By on January 16, 2008

08_tsx_frntrtact2.jpg“In a nutshell we would disagree with the assessment that Acura would fall that low in any survey,” an unnamed Acura company spokesman told Ward’s Automotive re: Consumer Reports recent brand perception survey. “Our research shows Acura is ranking high in technology aspects and brand awareness and those types of things.” Those type of things? Ed Farrell, associate director for Consumer Reports' survey team, defended the mag's methodology. He told Ward's that they interrupted 1,720 U.S. adults' family dinner to ask brand-related questions, like “When you think of performance, what car best typifies to you performance?” Typifies to you? On an aggregate basis, top place finishers Toyota and Honda earned scores of 189 and 146. Acura garnered just eight points, finishing below Audi (14 points), Mitsubishi (21 points) and Mercury (22 points). According to the unnamed Acura spokesman, "That may be one of those snapshots that’s blurry when it comes to Acura’s real image.” May? Looks like Acura joins another well-known automotive brand at the top of the charts for obfuscation, petulance, arrogance and denial.

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42 Comments on “Acura “Aghast” At Last Place CR Brand Ranking...”

  • avatar

    How about renaming the brand “Legend”?

  • avatar

    Having owned several Acuras in the past (although none currently), I am disappointed, but not surprised by Acura’s poor showing.

    CR’s brand rankings are more a popularity contest than anything else, and Acura (along with most of the other bottom ranking companies) don’t advertise heavily, or sell in large numbers, so they are off the radar of most people.

    With the departure of the NSX, Acura doesn’t really have a flagship vehicle (the boring RL doesn’t count) to generate any interest or publicity.

  • avatar

    CR’s brand rankings are more a popularity contest than anything else,


    But had they asked
    “When you think of techno-gadgetry and torque steer, what car best typifies to you techno-gadgetry and torque steer?”

    Although BMW, MB, and Infiniti would have scored well on the “useless gadget” category.

  • avatar

    Acura has been a badly managed brand – worthy of the type of scrutiny/scorn that TTAC directs at GM.

    Acura invented the Japanese near luxury segment with the Legend. It thrived, then was left to rot, eventually killed. The NSX flirted with the exotic end of things, then was left to rot. They reinforced the brand at the lower end with the Integra. They killed it too. Despite strong brand names (legends?) they converted to a silly alpha nomenclature (RL anyone?). They started to focus more and more on SUVs and crossovers, like everyone else in the business. They should not be at all surprised the Acura brand has dropped off the radar.

  • avatar

    What really surprises me is that Mercury is by far the most worthless brand as its products are literally Fords with nicer leather and a waterfall grill – nothing else to differentiate it. Acura’s products are examples of badge engineering done well (and not cheap carbon copies of mainstream vehicles) b/c they are actually improved from their platform siblings.

    Acura is indeed in the midst of an identity crisis. The MDX and RDX hold their own quite well – the RL is glaringly missing a critical aspect (v8 or turbo v6) – the TL is one of the best luxury FWD performance sedans out there (but as much as Acura would like to think, FWD cannot compete) – the TSX is a great car and I think the right move Acura made getting away from the Integra and RSX (as thas was always confusing even though the car was a wonderful one). If Acura wants to push performance they need to get away from FWD underpinnings and have a true RWD or RWD based AWD platform.

    Acura needs to wake up and smell reality here.

  • avatar

    Consumer perception is (right or wrong) that Acura is at its core, a Honda, albeit with more technology and appointments.
    They (and I) don’t think that an Acura has any more durability, drivability or “panache” than the Honda lineup to justfy the price premium.

    Who’s fault is that?

  • avatar

    For the future: I think Honda should offer the upcoming i-DTEC clean diesel + SH-AWD across most of the line, and remake Acura as a green performance brand.

    Everyone else is doing it, right?

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    Interesting, but not surprised. I had a room mate back in college, and we still hang out regularly, with a TSX. It has been just one headache after another for him.

  • avatar

    Yeah, Acura has really dropped the ball. Although almost every other car here in nyc is a tsx, nobody mentions the brand with the same enthusiasm they did in the late 90s. Actually nobody mentions the brand at all. Their lineup is just bland. Decent cars, great value, but nothing to stir the heart. Not like the Legend or the Integra. Switching to alpha-numeric car names was a huge mistake in my mind. I think the decision to drop the RSX was the right move as the new civic si was basically a bit better car for the same price, sans leather. But they desperately need a rwd v8 that blows away people the way the Legend did back in 90. However, I think that’s all it would take to put their name back in the limelight. Just one damn good car. All their cars are “pretty” good. They just need one jaw-dropper.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I have to agree with those in the “It started downhill with the dropping of the Legend and the discontinuation of the Integra” crowd. They make nice vehicles – but aspirational? Not quite.

