By on July 10, 2017

2017 INFINITI Q60 3.0t Sport - Image: InfinitiThey’re always bridesmaids, never the bride.

But after holding down the fort as America’s second-best-selling Japanese premium brand since surrendering to Lexus some two decades ago, Acura is now about to be bumped from its maid of honor position.

Scottie Pippen? Acura is quickly becoming Toni Kukoc.

After a record U.S. sales performance in 2016, Infiniti sales are rising faster than any other auto brand in America save for four niche-market luxury contenders. After trailing its Acura compatriot for 28 years, it’s past time for Infiniti to catch the bouquet.

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid - Image: AcuraIf at first Infiniti’s impressive 22-percent year-over-year sales increase seems difficult to comprehend, remember the addition of a key model in a key segment.

The Infiniti QX30, the entry-level Infiniti that uses as its foundation Mercedes-Benz’s GLA, has proven vital, though not essential, to Infiniti’s U.S. sales expansion in 2017’s first six months. Infiniti reported 9,393 QX30 sales in the first-half of 2017; it even outsold its three key German competitors in February and March.

But even without the QX30, Infiniti sales would be up 7 percent this year — fairly healthy growth in an industry that’s declined in six consecutive months.

Granted, Infiniti has also been bolstered by the launch of a new Q60 coupe. Q60 sales are 5,253 units higher in 2017 than at this point one year ago. These gains, together with modest improvements from lower-volume models such as the QX70, QX80, and Q70, have helped Infiniti find its way to 79,143 first-half sales in 2017.

Acura, which outsold Infiniti in every year of their joint existence and by more than 14,000 sales in the first-half of 2016, posted a first-half 7-percent drop to 73,871 sales in 2017.

The ensuing 5,272-unit gap between the two lower-volume Japanese premium brands is not difficult to explain. While Acura sells two very popular premium crossovers, the RDX and MDX are the only crossovers in Acura’s lineup. Infiniti, on the other hand, has already sold 24,085 utility vehicles in segments in which Acura does not compete, with its QX30, QX70, and QX80.

Moreover, while Infiniti’s car sales are up 19 percent this year because of relatively steady Q50 and Q70 sedan sales and the insertion of a new coupe into the lineup, Acura’s car volume is down 11 percent. Acura has high hopes for the revamped 2018 TLX, but the brand’s other cars — an ILX based on the departed ninth-gen Civic, the forgotten RLX, the high-dollar NSX supercar — are hardly volume drivers.2016 Lexus RX350 - Image: LexusIf there’s hope for Acura to narrow the sales gap with Infiniti in the second-half of 2017, it will still mostly be down to the RDX and MDX. In June, for example, Acura sales jumped 24 percent to 14,038 units — 1,767 more than Infiniti — as the RDX jumped 48 percent and MDX sales increased 14 percent. Acura has moved to increase supply of the company’s crossovers by switching some MDX production out of an Alabama plant (where the Honda Odyssey, Pilot, and Ridgeline are also built) to Ohio.

As for the June performance, “In a challenging luxury automotive marketplace, reshaping our products around the performance direction of the Acura brand is clearly resonating with luxury car and truck buyers,” Acura claimed in the company’s sales release earlier this month, an apparently sudden resonance after Acura sales declined in ten of the previous twelve months.

Acura is on track for roughly 151,000 U.S. sales in calendar year 2017, well off its 2005 peak of nearly 210,000 sales. Infiniti, which averaged 115,000 annual U.S. sales over the last decade, is on track to sell more than 168,000 new vehicles in 2017.

Lexus, despite a sharp downturn in the early part of 2017, will likely sell more than 300,000 new vehicles in 2017, its fourth consecutive year above the 300,000-unit mark.

[Images: Infiniti, Acura]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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58 Comments on “Infiniti Is Poised to Overtake Acura in America’s Auto Sales Race for the First Time Ever...”

  • avatar

    In my experience, Nissan/Infiniti is VERY aggressive with incentives. I don’t think this is all increased demand by any means. With Acura’s new grills, hopefully their fortunes will improve, they have been selling some less attractive (visually challenged/repulsive?), and even some hideous vehicles for what….going on a decade now?

    • 0 avatar

      yes, they lease out super cheap in my area….I’d have bitten but for my excess mileage.

    • 0 avatar

      On the other hand, their MSRP was high enough to keep me out of the showroom. So I got a Acura Sportwagon, which of course Infinity has nothing similar. And, no, I do not consider their UVs wagons.

