LOS ANGELES -- With two full months of sales data behind it, Acura says the new TLX midsize sedan is beginning to fulfill its promise of reviving the luxury brand, whose U.S. sales and image have sagged in recent years.
Acura sold 4,890 units of the TLX in October, making it No. 2 in Acura's lineup, not far behind the MDX seven-seat crossover. October's sales were up 26 percent from September, the first full month of sales for the TLX, which reached showrooms in late August. Dealers say the car's driving characteristics are helping to lure shoppers from brands such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
"The TLX is going to be a core product for us," Mike Accavitti, Acura general manager, told Automotive News. "Whether it's 1 or 2 [in the lineup] remains to be seen."
The TLX replaced two models -- the TL, which midsize sedan customers deemed too large, and the TSX, a car that Acura says didn't deliver enough performance. The TLX is crucial to changing Acura's image from an afterthought to a fun-to-drive luxury brand, according to Accavitti and analysts.
The TLX "lands in the sweet spot" for size, interior space, performance, price and styling, said Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book.
For many years, Acura has had trouble getting that formula right with its sedans. Its crossovers, the MDX and the smaller RDX, have sold well, but its cars have been losing ground to luxury competitors that are moving faster and more boldly with their design, technology and performance characteristics. Mercedes-Benz and BMW lead the segment, but Lexus, Audi and Cadillac are expanding their lineups as well to include more rear-wheel-drive vehicles and high-performance variants.
The TL, once a strong competitor in the midsize category, began to lose ground after a 2009 redesign that Acura admits was a turnoff.
"Acura hasn't had a compelling sedan for a decade," said Brauer. "The TL that debuted in 2004 was great, but every sedan from Acura since then failed to resonate with luxury sedan buyers, until now."
Regaining leadership in the midsize sedan segment in particular is critical for improving Acura's image, Accavitti said. "To really drive prestige for a luxury brand, you do it through the midsize market," he said.
For that reason, Acura said, it has spent more money promoting the TLX -- allocating nearly a third of the TLX's marketing budget to digital advertising -- than any other vehicle in its history.