ILX, is $24,100.