DETROIT — Acura boss Jon Ikeda is looking for friends — at least 200,000 of them.
That's the philosophy driving the Japanese premium brand's ambitious annual U.S. sales goal to that level, up from 158,934 sales last year. Ikeda believes it will happen in the next few years as he works to reposition Acura as a performance brand through marketing, designs with youthful energy and involvement in motorsports.
"I always equate the brand with 'friends,' " he said during an interview at Automotive News' offices here. "That's all it is. It's a relationship between a client and a company."
Those relationships with potential customers won't be built overnight, Ikeda said. "It's important that we're very consistent and very honest and transparent in who we are.
"There's got to be at least 200,000 friends out there looking for us," he said. "We can make the right cars. We just have to make sure that we're very clear on who we are and what path we're on."
The last time Acura reached 200,000 annual U.S. sales was 2006, the year after its best year in its three-decade history. In 2005, the brand sold 209,610 vehicles. Sales fell as low as 105,723 in 2009 as recession gripped the industry. Last year, it was back up to 158,934, ranking No. 5 among premium brands.
Through the first eight months of this year, sales are up 0.7 percent to 101,715. Nearly three-quarters of that volume consists of its two crossovers.
Ikeda is confident that Acura, despite its relatively small lineup compared with other luxury automakers, can cross the 200,000 threshold by sometime in 2022 to 2024.
"Anything shy of 200,000," Ikeda said, "it's because we haven't done our job in terms of expressing ourselves."
Leading Acura's charge is the RDX, which was redesigned incorporating the brand's new design philosophy for the 2019 model year. U.S. sales last year were 63,580, a 24 percent improvement over its predecessor. Acura's volume leader was No. 2 in the compact premium crossover segment last year, trailing only the Mercedes-Benz GLC, according to the Automotive News Data Center.