For people in business, there are tasteful flops and ghastly successes.
After enough such hard-knock schooling, the point becomes clear:
You can earn a pile giving people what they want. You cannot, necessarily, by giving them what you think they should want.
It’s a point dawning on Japanese automakers, perhaps at the expense of their brand identities.
Nissan’s Infiniti luxury brand recently introduced the JX35 crossover SUV, eschewing a number of touches that make Infiniti stand out. And, wow, the JX exploded out of showrooms to instantly become the second-best-selling Infiniti model.
Now it’s Honda’s Acura premium brand heading that way. The Honda Civic-based ILX small sedan is nothing to cheer about: too bland and tepid-performing (save for the very good 2.4-liter version).
The fully remade 2013 RDX crossover SUV has some of the same watered-down feel. But it went on sale April 2 and immediately was a big hit. June sales were nearly three times those of a year ago. May sales, a bit higher than June’s, were the best of any month in RDX history, Acura says.
Launched in 2007 as an edgy, turbocharged, zip gun of a utility machine, RDX won points with auto writers, but not among people who pay actual money for vehicles.
The 2013 model is bigger, softer-feeling, smoother-driving. All worthy.
But it’s also a bit dumbed-down from Acura’s historic high-tech/high-class approach. The best example of that is the all-wheel drive. Previously, it was Acura’s sporty super-handling all-wheel drive (SH-AWD). Now, the optional all-wheel drive setup is commonplace: front drive, with the ability to kick some power to the rear wheels as needed.
On the other hand, it works fine and probably will suit most people most of the time.
Acura tuned the system to allow some wheelspin up front before the rear wheels add their grab. That avoids the power-chopping traction-control engagement that happens in some systems before they deign to provide rear-wheel power.
It ought to be noted, too,…