Like the Saviors They Are, Two Compact Crossovers Lifted Their Struggling Brands in October

like the saviors they are two compact crossovers lifted their struggling brands in

It might not be the reality we want, but it’s the only reality we have. As car sales continue to dwindle (they’re down to roughly 30 percent of new vehicles sold), light trucks have picked up the torch at most brands, though some aren’t arriving fast enough to satisfy jittery executives in today’s stagnating market.

At two premium Japanese brands, the arrival of two crossovers in the scorching compact segment had exactly the effect their creators hoped for. Acura and Infiniti, faced with declining sales in recent years, had reason to smile in October. The recipe is working.

Acura’s third-generation RDX burst onto the scene this summer with a fairly aggressive level of content and a splashy launch that featured journalists getting tail-happy in the turbo, 10-speed ‘ute. This, plus the vehicle’s edgier design, clearly drew the attention of CUV-hungry buyers.

In October, the RDX posted a sales increase of 75.3 percent, year over year, with volume up 18.9 percent, year to date. It’s the only high-volume Acura model not in the red on a YTD basis (the RLX doesn’t count). The RDX’s 6,193 sales last months makes it by far the best selling model in the lineup, and October was the model’s second-best sales month after June 2018.

As for the Acura brand, the RDX’s performance was more than enough to compensate for a slipping MDX and TLX, the second- and third-best selling Acura models. Year over year, the brand rose 7.3 percent in October, and volume over the first 10 months of the year is now in the black, up 1 percent. (Acura nudged above this mark in September.)

It was a similar story for Infiniti. In late spring, the brand launched the redesigned QX50, a model bearing the unique VC-T four-cylinder engine. Whether it was the new skin or the variable compression mill, buyers responded in comparative droves for a model they were never all that fond of. Sales rose — wait for it — 141.8 percent last month, and there wasn’t anything weird happening in October 2017 to diminish the victory. Last month was by far the QX50’s best sales month, with the model’s 3,160 sales falling just short of the top-selling QX60. Year to date, QX50 sales are up 41.6 percent.

With the QX50 selling in greater numbers and the refreshed QX80 land barge posting its own 101.5 percent YoY increase, Infiniti’s volume rose 15 percent compared to the same month a year ago. This, while the Q50, Q60, and Q70 continue their respective declines.

While October’s light truck sales were good news for Infiniti, the brand hasn’t yet managed to pull its overall volume into the black. However, it’s getting there (though perhaps not by the end of the year). Through the end of October, Infiniti sales were 5.5 percent shy of last year’s marker — but compare that figure to September’s 7.4 percent YTD loss, or August’s 8.2 percent drop.

As for Toyota’s Lexus division, no new crossovers showed up to lure new buyers. The RDX and QX50’s main rival, the Lexus NX, saw its sales fall 7.9 percent last month. Year to date, the NX has a slim lead of 2.5 percent over last year’s YTD figure.

[Images: Acura, Infiniti]

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  • Cbrworm Cbrworm on Nov 07, 2018

    Both of those cars look interesting to me, but they are too small for my needs. I wonder how that variable compression engine is holding up, I'll have to do some research. I sure see a lot of them running around all of the sudden.

  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Nov 08, 2018

    I'm still a car guy, even if any trip to "the city" means truck, and truck only. The combination of traffic and roads that don't deserve the name mean that stability at 90 is a fantasy (seeing 90, that is) and that you credit ability to eat a manhole raised in the road as much more important than transient response from cornering. I get why the masses buy trux. My next car is a car, but the city runs...the 10 year old SUV, because that 3 -d road is nastier than anything the German engineers can conceptualize.

  • DenverMike When was it ever a mystery? The Fairmont maybe, but only the 4-door "Futura" trim, that was distinctively upscale. The Citation and Volare didn't have competing trims, nor was there a base stripper Maxima at the time, if ever, crank windows, vinyl seats, 2-doors, etc. So it wasn't a "massacre", not even in spirit, just different market segments. It could be that the Maxima was intended to compete with those, but everything coming from Japan at the time had to take it up a notch, if not two.Thanks to the Japanese "voluntary" trade restriction, everything had extra options, if not hard loaded. The restriction limited how many vehicles were shipped, not what they retailed at. So Japanese automakers naturally raised the "price" (or stakes) without raising MSRP. What the dealers charged (gouged) was a different story.Realistically, the Maxima was going up against entry luxury sedans (except Cimarron lol), especially Euro/German, same as the Cressida. It definitely worked in Japanese automaker's favor, not to mention inspiring Lexus, Acura and Infiniti.
  • Ronnie Schreiber Hydrocarbon based fuels have become unreliable? More expensive at the moment but I haven't seen any lines gathering around gas stations lately, have you? I'm old enough to remember actual gasoline shortages in 1973 and 1979 (of course, since then there have been many recoverable oil deposits discovered around the world plus the introduction of fracking). Consumers Power is still supplying me with natural gas. I recently went camping and had no problem buying propane.Texas had grid problems last winter because they replaced fossil fueled power plants with wind and solar, which didn't work in the cold weather. That's the definition of unreliable.I'm an "all of the above" guy when it comes to energy: fossil fuels, hydro, wind (where it makes sense), nuclear (including funding for fusion research), and possibly solar.Environmental activists, it seems to me, have no interest in energy diversity. Based on what's happened in Sri Lanka and the push against agriculture in Europe and Canada, I think it's safe to say that some folks want most of us to live like medieval peasants to save the planet for their own private jets.
  • Car65688392 thankyou for the information
  • Car65688392 Thankyou for your valuable information
  • MaintenanceCosts There's no mystery anymore about how the Japanese took over the prestige spot in the US mass market (especially on the west coast) when you realize that this thing was up against the likes of the Fairmont, Citation, and Volaré. A massacre.