By on March 1, 2013

It’s hard to swallow the fact that the above photograph of me perched on the hood of my father’s Integra GS-R, one of the all-time great Acura products, is now nearly 20 years old. I can’t even remember the last time I saw an Integra on the road. Most of those cars have been crashed, stolen, rusted out or some combination of all three. There is nothing remotely close to the three-door VTEC hatchback in Acura’s lineup right now – and if you ask some people, that’s exactly why Acura is in its current predicament.

At least Acura brass are fairly candid (well, as much as one can expect from a PR pro) about the brand’s current situation. Spokesman Mike Accavitti told Bloomberg

[Acura’s] “biggest negative is we are known as a value company in the premium space…what we have to do from a marketing perspective is ramp up the emotional element.”

Bloomberg’s article states that Acura is eschewing the conventional approach to expansion, namely, growing sales in China, in favoring of focusing on the U.S. market and rebuilding their reputation in America. The RLX is getting positive press (despite being a front-drive, V6 powered sedan, which many enthusiasts regard as poison in the luxury segment), but the replacement for the TL will have to do the heavy lifting. It’s also worth asking how far the $1 billion dollar investment will go, given that $1 billion is typically required to bring a single new model to market. It’s an impressive figure to throw around, but in the context of the industry, it’s not an enormous sum.

Many of us would argue that Acura’s lineup from two decades ago did provide that necessary excitement that’s been missing for so long. Sure, Acura may not have been what we now call a “Tier 1 luxury brand”, but neither were they derisively viewed as little more than tarted up Hondas (as many people seem to think now). But in those two decades, so much has changed.

The best example of how different things are now is Audi. What was once an absolute non-entity still reeling from a malignant smear campaign, into the chicest luxury car one can buy right now. Rather than follow the usual suggestions for rear-drive platforms, V8 engines and a general emulation of BMW, Mercedes or Lexus, the Audi example might be the best to follow; a slow, measured and deliberate climb to the top, rather than hoping for an overnight Hail Mary pass that will suddenly reverse the brand’s standing.

 

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

129 Comments on “Acura’s Billion Dollar Revitalization...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    I reading this from car while driving and it read, “Beak revitalization”.

  • avatar
    DeeDub

    One way to “ramp up the emotional element” would be to go back to actual model names. RLX MDX ZDX XYZ – who could feel emotionally attached to that?

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      Agreed, random letter and number designations are not human-friendly. I tend to think in terms of small, medium and large Acura, Mercedes, Lincoln etc since the alphabet-soup is nearly impossible to memorize.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        At least the Germans manage to make it make sense – as the numbers letters get bigger, the car gets bigger/more expensive. Simple, and easy to understand. The Acura/Lincoln alphabet soup is just stupid, and now Infiniti wants in on it too.

        Real names and lose the beak and Acura will be on it’s way again, maybe. Personally, I doubt there is much market for something like the Integra anymore though.

        • 0 avatar
          James2

          Mercedes apparently thinks there are only two letters in the alphabet: C and S. Most of their product lines seem to revolve around those two.

          • 0 avatar
            Demetri

            Mercedes has by far the most confusing model names.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            I still don’t understand why the M-class is not called the ML-class, especially now that the GL class is based on the same platform. I’m assuming it wasn’t called the M350/M500 (or 550 nowadays) because of BMW’s M.

            They sort of boxed themselves in with their early names though. The CL-class was originally Coupe Leicht (Light). The CLK was an offshoot — the Coupe Leicht Kurtz (short).

            I believe the CLS (based on the E-class, but with some S-class cues) was meant to spin off this too — Coupe Leicht Sportlich. Sporty light coupe, even though it is a “4-door coupe”.

            The G is the Geländewagen. The GL is the Geländewagen Leicht (since it’s lighter duty than the G-wagen). The GLK (aka the Gotta Look Kardashian) is the Kurtz version of that.

            The SL I believe is Sportlich Leicht. Similary the SLK is the Kurtz version. SLR is Sportlich Leicht Rennsport (racing).

            I believe ML is a weird one — Merhzweck Licht — general purpose light. The reason it’s “light” is that it very light compared to Mercedes’ heavy trucks.

            S-Class is Sonderklasse or highest class. The E-Class actually refers to the old fact that it was fuel injected (Einspritzmotor).

