Acura started to turn things around at the turn of the millenium. Based upon the 6th generation Honda Accord, which debuted in the 1998 model year, the 1999 TL was a strong seller that offered solid performance, a nice list of luxury features and a rock bottom price. In 2000, Acura launched Honda's first fully home-grown SUV - the 2001 MDX. This was an instant success and suddenly Acura dealers had a big-ticket item that was in huge demand. Next up was the replacement for the ancient 3rd generation Integra - the RSX. While the RSX is a good car, in the grand scheme its introduction was a relatively minor event. In early 2003, the TSX (essentially a rebadged 7th generation European Accord) was inserted into the lineup. It was an instant hit with both the motoring press and the target market. Closely following the TSX was the 3rd generation TL, which transformed the image of the TL virtually overnight. It too has enjoyed very strong sales. Unfortunately, the Paleolithic 3.5RL would not be put out of its misery until 2005. It had been rotting on the vine for so long it was beginning to fossilize, yet prior to the arrival of the '05 RL, little was known about what lay ahead for the RL.
Considering the long and painful history of the first generation RL's sales performance, a logical person might conclude that Acura has been taking an improper approach to the luxury market. Honda's full of bright people, and Acura's been on a pretty good roll lately, so surely the new RL would be a dynamite seller, right? Maybe not. Take a look at the graphic to the right. Sales of the 2005 RL started out at a decent pace, but they begain trending downwards in the third quarter of '05, with sales dropping precipitously in the 4th quarter of 2005 and on into the first quarter of 2006. In the first two months of 2006, the numbers look particually appalling - 782 units sold nationwide in January and 712 in February 2006. Uh-oh. The target for the RL is 20000 units annually, and while the RL only fell about 1400 units shy of target in its first 12 month selling period, at the current selling pace, 2006 may see fewer than 10000 RLs sold. In related news, sales of Maalox in the greater Torrance area are through the roof.
Is the RL really that bad of a car? Absolutely not. In fact, we think it's quite a superb car. So what's going on? Where are the sales? Well, on the following pages we will examine some of the contributing factors.