  • avatar

    Acura certainly needs to define itself as a brand.

    Honda’s John Mendel in Sept. of 2007:

    “Our goal is to move Acura into a Tier 1 luxury brand,” we’re pretty clear about it. BMW is well established, and Acura is not, in terms of a brand image.”

    “For the first time in its history, we’ve got a very clear vision of what the brand is going to be when it grows up; the next three to four years are going to be absolutely critical for us to put a fine point on that.”

    “You will not see a big bang- as if suddenly it was this and now it isn’t.”

    We’ll see.

  • avatar

    I agree with most people’s bland assessments of the brand. My parents are Acura loyalists – moving from a ’98 RL to a ’07 RL and from a ’02 MDX to a ’07 MDX. In driving all 4 cars, and especially the RL’s, I don’t see any real difference that would justify their price over a Honda. My recent drive in the ’07 AWD RL seemed no better than a modern Accord. I think the reliability brings them back more than anything else, after suffering with Volvo’s and Lincoln’s in the past.

    I wish the Legend would come back and make a splash with a V8 and S-AWD… and maybe a hybrid drive that would significantly undercut the price of the Lexus LS.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Our Acura RL, an excellent car notwithstanding unacceptable dealer support, is often mistaken for a Honda Accord. Our Infiniti FX is never confused with anything else.

  • avatar

    maybe if they offered something other than FWD, and something other than 4 or 6 cylinders.

    the turbo 4 is a step in the right direction

    as is the SH-AWD

    but what they REALLY need is a big, powerful, RWD V8 like us ‘Mmericans love.

  • avatar

    Consumers don’t seem to be putting their money where their mouth is.

    Acura’s have sustained good sales numbers relative to other brands in the U.S. and it seems like people are willing to pay a premium for their cars over Hondas (if not the brand itself).

    However, this perception survey reflects Acura’s failure at the 50K RL. Just not enough brand panache yet to get into the 50K range, even if they are doing quite well in the 30 to low 40’s range.

  • avatar

    As a current TL owner, I can vouch for the Acura over it’s rivals. Sure, 260 HP through the front wheels doesn’t allow you to accelerate hard through corners. Ok, it doesn’t slide around corners at high speed quite as easily as the Infiniti or BMW. As a great value car – it beats all competitors hands down. Sized larger than the 3 series it’s definitely more comfortable for 4 tall adults and priced with comparable options it nicks the infiniti by a bit, and BM and Audi by a lot. Behind the wheel, it’s a completely different car from the Accord – by a lot. For interiors, I liked it the best of Audi, BMW, and Infiniti.

    I agree there are no flagship cars and this is a real problem, but for a lot of real world drivers, the TL and TSX are some of the best ways to get around.

  • avatar

    but what they REALLY need is a big, powerful, RWD V8 like us ‘Mmericans love.

    That’s the glaring missing link in their lineup. And why? It’s not like Honda doesn’t have the capital or engineering talent. Whiskey,Tango,Foxtrot?

  • avatar

    Without a doubt when Acura introduced the ugly, expensive, thristy, small, RDX I knew Acura had truly drop the ball and was in trouble. This is a vehicle that no one asked for.

    How many flavors of the Accord does Honda really expect us to be interested in;

    All are so similar that Honda has its hands tied in terms of offering features. It has been a few years since the Acura fans have been asking for a Turbo AWD TSX or AWD TL. Honda cant do it because it will hurt the over priced RL which needs AWD to make it special (News flash to Honda AWD is no big deal today, you can get it in a $16,000

    To make matter worse the TL has been made totally redundant by the new Accord. Oh, I forgot the TL handles a little bit better!

    What exactly is Acura? Is it Luxury? No. Is it performance? No. Is it Value? No, thats what Honda is for. So when all is said and done we find that Acura has become nothing more than a few fancy Accords and a Fancy Pilot and CRV.

    Everyone loves to rag on Toyota for having a boring line-up but IMO Honda is doing no better!

  • avatar

    So, can we conclude from this that Acura is (ahem) a “Legend” in their own mind?

