A report in a Japanese business newspaper today is claiming that the Acura RL, known in Japan as the Honda Legend, has been canceled. Acura has refused comment, so what do you think is going on?
“We don’t comment on future product,” Acura spokesman John Kiewicz told Automobile.
Reuters, quoting the Japanese business daily Nikkei, is claiming Honda will end production of the Legend/RL globally as well as production of the Japanese market-only Honda Elysion minivan sometime in the near future. The report also claims that Honda will drop the gasoline-powered Civic in the Japanese market as well and sell only the Civic Hybrid, at least until the next-generation Civic is revealed, supposedly in the fall of 2011. The idea, according to the Nikkei, is to shift focus towards green and low-cost vehicles globally, of which the RL is neither.
If Acura is planning to can the RL, it’s the first we’ve heard of it. The facts, though, make this report believable. Despite a mid-cycle refresh for the 2009 model year, sales of the RL in the U.S. tanked in 2009, falling 55 percent from 2008 numbers to just 2043 cars sold the entire year. It hasn’t gotten much better since then, either. Though June sales were up 21 percent, total year-to-date sales are down 17 percent through the first six months of 2010.
Why does Acura have so much trouble selling the RL? A look across the lot provides a very simple answer: the TL. The new-for-2009 TL offers everything the RL does — from the engine to the drivetrain to the technology to the interior space — for thousands of dollars less. The TL is so good, we just declared it an equal of the mighty Audi S4, save the brakes. What’s Honda to do then? The RL has fallen behind the pack and is now likely being cannibalized by its own stable mate, the TL, which has sold 15 times as many vehicles so far this year despite sales being off 28 percent from 2008.
Will the RL be substantially updated for its next generation, or is big sedan on the way out? Honda isn’t saying, so we’re asking you: What should be the fate of the Acura RL?