Acura targeting female buyers for redesigned sport wagon

06/24/2013 11:00 AM

06/24/2013 11:01 AM

Honda Motor Co. is targeting female drivers for its redesigned 2014 Acura MDX sport wagon with the luxury brand’s most expensive advertising campaign yet.

Using the slogan “Made for Mankind,” a female narrates the moody ads showing women hiking a mountain ridge, dancing and interacting with a robot. The commercial debuts during the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Finals this month, while the full campaign starts July 7, Honda said.

Honda is betting the ads will boost Acura sales that have fallen 25 percent in the U.S. from a peak of 209,610 in 2005. The luxury marque of Japan’s third-largest automaker is also promoting new RLX sedan and NSX sports car models priced at more than $100,000. With the new MDX, Acura said it’s trying to make an emotional appeal to female luxury-car buyers.

“Luxury is so focused on a very sort of stereotypical, 40- year-old wealthy male,” Gary Robinson, advertising manager for Honda’s Acura luxury line, said in a briefing on the new MDX. “Going forward, certainly in our country, that is not going to be anybody’s majority anymore. So there’s this opportunity to talk to somebody different.”

Honda is hoping to imbue Acura with the same success it has found with its mainstream model line, which includes the Accord sedan, the second-best-selling car in the U.S. this year.

Going after female buyers for the MDX makes sense, said Michelle Krebs, an analyst at auto researcher Edmunds.com.

“Moms drive the MDX; it’s sort of a minivan that’s not a minivan,” said Krebs, who is based in Southfield, Michigan. “Why not appeal to the female audience? Not many automakers do that.”

Robinson said the MDX ad campaign is the costliest ever for Acura. He declined to reveal how much Honda is spending on it. He said it’s more than twice as much as Acura’s campaign last year to introduce the redesigned RDX model. And he said the cost of the MDX campaign is “not too far off” what Honda spends on its bread-and-butter Accord model.

“Our brand sort of struggles in terms of volume,” Robinson said of Acura. “This is our most important vehicle in a lot of ways and we can’t get it wrong.”

Honda set a goal for this year of topping its best-ever U.S. volume of 1.55 million Honda and Acura brand cars and light trucks, set in 2007. The company is counting on the third- generation MDX and new RLX flagship sedan to reach the target. Acura plans to sell 60,000 MDX models a year, Robinson said.

Honda’s total U.S. deliveries gained 5.6 percent this year through May to 608,663. The company’s Honda brand rose 5.2 percent during that period, while its Acura brand increased 9.8 percent, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Acura’s U.S. sales trail the luxury leaders, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW, Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Lexus line.

“For Acura, the luxury market is so intensely competitive and they’ve fallen so far,” Krebs said. “Now they’re trying to shake things up.”

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