  • avatar

    The recipe to fix Acura is not hard, since the products (being based on Hondas) are fairly good, just a little anonymous. And no, it does not involve a V8 sedan (which is the antithesis of everything Honda).

    1. Bring back the Legend name. Getting rid of the Legend name was the biggest blunder they made. Just rebadging the current RL to Legend will probably double the sales alone (from 5 to 10). Oh, and updating your large sedan more often than once a decade probably wouldn’t hurt, either.

    2. Bring on the NSX replacement, pronto. A luxury marque absolutely needs a halo car.

    3. Bring back the Type-S submodels. The TL and TSX barely have any HP advantage over their Honda counterparts (or their competition). Even if they don’t sell a lot, the Type-S submodels add excitement and cachet to the products they are based on (like the BMW M and Audi S models).

    4. Roll out SH-AWD to the rest of the product line. True enthusiasts will never accept FWD. Again, even if the take up is low, you still need to at least offer it to silence your critics.

  • avatar

    People have brought up a number of problems w/ the acura brand. nonetheless, I don’t understand how it ends up so low with CR. Lower than a mercury, and a mitsubishi? A mercury is nothing,and a mitsubishi is a Japanese Pontiac, and nothing more.

    Acura should bring back the Integra, and they should do RWD, and maybe an inline six. I don’t think, in this day and age, that they need a V8. It’s out of character, and the time for v8s in anything but hellfire performance cars is over.

  • avatar
    Jim H

    I actually like surveys until they do things like, “Pick one…” when there are so many options to pick.

    For example, chocolate ice cream consistantly scores high on surveys followed by vanilla…shocker…that doesn’t mean strawberry is bad, it just doesn’t rank #1 or #2 when only given one option. And of course, the “exotic” flavors/mixes don’t even hit the radar even though they sell millions of gallons every year.

    If asked on a survey what my favorite mexican dish is or one that I’d try at a new Mexican restaurant…my answer is always “cheese enchiladas”…if a restaurant can’t get that right…no need to even look at the rest of the menu. Once that dish passes the taste test, I can venture into other things.

    Ack…I just said Honda and Toyota were cheese enchiladas…Acura is more of a Fajita dish. ;)

  • avatar

    It will be interesting to see if Acura sits around being “Aghast” for the next ten years, becoming less and less relevant, or if they’ll actually do something about it. It’ll likely depend on how much Honda wants to seriously play in the luxury car market, is my guess.

  • avatar

    The second generation Legend was truly a special car. One of the things that make this Legend so special was that it had a front-rear mounted engine which gave the car mininmal front overhang and RWD car proportions. By moving the RL to a transverse FWD layout Honda has made $50,000+ car that looks entirely to similar to its $25,000 platform mate.

  • avatar

    If you want to see evidence of a damaged “luxury” brand take a look at Acura Canada. For years they have been selling the EL and now the CSX, which is literally a sugar-coated Civic.

    Its been good for business, but nobody thanks of Acura being anywhere close to the top-tier.

  • avatar

    If people were instead asked to choose between the desirability of Acura vs. BrandX for all other X’s in the survey listed one after the other, I think the responses would have been quite different, and likely more relevant to actual buying decisions.

  • avatar

    Despite what I just wrote, the simple fact that they finished last in a CR survey, regardless of survey methodology, has got to be of some concern to Acura management. With the possible exceptions of Volvo and Honda, I can’t think of a brand more stereotypically associated with sensible CR readers than Acura.

  • avatar
    Jon Paul

    It may not be luxury or performance, but to claim Acura is not value is just plain wrong, at least when it comes to the TSX and TL.

    Acura’s problem isn’t that it’s just a fluffed-up Honda; heck, there are few Lexus that still look like Camrys. No, Acura’s problem is that it has become the new Buick.

  • avatar

    Own a 2007 V6 Accord. Didn’t look at the Acura TL when I made purchase decision.

    Just did a price comparison. For an additional $10,000 you get 18 more HP, 8 ft/lb more torque, “shiftable” auto and the need for premium gas. I assume suspension is “better” and perhaps leather is better (my Accord has about the cheapest leather I can imagine).

    I think the added value is missing on the Acura and the brand recognition doesn’t add $10,000 value.

  • avatar

    Their egregious marketing problems can be fixed faster and easier than their bland product issues.

    Going to alphanumeric names was a mistake — I can’t keep any of them straight except the MDX five minutes after looking at their website.

