Acura MDX: Rob Alen

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Acura's new MDX sport-utility vehicle, which bowed in October 2000 as a 2001 model, is attracting lots of newcomers to the luxury brand.

Roughly 40% of MDX buyers are new to American Honda Motor Co.'s upscale nameplate, crows Rob Alen, advertising manager of Acura. "That's huge. The MDX has appealed to a new type of buyer."

The carmaker's pre-launch activities for the MDX started in May 2000 with displays at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. In June 2000, Acura kicked off an online promotion with the American Forests ReLeaf Program to plant a tree in Yellowstone National Park for every consumer registering on its microsite at acura.com/2001mdx. Consumers who registered on the site also were entered into a contest to win a trip to the park. Mr. Alen says the deal resulted in nearly 20,000 Acura prospects.

MDX advertising launched last September. Indie shop Rubin Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, Calif., handles. The campaign, which continued the earlier road-trip theme in the launch of the CL coupe, carried the new tag "Taking the SUV to a place it's never been before." Acura spent $40.5 million in measured media on the MDX last year, says Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

The MDX arrived with a base price of $34,370 and replaced Acura's Isuzu-made SLX. The MDX sold 24,139 units between January and August this year alone, making it the second-best selling Acura.

"We can't build enough MDXs," Mr. Alen says. That will likely change when Honda's new plant in Alabama opens this fall.

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