    • 0 avatar

      Doubtful as Acura’s new grill design is actually a step BACK from the toned down “beak.”

      Infiniti’s design language has been much improved, getting rid of most of the unnecessary curves and embellishments (which Lexus is still doing) and going back to the cleaner lines a la the original G35 coupe (the Q60 is a nice update on that design, in0between, Infiniti had lost its way).

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah the reason why Infiniti is winning the sales war is basically that they’re throwing crazy amounts of money on the hood and towards leases. You can lease a Q50 for what’s normally midsize sedan leasing money (right now Toyota and Honda are trying to clear out the old models so their leases are slightly cheaper than the Infinitis)

  • avatar

    IMO… Acura tossed in the creative flag circa 2005-2007. It’s sad really. The TL and TSX (early 2000’s) were the last models that appealed to me. I’m surprised it took Infiniti this long to surpass Acura.

    • 0 avatar

      But, but, enthusiasts don’t matter! Yeah that’s it. Truthfully my cheap 6-speed Accord Sport is more fun to drive than anything Acura makes, at any price.

      I honestly don’t even know what the hell that brand is for anymore, other than to sell a couple of pricy SUVs to repeat lease customers, most of whom seem to be over 50 and female.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep the Accord Sport 6 speed manual is very fun, downside is even finding one nearby. had only 5 within 250 miles of me. There is one black manual in my town. Black is my least favorite color. Manuals dont mean much to Honda like they used too. Luckily the civic SI are all manuals. Priced well too.

        • 0 avatar

          Manuals don’t mean much to the MARKET as they used to. Honda doesn’t determine what cars dealers allocate; dealers do. Dealers know what sells- and it ain’t manuals.

  • avatar
    S2k Chris

    The Q60 coupe really is a beautiful car.

    • 0 avatar

      I did a triple take on a new Q60s in the company lot. Quite striking.

      • 0 avatar

        Drove a Q50 in california-rental upgrade after a two hour debacle at the counter. Drove it from SF to LA. I’d have re-valved the rear shocks stiffer but it was lovely. Quick, stable, nicer inside than the Acuras. The RWD was a bonus in this class of car (Ahem, honda ?)

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Drove alongside one on the freeway recently, in red. Eye-catching car without being overwrought. Q50 as well, though more subdued.

      The TLX is invisible in comparison.

    • 0 avatar

      So the car pictured is a Q60? I came here looking for the model name. It really looks stunning. The design evokes more passion than any recent BMW I can think of.

    • 0 avatar

      Q60 is gorgeous. I couldn’t help but gawk and stare when I saw one in traffic. Can’t say the same for any recent Acura I’ve seen, save the new NSX, but that was at an auto show.

    • 0 avatar

      No way I am buying a car which has no hard link between steering wheel and tires

      • 0 avatar

        I believe you pay $1k for that ‘direct assisted steering’ which typical oxymoron, there is no ‘direct’ connection unless there’s a power failure.

        I agree with you guys, this is an attractive car, I believe its the next gen Skyline V37 whatever? But if you google it, the Q60 doesnt look as great from other angles especially the rear and 3/4 panel and that contrived “infiniti” kink.

        Also typical nissan, they can slap in the motors like the 400hp turbo v6 but they removed a lot of that ‘driveability’ they were famous for.

        I do agree that in this case, the title is a foregone conclusion.

        No one can compete with Lexus, it scares even the germans.

        However Acura was always dead last and now that Nissan has thrown some money (and some Mercedes engineering) at Infiniti then yeah, it can sneak into a losing 2nd place.

        I do laugh at how the Red Sport 400hp model is avaiable as a 4wd… let’s line that sucker up next to an R35!

        • 0 avatar

          What do you mean “no one can compete with Lexus”?

          Lexus mostly sells cheaper FWD-base models these days (which aren’t a threat to the Germans, esp. MB and BMW).

          Have you seen the sales volumes of the IS, RC, GS and LS?

        • 0 avatar

          With 400 hp, a Q60 needs AWD. My RWD G37S doesn’t have enough traction to handle 330 hp. Since Infiniti has never combined AWD and a manual transmission, I had to give up one or the other and the 6-speed manual meant more to me.

          What does bother me about Infiniti is the effort they put into semi-autonomous driving aids. The whole point of a high performance sports car is driving it yourself. All the nanny crap detracts from the experience.

  • avatar

    This is less about Infiniti’s exciting lineup and a lot more about how Honda is driving Acura into the feckin’ ground.