    Bring back the Legend and Integra — the names and the products. The names were supposedly killed off because they were much stronger brands than ‘Acura’ and management demanded that the manufacturer’s name be the primary brand identification for all the vehicles — WTF? It didn’t help.

    The product line badly needs a premium entry-level vehicle like the Integra to bring in younger buyers given the weakness and blandness of the Acura brand.

  • avatar

    Obviously like all surveys/exit polls this one is to be mocked…..Toyota = performance?


    however, the acura is a brand without meaning…nothing special over Lexus/BMW/etc.

    Buying an Acura implies, “can’t afford a Lexus or BMW so I settled for a TL.”

    sorry, but it’s true. acura has nothing special.

  • avatar

    My brother is on his second Acura. First one was a 2002 2 dr Type S that went through 2 transmissions in 60,000 miles. While at the dealer getting 2nd tranny, he traded the ’02 for a new leftover ’07 TL Type S. So far, a broken rear defogger and replaced rear struts. Both within 2,000 miles.

  • avatar

    Buying an Acura implies, “can’t afford a Lexus or BMW so I settled for a TL.”

    Can’t afford or unwilling to pay an inflated premium for what amounts to very little extra over the TL.

    I’m sorry but even in its compromised state the TL is still a worthy competitor to a base 328i or C-class Benz. Honestly cars like the TL highlight the real world shortcomings of these tiny RWD cars.

    I guess this same arguement can apply if you compare an Accord to a TL.

  • avatar

    One of my friends has the older body style TL. His transmission literally locked up on him, skidding tires and everything. That’s actually the worst transmission problem I’ve heard of from anyone I know. Out of warranty, too. Nice…

  • avatar

    Buying an Acura implies, “can’t afford a Lexus or BMW so I settled for a TL.”

    To a small extent that’s true. In my IT/tech peer group, Acura implies better front drive handling than Japanese Buicks Lexi without the financial strain of a B(reak) M(y) W(allet)s.

  • avatar

    # Jon Paul :
    Acura’s problem isn’t that it’s just a fluffed-up Honda; heck, there are few Lexus that still look like Camrys. No, Acura’s problem is that it has become the new Buick.

    Yeah, but if the old Buicks you are comparing Acura to are ’64 Wildcat, or Skylark, or Electra 225, those were really nice cars. That’s what I thought of the first time I heard Acura called “the new buick.” On the other hand,if you are thinking something from the ’80s or ’90s, that’s a problem.

  • avatar

    We can discuss the specific problems Acura is facing and also potential solutions, but in the end we need to look at the root cause.

    The root cause? Honda’s arrogance. Honda’s arrogance and stubborness has led to the problems that Acura has today.

    For example, there is the very stubborn attitude Honda has of “one size fits all”. Honda thinks that ONE platform (the Accord platform) will satisfy all the markets it enters, from the midsize sedan market, to the entry-level luxury market, to the midsize premium luxury sedan market. Honda also holds a stubborn “one size fits all” attitude towards powertrains. The RL uses the same V6 found in the TL which also happens to be virtually the same V6 found in the Honda Accord and other Honda products.

    The RDX has a turbo four and the MDX has a 3.7L V6, neither of which are found in Honda products. Problem is it’s too little, too late and people’s perception of Acura is deeply ingrained.

    Sorry Honda, but that stubborn “one size fits all” attitude won’t fly in the luxury market.

    To compare to Lexus, from the VERY beginning Lexus tried hard to differentiate itself from Toyota models. Toyota made their first V8 JUST for the Lexus brand.

    If we look at Lexus today, with the exception of the RX, ES, and GX all other Lexus models DO NOT share platforms with Toyota models. The new LX shares the same 5.7L engine as in the Tundra and Sequoia, but the LX does NOT share platforms. The LX has it’s own platform.

    The IS and GS do not share platforms with any North American Toyota models. The new LS has a platform that is TOTALLY unique, not shared AT ALL with any Toyota vehicle in the world. Also, the IS, GS, and LS all have different engines not shared with any North American Toyota models.

    There is the new IS-F and LS600h, both of which have completely unique powertrains not shared with any other Lexus or Toyota models.

    The LS, GS, and IS-F also offer an 8-speed transmission, developed specially for Lexus.

    For the most part, Acura models use the same platforms, same engines, and same transmissions as Honda models.

    Even if Acura were to improve greatly, it will take a long time to change people’s perception.

