U.S. February Sales: Acura RLX Takes An Uppercut To Its Glass Jaw

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
u s february sales acura rlx takes an uppercut to its glass jaw

Acura RLX sales plunged 53% to just 173 units in February 2015, the fifth consecutive month in which U.S. sales of Acura’s flagship sedan were chopped in half, or worse.

Year-over-year, RLX sales have decreased in each of the last nine months. Over these three quarters, the RLX is down 60%, a loss of 2873 sales compared to the preceding nine-month period.

Historically, the RLX (formerly known as the RL) wasn’t anything like a top-selling premium car, but it wasn’t typically this unpopular, either. In the seven years leading up to the recession, 2002 to 2008, Acura reported an annual average of more than 9000 RL sales in America.

The 5555 total sales achieved between 2009 and 2012 was explained away by the age of the existing model – the second-gen RL debuted in 2004 – as well as the low-volume nature of the car market at the time.

AcuraFeb. 2015Feb. 2014% Change2 mos. 20152 mos. 2014% ChangeMDX4,5534,563-0.2%8,9348,8041.5%RDX3,8622,91132.7%7,3795,64130.8%TLX3,419——6,311——ILX9591,301-26.3%1,9512,458-20.6%RLX173371-53.4%349791-55.9%TL221,480-98.5%402,848-98.6%TSX4911-99.6%101,804-99.4%ZDX—8-100%—22-100%—— —————Total 12,99211,545 12.5%24,974 22,368 11.7%

Indeed, sales of the new model perked up, rising to the highest level in six years and above 5000 units for the first time since 2007. Yet the dull styling of the RLX didn’t bode well, the high price has never sat well with luxury car buyers, and Acura’s less costly middle-rung cars (the TL and now the TLX) always rubbed up closely in terms of size, matched or exceeded the RLX in terms of performance, and their MSRPs have always undercut the RLX by many thousands of dollars. The RLX, especially in Sport Hybrid guise, is a very nice car, but not at the advertised price, and not with such sleepy exterior design.

Regardless, the uptick was terribly short-lived. Year-over-year volume shot forward from 2012 and early 2013 levels when there was hardly any remaining RLs available. But even in its most popular month so far, October 2013, when 830 RLXs were sold, it trailed low-volume premium players like the Audi A6, Lexus GS, and Lincoln MKS. That same month, Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class range outsold the RLX by nearly 8-to-1; the BMW 5-Series by more than 6-to-1.

From that peak, however, we’ve come a long way in a short time. RLX sales fell to a new low of just 173 units in February, the second consecutive and third month overall in which monthly RLX volume slipped below 200.

The good news for Acura? The TLX isn’t selling poorly. As a result, even with the ILX down 21% year-to-date and RLX volume down 56%, overall Acura car sales are up 10%. The TLX accounts for 6311 of the 8661 Acura cars sold so far this year. The MDX and RDX crossovers generate nearly two-thirds of the brand’s volume. With the TLX, MDX, and RDX rising, Acura sales were up 12% through the end of February.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

Join the conversation
3 of 76 comments
  • FreedMike FreedMike on Mar 30, 2015

    Actually, I think the RLX's main problem is simple: Lexus ES. The two cars are both big, V-6 powered FWD sedans and are about the same size (the RLX has a couple of extra inches of wheelbase and length). Both are based on far more plebian sedans. RLX price with technology package (nav and sunroof): $55000 ES price with nav and sunroof: $41320 Any questions?

    • Dal20402 Dal20402 on Mar 30, 2015

      Exactly. The FWD RLX at $45k base $50k loaded would be a decent competitor to the ES -- it's a bit nicer. But at $55k it's just silly. The hybrid would make sense at $55-$60k... if it ever comes on the market in volume.

  • Wmba Wmba on Mar 30, 2015

    The RLX has been a dog with many quality issues. CR reports average reliability and below average owner satisfaction. http://acurazine.com/forums/problems-fixes-432/ No wonder so few people buy them. The hybrid is a joke. The powerful V6 drives just the front wheels with wheel spin and torque steer and has an electric motor just to make sure, while the rear wheels each have an electric motor. No torque sharing between front and rear drivetrains as in regular SH-AWD to mitigate things. What were (are) they thinking?

  • Parkave231 Collector's Edition hood ornament or GTFO.
  • Dave M. Once again Mustang remains solely on the throne. But obviously the day of the ponycar has long passed....
  • Art Vandelay The car so nice they killed it…twice
  • Ryan The hybrid EX model lists at about CAD$39,000 in Canada, including delivery charges. No Premium package is available for it here.
  • Golden2husky A great driver's car let down by down right dangerous visibility - in any version. Had the Camaro had a qulity interior and acceptable visibility we'd have one in our driveway as my wife loves the way they look and drive.