California's Monterey Automotive Week, a series of automotive events anchored by the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, will this year again play host to an increasing number of concept vehicles. Recent announcements of concepts to be revealed have come from Acura, Infiniti, and Jaguar, with all three brands playing to a racing heritage.
IHS Markit perspective
- Significance: Acura, Infiniti, and Jaguar are among those joining the list of automakers with concept or production vehicles being prepped for introduction at events during the week of 14‒20 August.
- Implications: Infiniti strives with its concept racing car to associate and build the brand's connection to a racing past, looking further back to parent Nissan's past as well. Acura's RLX facelift adds an updated version of the Sport Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive powertrain with a connection to the NSX sports car, in an effort to rebuild Acura's image as a performance premium brand. Jaguar's special edition XE is taking a US introduction, to an audience with the cash to place an order.
- Outlook: The series of events held during the third week of August on the Monterey peninsula in California is now being billed as Monterey Car Week, with automakers increasing their presence year by year. The week-long series of events is attended by well-heeled consumers with the enthusiasm and means to own and appreciate unique vehicles.
During the series of events centred on the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance in California, United States, on 19 August, including The Quail Motorsports Event and Monterey Historics racing, several automakers are introducing concept or production vehicles. Acura will reveal a facelift of its top sedan, the RLX, as well as the next generation of its prototype racing car already announced.
The 2018 model-year RLX will be shown at events throughout the week, according to the automaker's statement, boasting a refresh that takes a new grille in line with the family look introduced on the Acura Precision Concept, makes AcuraWatch driver assist systems standard, and enhances the package with Acura's first application of Traffic Jam Assist. The hood, headlights, taillights, and front and rear fascias are updated. The RLX continues to offer a hybrid and conventional powertrain, with both updated. The Sport Hybrid Super-Handling All-Wheel Drive system was also used in the MDX crossover and includes technology shared with the NSX sports car. The Sport Hybrid SH-AWD will be offered in two trim levels, with Acura hoping the change will increase interest in the hybrid powertrain, Automotive News reports. The standard RLX gets a 310-horsepower V6 now mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission (also already available with the MDX). Other standard equipment includes a premium stereo system, surround view camera, parking sensors, LED fog lights, remote engine start, and heated rear seats and steering wheel. Sales of the RLX are scheduled to begin in November.
Jaguar has announced that the XE SV Project 8 will make its North American debut the same week, being shown at The Quail event. The announcement does not indicate that Jaguar is expanding from its original plan to build only 300 of the vehicles, all left-hand drive. Jaguar is offering the vehicle globally, so US buyers may still opt for the extremely rare vehicle.
Infiniti has also announced that it will show a concept racing car, meant to harken back to historic racing but with modern technology underneath. The brand calls it a "retro prototype… developed through a journey back to the roots of our company, and back forward again with the fusion of advanced EV technology".
Outlook and implications
The annual series of events held during the third week of August on the Monterey peninsula in California is now being billed as Monterey Car Week, with automakers increasing their presence year by year. The week-long series of events is attended by well-heeled consumers with the enthusiasm and means for owning and appreciating unique vehicles.
While most traditional auto shows speak to current and near-term production vehicles and trade shows like the CES expo increasingly include exhibitors displaying technology applied to the automotive sector, Monterey Car Week (not unlike the UK Goodwood Festival of Speed) speaks to the enthusiasm for personalisation of cars and racing, as well as passion for the history of the automobile. All three types of events serve important roles for automakers looking to connect with consumers, as well as the industry itself.
Premium automakers have shown concepts in the events, including three Cadillacs, over the years, but the activity in 2017 seems to have increased. Mercedes-Benz and BMW are again showing concept vehicles for display in 2017; both automakers brought concepts to the events held in 2016 as well.
Infiniti, Acura, and Jaguar have all had strong presences at the events in recent years, though not always with reveal products; the 2017 vehicles continue the relationship. While it is known if the Jaguar will be a limited-run special edition project, it is not clear if the Infiniti is much more than a styling exercise. Acura's RLX is a production car, but the brand is also showing the next generation of its prototype racing car.
Jaguar's choice to introduce its vehicle to North America during the week's events is an opportunity to get the vehicle in front of potential consumers. The brand's connection with high-end, bespoke consumers and racing is much more deeply cemented than that of either Infiniti or Acura, which are also much younger brands.
Just as Acura is working hard to reconnect its brand to performance and racing, Infiniti is increasingly leveraging parent Nissan's racing history as its own in an effort to distinguish its brand in the marketplace. In particular, Infiniti is also taking the Prince R380 on a display circuit. That vehicle won the Japanese Grand Prix in 1966, more than 30 years before the Infiniti brand was launched. The connection for Infiniti is that the Prince Motor Company, Infiniti says, is considered to be Japan's original builder of premium automobiles. Over time, Nissan purchased Prince and incorporated the Prince vehicles into its line-up. Infiniti says that its heritage can be traced to those first Prince vehicles, specifically the Gloria and Skyline.
Acura has had difficulty in getting the RLX sedan to connect with consumers, despite its technology and performance. The brand is also looking to recast itself and revive its performance image and roots, working to ensure it connects the technology of the NSX to the rest of the line. The effort is in the early stages and it is too early to fully determine the impact, as efforts came on in earnest with the updated TLX and MDX, both on sale in mid-2017.
The RLX replaced the RL in 2013, seeing sales of 5,000 units that year. Its sales performance has steadily fallen, and Acura sold only 1,478 units in 2016. It accounts for less than 1% of the brand's US sales. Over the first seven months of 2017, its sales have declined 25.7%. IHS Markit currently projects the car will see only similar sales in the near term. Acura's sales have spluttered in the US throughout 2017; its two utility vehicles account for 63% of the brand's sales. The brand's US sales have declined 5.0% over the first seven months of 2017, with the sedans falling 11% and the utilities dropping 1.7%.
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The above article is from AutoIntelligence Daily by IHS Markit. AutoIntelligence Daily provides same-day analysis of automotive news, events and trends. Get a free trial.