    Honda and Acura deserve a lot more criticism than they are currently getting. To be fair, I respect Honda and I currently own a Honda (although I will soon sell it due to too many problems). I just can’t stand Honda’s stubborn attitude about everything. Toyota in comparison has a much more open attitude than Honda. Toyota is willing to work hard to provide what the market wants. Honda is stubborn and is not willing to do the same.

  • avatar

    I think Acuras have among the best styling of any family and performance sedans, although I like the Bangle Bimmers better. I’m not kidding, I really do. I guess I just killed my credibility.

    Acuras may not be super exciting looking, but they lack the flaws that go with most of the other brands. The new ‘rus are ugly in a bland way, Mitsubishis are ugly like Pontiacs, even the vaunted new Impala has a bunch of flaws, and don’t get me started about all the crap that’s coming out of Cerberus. Even the VWs and Audis have lines that are just misplaced. Not so with the Acuras. The Fusion is not bad.

  • avatar

    I was kind of a Honda partisan in college, and in my twenties and thirties I owned two Civics, two Accords and a Prelude. When Acura was formed (and I could afford one) I was a natural candidate for one. I bought an Acura Vigor and was pretty happy with it.

    The Vigor was the last Honda product I owned. The posts here made me think about the reasons that I haven’t thought seriously about Acura since selling the Vigor, even though I’ve purchased several Infinitis and Lexuses since then.

    In the mid-level luxury market, Acura just has nothing to offer. The RL is blandly styled – completely invisible on the street unless its mistaken for an Accord. Worse, there is no V-8 option and all of the cars are FWD (except the AWD RL). These tell me Acura isn’t a serious player in this category.

    I’ve looked at Acura’s product line each time I’m ready to buy a car because I still perceive Acura as building a quality product. But every time I look, I can’t find a way that Acura equals its segment competition, let alone beats it.

    I also agree that the switch to alphanumeric model names was really confusing.

  • avatar

    Personally, I admire Honda for sticking to its values and not building a V8. And in this day and age, it makes little sense to build one anyways, except in pickup trucks.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    First: You folks need to get the message. The V8 era is over. “Interest Fades in the Once-Mighty V-8” by Bill Vlasic in the NYTimes on Jan. 16, 2008:

    The V-8 engine, long a symbol of power for American car companies, is sputtering. At the Detroit auto show this week, Detroit’s Big Three are promoting smaller engines and alternative-fuel vehicles, eliminating the V-8 from many models and relegating it to niche status.

    Ford Motor, which first popularized the V-8 in the 1930s, will start using a turbocharged 6-cylinder in many vehicles, including the next generation of its Explorer sport utility vehicle. …

    General Motors recently canceled a $300 million program to develop a new V-8, citing new fuel-economy standards that require a 40 percent improvement in overall gas mileage by 2020. …

    Car companies, in a sense, are catching up with shifting consumer tastes: sales of V-8 engines in the United States have dropped 24 percent since 2004, according to the auto research firm R. L. Polk & Company.

    I am fairly certain that Honda will not turn around now and do something they have never done before at a time when everyone else is coming around to their position.

    Second, you must appreciate that Honda always looks to minimize the number of platforms and engines that it is building and to maximize its opportunities to sell them.

    The Legend of which so many speak so fondly above is and was a JDM car that Honda brought over to sell here. It still is although they call it the RL now. The TL is sold in Japan as the Honda Inspire. The TSX, which was the old JDM Accord sedan is the smallest Acura in the US, but in Canada, the JDM Civic is sold as the Acura CSX.

    I do not know what the future holds, but I assume it will be much like the past and Honda will continue to badge engineer Acuras from JDM products and experiment with what works.

    I am hoping for a compact sedan with a turbo diesel as the next TSX.

  • avatar

    I’ve always been an admirier of Acura’s line-ups because I’ve own a few of them, legend, integra, and the TL. But when acura recently release the new RDX, I was disappointed, to top it off they have discontinue the NSX, CL and the RSX (due to loss in competition with the Honda Civic). But I’ve heard the new generation NSX is in the works and I’ve heard rumors that Acura is puting the same engine found in the RDX into the TSX. Hopefully in a few years the line-up will be back on track. Now back to the article, Acura doesn’t really spend alot of money advertising their models compare with other manufacturers, so this might answer the question that alot of people are unaware of the brand and it’s performance a technology. For example the Acura RL, comes with some of the some advance car systems ever, but due to it’s v6 power, cars like the lexus GS models, Infinity G and M class tend to win over. So don’t take people advice or rely on CR, go out and experience it for yourself.

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