            The C-Class is probably just Compact, and I believe CLC (which was formerly known as the C230 coupe in the US before being discontinued in the US) is Coupe Leicht Compact. And then A- and B- just came after to represent even more compact Mercedes vehicles.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Legend was such a sexy name. I miss it!

    • 0 avatar
      stars9texashockey

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      gregx-5

      That and build some desirable cars. If they are only talking about this as a marketing problem – which the quote in the article seems wholly concerned with – it sounds like they still havent learned.

    • 0 avatar
      morbo

      + XYZ

      Agreed. The latest TLXMKQ530i is incomprehensible. I know what an Acura Legend, Acura Integra, even an Acura Vigor are. Damned if I know what an MDXILTLRLLLBean is. Granted there are exceptions like the NSX or E-Klasse. But cars should have names. Lincoln Continental. Acura Legend. Ford ThunderCougerFalconBird.

      **said by the 300C driving hypocrite**

    • 0 avatar
      phlipski

      Could someone please show me the marketing study’s that prove how car names sell cars and that things like styling, quality and performance have nothing to do with it? I’ve never understood this line of thinking, “Geee umm Acura sure has great cars, but nobody is buying them because the names suck!” What’s so great about Audi’s naming convention? S4? S8?
      A8? Hmmm those are KILLERS!

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        I don’t know about marketing studies, but I bet you anything there are tons of them that car manufacturers commission, along with focus groups. As much as we poo-poo the stupid new Infiniti names (and rightfully so), I bet they did their homework.

        • 0 avatar
          ranwhenparked

          Maybe, maybe not. When pressed by Mulally, Lincoln brand executives could only offer a vague “everyone else does it” sort of defense for their MK names. Maybe Nissan did a better job researching than Ford, but it does sound as if at least one luxury brand sort of winged their naming strategy.

      • 0 avatar
        Les

        “Your name is in the mouths of others, be sure it has teeth.”

        Good engineering, good styling, good handling, performance and trim aren’t worth anything if nobody knows you have those attributes, and what convinces more people of that than word of mouth? That’s where a name comes in, with a good name you can have name recognition, people instantly know what a Corvette or a Viper or a Mustang are and they’re encouraged to pay attention when people speak of them, less so when you just regurgitate some random alphaneumerics.

        The Germans get a pass because they’ve stuck with their naming scheme long enough and it follows a perceptible internal logic so those numbers and letters like R8 and M3 or SLS have developed name recognition of their own.. less so with things like MKZ or RDX.

        Acura has names like Integra, Lincoln has names like Continental, names with Cachet that if attached to the right product can get people talking and if that product has all the styling, quality and performance which you speak of then the talk will be favorable and will generate buzz which will generate business. Instead both rely on alphabet-soup drawn from the ether as a ‘Me-Too’ to the Germans without the Germans’ rhyme or reason that just leaves people thinking things like, “Acura? Lincoln? I suppose if they’re closer than the Chrysler and Cadillac showrooms…”

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      “One way to “ramp up the emotional element” would be to go back to actual model names. RLX MDX ZDX XYZ – who could feel emotionally attached to that?”

      I live in a world of alphabet soup around 12 hours a day. I use alphabet soup to make my living, and I’m good at it.

      But I’m sick of alphabet soup, so I’m not going to put any effort toward decoding Acura’s or Lincoln’s brand-homogenous alphabet soup. The novelty of abbreviations wore off a long time ago, and it just reminds me of being tired and at work, rather then making me feel like I’m “in the know” or “sophistimacated”. Figuring out Acura’s nomenclature is roughly the same amount of work as connecting to the office VPN, and I get paid to do that.

      It’s time to return to real names for these cars. And I say this as someone in mid-30s who could afford one of these cars if I thought owning a luxury car was important. If they want to convince me that these cars have compelling benefits over the cube-shuttle and daycare-bus in my driveway, they can start by not-making-me-work to figure out if we’re talking about their sedan or their CUV, or whatever. They could only make me work to appreciate the brand if I already aspire to it. But both of these brands need to make their case to potential buyers who don’t already have a strong opinion about the brand, so they need to actually describe the product.

