Consumer Thermostat – Crossover Vehicles are not iPads

Consumer Thermostat

In the “Consumer Thermostat” segment, I will gauge the heat index of various consumer trends, business decisions, and cultural phenomena for your reading enjoyment. What’s hot and what’s not?  First victim: crossover vehicles

What were car companies thinking?!  What insight drove the creation of the crossover vehicle?

Why crossover vehicles are not iPads, a lesson in consumer insight driven innovation vs. “cross your fingers and hope this works” innovation

(Hypothetical) car exec in 2010: “mini-vans are lame, SUVs kill the planet, station wagons are not selling, sedans are for senior citizens, let’s create a mashup, kids love those”

Enough hypothesis, let’s get to the facts:

Let’s begin with Acura. I want to compare the physical specs of their three “larger than sedan” offerings to try to uncover some hidden insights that I, the consumer, don’t plainly see:

Dimensions (length, width, height):

1. 2013 Acura MDX: 192″ x 79″ x 68″

2. 2013 Acura RDX: 184″ x 74″ x 66″

3. 2013 Acura ZDX: 192″ x 79″ x 63″

Cargo room (max cargo capacity, cargo cap., seats in place, # of seats)

1. 2013 Acura MDX: 84ft³, 15ft³, seats 7

2. 2013 Acura RDX: 61ft³, 26ft³, seats 5

3. 2013 Acura ZDX: 70ft³, 28ft³, seats 5

Starting price (Original MSRP):

1. 2013 Acura MDX: $43,280.00

2. 2013 Acura RDX: $35,720.00

3. 2013 Acura ZDX: $50,920.00

After only four years in production, the Acura ZDX was discontinued in 2013 after selling only 5,544 units in the U.S. during that span.

Calendar year US Sales Canadian Sales
2009 79[13] 8
2010 3,259 863
2011 1,564 129
2012 775[14] 110
2013 362 49
Source: Wikipedia

Let’s compare this crossover to a more successful hybrid: the iPad

I know, this may not be a fair comparison given the industry differences (competition, cost, variety of products) and brand loyalty (elasticity, compatibility), but for the sake of argument let’s take a look:

Unveiled in 2010, the iPad bridged the gap between the wildly successful iPhone (sedan) and industry-leading Macbook and iMac desktop computers (SUV/Trucks). Yes, Apple has the cultish following and revolutionary design to “create” the demand for a crossover product, but Apple capitalized on broad industry trends: increasing digitalization of all forms of media.  The wave was quickly building, Apple just had to build the best surfboard to ride the break into the astronomical payday onshore. Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, ebooks, newpapers and magazines were all gearing toward online streaming.  Insight and foresight, rather than hoping and wishing, lead to profitable innovations.

Line for iPad - NYC

What could Acura (and all other crossover manufacturers) have done differently?  Poll consumers of all demographics, test their reactions, perform a little cost-benefit analysis, and don’t force something unless it’s there.

The ZDX model gives no added benefit to the consumer other than exclusivity (read: scarcity) due to low sales volume. If you, like me, want to be the only one on the block with “fill-in-the-blank” consumer product, then the ZDX is for you.  Otherwise, you’re wasting your money.

Built on the MDX frame, the dimensions are nearly the same, but the ZDX holds two fewer passengers, and costs nearly $7,500 more than the MDX. Sorry Acura, the research leading to this business decision was not very Acura-te.

From an aesthetic point-of-view, I don’t need to say much about this bulky, hatchback sedan too tall for the AARP crowd, too aggressive for the Sweet 16 princess, and not sexy enough for anyone shelling out $50k for a carUV. Again, the “contrarian” personality wins again as he/she finds in the ZDX a vehicle that no one else he/she knows, or will ever meet, is driving. Feast your eyes…

2010-Acura-ZDX-28 2013 Acura ZDX

I may have found the intended customer Acura had in mind: a 25-year-old male who plays golf on the weekends (hatchback loading/unloading), wears a suit to work (“grown-up” look of sedan, with SUV feel), and somehow has $50k to spend on his first “car” out of college.  Not a large target demographic.