  • avatar

    Alternate Title:

    Extra Expensive Nissan is about to outsell Extra Expensive Honda for the first time

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    I know that bridge the Acura is driving on, It’s the Pier 90/91 bridge in Seattle. The car is driving into the Magnolia neighborhood and Queen Anne is in the background. I’ve walked, ridden,a n drove over that bridge many a time in my youth.

  • avatar

    The Volvo-ish naming convention upsets me a little.

  • avatar

    To sum up:
    Infiniti has a full product line up. Acura has some rebadged Hondas.
    Infinitis are very nice looking. Acura changed from an ugly grill to one that isn’t so bad.
    Infiniti offers powerful RWD vehicles. Acura… ummm not so much as the NSX doesn’t count as a normal car.
    I think some of the big gains have been with Infinti’s interiors – they were once very much just Nissan’s parts bin but now they seem to very competitive in their price range.

    When my wife went looking for a vehicle to replace her Volvo no Acuras ever appeared on the radar, though we did check out a Honda (V6 Accord Coupe). We compared Infiniti to Audi, BMW, MercBenz and then went with Infiniti. Audi won the interior contest, BMW won the drivetrain contest. MB was a disappointment overall. The Infiniti checked all the boxes. Granted the fact that we already own and love a Nissan certainly helped, as my Z has proven very reliable despite my continued attempts to destroy it on track days occasionally.

    • 0 avatar

      I have had nothing but good experiences with products rolling out of Nissan’s Tochigi plant. 350Z, G37, FX35 and Q50 Etc. Japanese manufacturing status quo proven. Drove all except q50 for 10yrs and 150k+ miles and still driving without problems.

    • 0 avatar

      RWD doesn’t matter. The only RWD luxury cars that outsell the ES are the 3 and C. In fact, year to date the ES has outsold Lexus’ and Cadillac’s entire RWD lineups individually. The A4 and A6 are higher than most RWD cars in their respective segments as well, and I’d bet close to half the RWD based cars are sold in AWD trim.

      Acuras as they are with RWD chassis’ would not move any more than their current fleet. Tires and chassis rigidity have moved the baseline bar of dynamics of all cars beyond what anyone requires, and regulations are pretty much killing engine character. All that is left is badge cachet and design/style. Acura’s badge will never matter, but they are underutilizing style. We all look back fondly on the 04-08 TSX/TL even though they were fancy Accords, because they were gorgeous in and out. That is all Acura needs now. Bonus points if they ditched the alphanumeric soup for model names as well.

      I have had great luck with Nissans as well. Aside from a weird jammed transmission (which my mechanic had swapped in an hour!!!!), I’ve had no issues with any of the 4 Nissan products I’ve owned. Hopefully my G37S will continue the trend.

      • 0 avatar

        You are probably right, but I grew up in the day where the base model was a six and the “real” car had a V8. Other than some odd brit cars… everything had rear drive.

        I still like the back of the car to move when pushed…instead of killing the front wheels. The Audis you note are AWD in 99 % of the cases here in the US-which takes care of the FWD flaws.

        I don’t have any real grudges…if I did, I’d not have bought the caddy, and as far as VW, they sent the check eventually. There are certain dealers I’d avoid doing business with, but that isn’t really brand specific.

  • avatar

    Acura has sucked for at least 15 years – in fact they have sucked longer than they have been good to great. The only question is why the American consumer has taken so long to notice.

    • 0 avatar

      Because RDX and MDX are best two vehicles in their segment. But problem is rest of lineup needs to be improved. They do not even have small SUVin class with X1 and QX30.

      • 0 avatar

        RDX? Interior/electronics suck. But it is fast

        • 0 avatar

          Yes its V-6 last of the breed in that class. Interior is quiet and clean and gauges are easy to use. Though the Console and Infotainment is outdated then again i would save 4k and stick with base.

      • 0 avatar

        The RDX and MDX are hardly the “best’ vehicles within their respective segments.

        The XC90 is better than the MDX and if one can spend a bit more, the Q7 is better than both the MDX and XC90.

        The RDX and MDX have done well for Acura due there not being much competition when it comes to cheaper FWD-based crossovers.

        Now, the RDX has competition like the NX and there’s more on the way.

        Aside from the aforementioned XC90 and Q7, the MDX will soon have to also go up against the 3-row RX and a 3-row Cadillac crossover (and that’s not counting the 2 Genesis crossovers which, while RWD-based, will be priced like FWD-based crossovers, a new smaller Volvo crossover and a larger Jaguar CUV).

