NEW ORLEANS -- Acura's midsize TLX sedan will use an upcoming refresh to visually distinguish the four-cylinder and six-cylinder models and will add an enthusiast-oriented A-Spec model.
That's according to multiple dealers in attendance at Acura's make meeting at the NADA convention. The news confirms speculation that arose earlier when spy shots of the face-lifted TLX being filmed for advertising were published.
Changes to the TLX and an advertising effort that's only now gaining momentum have Acura executives hopeful that the brand could see a modest sales increase in 2017, after an 8.9 percent decline in 2016.
Dealers praised Acura General Manager Jon Ikeda for sticking to the turnaround strategy he outlined when he took over in the summer of 2015. They also praised Honda executives for setting a conservative sales goal in 2017, one that dealers are optimistic that they can hit. Acura will share additional details of its plans during February dealer meetings in Dallas and Miami.
Some of that optimism is based on increased capacity of the MDX, thanks to Honda's decision to move all MDX production to its East Liberty, Ohio, plant from its Alabama plant, which gains more capacity for the Honda Pilot, Odyssey and Ridgeline.
This also will be the first full year that the face-lifted MDX is on sale, and a new hybrid model will bring in some incremental sales.
The TLX refresh should help that nameplate, whose sales dropped 21 percent in 2016 to 37,156 vehicles. The update is expected to be unveiled this spring as a 2018 model. The base four-cylinder model and the optional V-6 will carry over, though now there will be more external styling cues to set them apart.
An A-Spec trim package that includes wheels, rear lip spoiler and unique front and rear bumper treatments also will be offered, though it won't come with any significant powertrain upgrades.
Acura's entry-level ILX remains a particular concern to dealers. It's in a crowded segment full of European marques aggressively courting buyers with generous incentives. Sales of the ILX dropped 21 percent in 2016 to 14,597 cars.
Also on dealers' minds was the lack of robust advertising support, particularly involving Acura's NSX. Dealers are looking for Acura to draw more of a connection between the hybrid supercar and the rest of its lineup throughout Tier 1, 2 and 3 advertising.
For example, one Acura dealer who also had a Lexus franchise wondered aloud why he had marketing material highlighting Lexus' involvement in the Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance race but nothing from Acura, which was competing in the same class for the first time with an NSX.
Acura executives in attendance conceded their oversight.