Your mom thinks it’s too aggressive, your dad thinks it’s too expensive, and your golf buddies think it’s too cute.  Back to the drawing board…


Purest Form – Mark Madsen

Purest Form

Oh Snap! If “rhythm is a dancer“, then Mark Madsen’s middle name starts with an “R” and ends with an “hythm”.

For those of you born after 1995, direct your attention to this aesthlete. Fashion forward (those white washed dad jeans would cost you $180 in 2015) and unrelenting on the dance floor, Mark Madsen’s progressive, if not downright prescient (see: juking), style transcends fads, media types, and .com bubbles.

When it’s pure, you know.

Mark Madsen dances.

048657.SP.0614.lakers7.AMR The Los Angeles Lakers celebrated their 3rd NBA Championship with a parade and celebration in downtown LA. The celebration ended at the Staples Center. Mark Madsen dances for the crowd at Staples Center.

Bonus: Mark Madsen plays barefoot. Profound.

Purest Form – Jeep Wagoneer

Purest Form

We’re all sad that Mad Men is over. Trust me, no one loves projecting pseudo-sci-fi, vintage advertising historical fiction onto my daily affairs more than I do. Thanks for the smoking habit, Don!  Now if I can find someone to get the burn marks out of the polyester seat cover of my cherry red 1964 Jaguar XK-E.  Thanks again, Don, for depleting my savings account.

There’s no need to give up on the past.  Nostalgia sells.  Let’s celebrate aesthleticism in it’s purest form by wishing the Jeep Wagoneer a Happy 52nd Birthday to a car that made wood panels sexy and doesn’t need the family’s au pair to translate “apres ski”. No need for commentary here, just soak it in, kids.

1977JeepWagoneer_03_7001977JeepWagoneer_01_900-700x417  1977JeepWagoneer_02_700

Fellow Aesthletes – The Class Room

Fellow Aesthletes

The Class Room logo

Houston’s finest amalgamation of fashionable men’s wear.  Raw denim, hats that say “H” on them, sunglasses, wood floors, and dressing rooms with curtains that don’t quite close all the way. If you’re wardrobe is getting you in detention, spend more time in The Class Room.  For your health!

Check them out in-person in Rice Village if you’re in Houston or online at or in the blogosphere at

The Class Room store image large

Fellow Aesthletes – sweetgreen

Fellow Aesthletes

sweetgreen logo

I’m not sure if the name is ever capitalized, but I’ll stick with the aesthetic they’re going for.  Beets, don’t kale my vibe.

I had the pleasure of meeting the founders of this growing salad venture, and they are the kindest humans.  I’m rhubarb-ing for their continued success!

Check out their “Core Values” below. Aesthletic if I’ve ever read it.

core values

These five core values embody our culture, spirit and dedication to doing what’s right. They keep us aligned and help us make decisions about everything from the food we serve to the way we design our stores.

  • win, win, win

    create solutions where the company wins, the customer wins, the community wins

  • think sustainably

    make decisions that will last longer than you will

  • keep it real

    cultivate authentic food and relationships

  • add the sweet touch

    create meaningful connections every day from farm to patron

  • make an impact

    think smarter, work harder, do it together

I know I approve of these core values, and I think Michael Scott would too!


These guys are kale-ing it in the aesthetic and athletic arenas.  Providing healthful, fresh, seasonal food in unique, clean, Kinfolk-minded spaces.  Aesthleticism for the win!

Fellow Aesthletes – Outdoor Voices

Fellow Aesthletes

OV logo      OV cone logo

“Outdoor Voices makes Apparel for Recreation. We take it as a given that activewear must perform, but we see it as a virtue that our clothing also looks good and fits well”

Well said, fellow aesthletes!

Check them out at or on your favorite social media site.

Grow a ‘stache, lace up your dad’s old Nike’s, and go walk to your nearest park. Lie down for a minute, think about the clouds, then get some gelato. Job well done. You’re #DoingThings

OV jogger girl OV Man black OV man grey reading