        • 0 avatar

          Heck, I’d take a Mazda CX-9 or a Sorento SX-L over the MDX (both look better and more upscale than the MDX).

          • 0 avatar

            You’ve obviously never sat in a new MDX. I can tell you without a doubt that the MDX is unequivocally better than the CX-9 and Sorento. It’s not even close.

          • 0 avatar

            Didn’t say that the MDX didn’t have a nicer interior or wasn’t better than the CX-9 or Sorento SX-L.

            Just not worth the price premium over them, esp. as the other 2 look more premium (and it’s not just the exterior – despite not quite having luxury-grade interiors, neither does the RDX, btw, the dash designs in the CX-9 and Sorento are more elegant than the monstrosity in the MDX).

            If I were willing to buy a Made in China auto, would pay the price premium for the XC90; not so much for the MDX.

        • 0 avatar

          The Acuras offer a 6-cylinder for a reasonable price so they win.

          • 0 avatar

            “The Acuras offer a 6-cylinder for a reasonable price so they win.”

            They win because people largely ignore that Acura engines blow. If its Honda it can’t break, right?

          • 0 avatar

            I’d rather be sounded by a grapefruit spoon than own a turbo-4 CUV so I’ll take my chances on the Acura.

    • 0 avatar

      While driving around the beltway near D.C. there is a boat load of Acura’s on the road like no other place a couple of years ago. May be not so today.

  • avatar

    Why shouldn’t it. Acura has only survived by Lexus not offering a 3-row version of the RX. And that era is coming to a close.

    They can stick to their ridiculous product planners who insisted a V8 wasn’t necessary through the 90s and on for their top end car. That may slowly be coming true now, but they pissed away whatever brand equity they did have when they changed to alphanumerics to begin with.

    Infiniti has always managed to have a great bargain of an near/entry level luxury car in the G and now the Q50. They are, unfortunately, in the same position that really one model carries the brand.

  • avatar

    In general, I prefer Honda/Acura to Nissan/Infiniti. A couple years ago I was seriously thinking of a TL. Now and with no real replacement for TL (TLX is small inside and I like the newer grill even less), I think it’s the Q50 (which is also RWD). If I wanted a coupe, Infiniti has one, and Acura doesn’t.
    For sure Lexus is uglier to even check the specs!

  • avatar

    Honda/Acura spent too many years with a superiority complex, it proves that nothing stands still. By the way, where is the completely new Honda Accord Coupe…… Jack?? Should happen 2 years ago now.

  • avatar

    I do not see the appeal of the QX30 at all. Having driven one I must say it is a hard riding vehicle with a crude feel to the drivetrain. And it is very cramped inside. It seems that these days almost anything that falls into the CUV/SUV category will sell. There are far better choices for the money.

  • avatar

    What is a Q20/30/40/50/60/70/80/90/100?

    Horrible styling, idiot branding. And this sells for some reason. Around here the Rich White MommyWagon is a giant Infiniti SUV, Q-something, for the husbands who can’t afford the big BMW or MBz dreadnought.

    Lexus is about the same, only even more ugly. Acura, who even cares anymore.

  • avatar

    I do miss the G/M/Q prefixes for the cars since you knew what size vehicle you were getting into (ie like BMW’s classic 3/5/7).

    I was seriously considering a G37 for my next car – but was thwarted by my wife’s car needs. *sigh*

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Well I hope Inf. continues to thrive, so they can take a small loss on bringing back the manual transmission. I loved my G37S 6mt sedan, I’d buy a q50 Red Sport … if they fit a manual.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a ’10 6MT Coupe and it was a great car. I like my Audi S5 V8 6MT coupe better overall, but the G was special in its own right.

      If they offered the Q50 Red Sport in manual guise, I would have bought one. The only other option in that class is BMW or Jaguar. Neither of which I want.

  • avatar

    Infinity sedans are better looking than Acura, IMO. But Acura makes a better car. I test drove both the TLX and the Q50 and the TLX is leagues above the Q50 in ride quality and feel. While they’re far from ugly, Acura’s designs are in desperate need of a refresh. That’s the main thing holding them back.

  • avatar

    Aside from their hideously nasty SUVs, I find the current Infiniti lineup to be seductively sexy styled. Those are really beautiful cars with an edginess about them that sets them apart from the bland Lexus and Acura lineup.

    There was a time when Acura and Lexus cars looked good, and that was in the 1990s. During that same time Infiniti cars were dull. Amazing how things change. Just my two subjective cents!

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