Acura is dropping the aging RLX flagship sedan in North America after the 2020 model year as the luxury brand regroups around nimble sports sedans and athletic crossovers because of changing consumer tastes.
American Honda told dealers Thursday that the low-selling RLX will no longer be imported from Japan, where it's sold as the Honda Legend. The Legend will continue to be offered in Japan and other markets, American Honda said in an email to Automotive News.
"With SUVs leading the luxury market, the highly successful RDX and MDX now serve as volume leaders of the Acura brand," the company said, referring to its compact and midsize crossovers. "At the same time, we will further strengthen our sports sedans, consistent with the performance-focused direction we have been taking Acura over the past four years."
The demise of the RLX for the North American market had been expected. The sedan, a successor to the RL, was introduced for the 2014 model year and has not been significantly overhauled since then. U.S. sales in 2019 numbered just over a thousand units. Its base sticker price of $55,925 with destination charges has been subject to hefty discounts.
Acura was launched in the U.S. in 1986 with two car nameplates: the compact Integra and the midsize Legend, which was replaced by the RL.
Acura is in the middle of a multiyear process to significantly update four core models, which include the ILX compact sedan and the TLX midsize sedan. It began with the redesigned and reengineered RDX two years ago, which will be followed by the TLX and the three-row MDX this year.
"We will soon reveal an all-new 2021 Acura TLX that exemplifies this direction, assuming an elevated position in our lineup as the quickest, best-handling and most well-appointed Acura sedan yet," American Honda said.
The TLX and RLX were already relatively close in size. The TLX is expected to grow for the next generation, making up some of the size difference with the outgoing RLX. Acura has said it's focused on just four volume models — plus the NSX supercar — during the rebuilding process.
With the exit of the RLX, all 2021 Acura models sold in North America will be manufactured at American Honda's plants in central Ohio. An RLX competitor, the Lexus GS, is also being dropped after the 2020 model year because of declining sales. Lexus also has another sedan in the luxury midsize segment, the less expensive ES.