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Acura begins 18-month product binge, says adding rear-wheel drive not critical to success

By MARK RECHTIN | Automotive News

While Acura Division redesigns its product line and enters new segments, it will not need rear-wheel drive to be a true luxury brand, dealers were told at the make meeting.

Acura sedans and coupes can have as much as 270 hp and still have a luxurious feel with front-wheel drive, said Ramsay Gillman, a multifranchise dealer from Houston.

Anything more powerful than that would require all-wheel drive, which hints at the direction of the replacement for the 3.5 RL.

Before the next RL arrives in spring 2004, Acura has the more pressing business of launching the TSX sedan this April and the redesigned TL sedan in the fall.

Because the TL will be moving up in stature and price, the TSX will not encroach on the TL's price turf, said Dick Colliver, Acura Division executive vice president of auto sales.

The TSX will be priced between $27,000 and $30,000.

Based on the European-market Honda Accord, the TSX will be marketed for its suspension and performance. The fact that it is powered by a four-cylinder engine will not receive as much attention.

"The TSX is sweet and strong. I think we can do some damage," said dealer council chairman George D'Angelo, dealer principal of Acura of Westchester, in Larchmont, N.Y.

Colliver hopes Acura will sell "170,000-plus" units this year, up from 165,552 in 2002.

He is heartened by Allison-Fisher International data that show the number of Acura buyers who are cross-shopping with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus has doubled since 1995.

To keep the brand strong, Colliver is putting the clamps on dealers who play fast and loose with local advertising.

No dealer ad will be allowed to mention the price of a car for sale, unless the price is sticker or above, he said. That includes newspaper classified advertising, usually the bastion of cut-price deals. Anyone who violates this policy can lose the factory subsidy for the ads.

"Schlock ads bring the franchise down. Running ads with MSRP brings gross margins up," D'Angelo said.

About 85 percent of Acura dealers have signed up for a showroom redesign.

Almost all already have installed the new signs, which replace the old red lettering with navy blue.

Gabriel,
2001 CL Type S
2001 Lexus RX300 Silversport
 
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