      Let’s draw on bad 1990s Anime-style translations from Japanese:
      1) Acura ComfyHappyFastCar!
      2) Acura FamilyCarTruckWagonThing!
      See, now we can actually tell the models apart without a quick-reference card or a pen-and-paper logic exercise! Now, what exactly makes the ComfyHappyFastCar better better than the paid off gray Prius in my driveway?

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “The RLX is getting positive press (despite being a front-drive, V6 powered sedan, which many enthusiasts regard as poison in the luxury segment)”

    Fixed it for you.

    The RLX is getting positive press (despite being essentially redundant to the TL, which many enthusiasts regard as poison in the luxury segment),

    • 0 avatar
      Flybrian

      Agreed. The DTS/XTS have/has more going for it than the RLX has. Drive wheels have nothing to do with it.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The only thing I can think of by keeping RL vanilla, is because they plan to decouple TL from Accord and take it in a different direction. This strategy at least makes some sense.

    • 0 avatar
      L'avventura

      The RLX is a bit of marketing failure. Acura should have launched the upcoming AWD 370hp V6-hybrid variant first, or with, the FWD model. As its basically an NSX in reverse.

      Its compelling technology; 370hp, electric-AWD, 7-speed dual-clutch, and 30 mpg. If they had packaged it in a design that would have communicated that technology (such as they did with the new NSX, and launched the RLX as such it would have been a strong statement about Acura as brand.

      Instead, the RLX conversation is basically dominated by its FWD nature and subdued design, moreover, there is a derogatory association of being basically an upmarket Accord.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    so Acura has determined that what they need to do is build a Toyota Avalon?

    This is like the GOP saying they need to get tougher on immigrants and gays.

    Acura is spending more time and effort telling us why they don’t need a RWD platform than they would have spent coming up with a RWD platform.

    • 0 avatar
      stars9texashockey

      Illegal immigrants

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I’d stick with all immigrants. I was on a long term Visa in the States and looked into getting a green card. The process is long, expensive, and much of it is ridiculous and doesn’t make sense. Definitely designed to keep most people out.

        I have a few friends who emigrated to the US and also found the process frustrating and nonsensical. In contrast, I have a few friends who immigrated to Canada from the US and found the process simple and easy. They were able to integrate and start working nearly immediately as opposed to the US where it can take months and years.

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          Canada and Australia admit immigrants based on (1) skills and qualifications and (2) family reunification. United States has an immigration lottery.

          As a homework assignment, you should consider and discuss the implications of these systems.

        • 0 avatar
          onyxtape

          In terms of immigrating to Canada or Australia, I know that for Canada you can essentially buy your way in. You need to deposit $300k with the Canadian government for 5 years or something like that. Either that or start a business that employs 1 or more Canadians for at least 1 year. I think Australia/NZ has a similar system from what I’ve heard. If you don’t have a ton of money, a good college degree will also do.

          In the US, we like to take in poor illiterates from places we bomb. The Canadian way makes a lot more sense financially (but of course, not morally from some standpoints). We like to chastise Mexicans for sneaking over, but it’s hard to blame them when the law-abiding ones who applied back in the early 90s are still waiting in line.

          As there are also tons of Chinese who wish to immigrate to the US, the wait is quite long too. Many have taken the long hard path – immigrating first to a Latin American country (Paraguay or Panama, for example) who have a much shorter line for immigration to the US, start a business there and get citizenship before applying to move to the US. That’s pretty hardcore.

      • 0 avatar
        wsn

        I agree. Illegal immigrants are hurting legal ones.

        They ruin the reputation, complicate the process and occasionally use the quota for legal immigrants.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          “occasionally use the quota for legal immigrants”

          Explain this one.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            The quotas are unrealistic. Luxemburg, India, and Mexico all have the same quota.

            The line for legal immigration from Mexico is decades long. The line for legal immigration from India is being blatently gamed by my employer, because they want to move Indians who have been working for the company in India to the USA in a kind of try-before-you-buy arrangement.

            A merit-based system of any kind would make a lot more sense. It’s either that or hire the same people to do the same work – in Bangalore.

          • 0 avatar
            bikephil

            I say ship all the illegals back to wherever they came from. Quit apologizing to the muslims for offending them. Quit paying so much attention to the gays. No one wants to know what you do behind closed doors anyway. If you can’t speak English go back to your motherland.

          • 0 avatar
            Luke42

            @bikephil:

            It must be easy to not have any gay people in your family or circle of friends – I pay as little attention to the issue as possible, but when people spend more money than I will make in my lifetime to make my sister’s life difficult for no good reason makes it hard to pay less attention to the issue

            It must be super easy to not care the reasoning (or lack thereof) behind our immigration policy. I worked for a university and now work for a dot-com, so my circle of friends includes a lot of educated legal immigrants who speak English who are still having trouble converting from, say, a student visa to a work visa — being sent home for no reason, despite being some of the world’s best and brightest engineers.

            It really must be nice to be able to dismiss the whole issue. But, these issues affect my friends and family directly so, no matter how much you wish these issues would just go away, they won’t go away for me personally until we decide to treat these people in a fair way under the law.

    • 0 avatar
      EX35

      “Acura is spending more time and effort telling us why they don’t need a RWD platform than they would have spent coming up with a RWD platform.”

      THIS.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Acura could at least arrive to the gun fight with a gun, not a knife.

      http://www.motortrend.com/roadtests/sedans/1210_2013_acura_ilx_vs_buick_verano_turbo/viewall.html

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Agreed, Derek. That photo shows a time when an Integra was a good-looking, cool car. But as you say, revitalization will take years.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Nostalgia is a bitch. The Legend Coupe and Integra were perfect for the times, in the same way the LS400 was. The common denominator, to me, was the balance and lightweight feel those cars imparted to the driver. My Father in law has one of the beak nosed versions, and while pleasant enough, it has none of the character of the early models. What does it say about the product when even a gearhead like me cannot remember the model of a $50,000 car he actually drove 150 miles?

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    They need a new RWD platform, period. I would pay good money to have the genius behind VTEC and cars ranging from the GS-R to the NSX that could simultaneously thrill me + carry my family around in comfort. They need to make a clean break from Honda and bring their expertise to a platform appropriate to the luxury market.

    Seriously, there is no reason to pay $30K for a CSX 2.4 when an Accord coupe is literally better in every way. They have too much overlap and not enough draw in the luxury market.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Not sure I agree with the hail mary comparison. The first A4 was indeed a hail mary, and landed Audi back in the good graces of customers who had either bad impressions because of UA or had bad experiences with the Audi 80/90. The first A6 was a bore. It wasn’t until after the A4 was released that a heavily redesigned A6 showed up with similar design language.

    Hyundai is the turnaround story though – they seemed a better fit for the constant improvement with no major wins. The Genesis is the, well, genesis of that, but so is the Sonata and Elantra.

    But Hyundai’s problem wasn’t that they made boring cars. Their cars were absolute crap, but they learned and got better.

    Honda just got lazy.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      The “unintended acceleration” debacle aside, Audi has made a long, determined climb to the top of the premium segment from the early 1970s when they were viewed as a “teacher’s car” in Germany. Not one hail mary but a long succession of improvements:

      1976: Audi 100, 5 cylinders and the first credible premium effort
      1980: Audi quattro, AWD and WRC winner
      1983: Audi 100, setting a new benchmark in aero design
      1990: Audi S2 and S4, performance and luxury
      1995: Audi A4, the first of the new Audis
      1999: Audi TT, a premium small car
      2006: Audi R8, a serious sports car

      It’s not one hail mary, not one halo car, not one or two model generations — it’s a long hard slog, and a lot of hard work building a credible and competitive premium brand (FWD or not). Thinking that one can do so in a couple of years is simply not realistic.

      • 0 avatar
        Meko_Suko

        I don’t know. See, I’m in the market now for something in the 50K range (slightly used if I have to). I shy away from the Audi lineup due to electrical issues nearly all of the more recent vehicles have had.

        BMW has also been plagued with the 5 series lineup until around 2010. Pump issues galore. MB … look up Head Bolt Issues on C63. 35K for an AMG engine replacement is no fun at all.

        I think it’s important that one delineate between rapid improvement from a consumer point of view and ‘reliability’ as they really are two different things.

        While emotion will win cars salesman sales, it will not prolong brand loyalty over the long haul. Something nearly all of the Japanese brands have done.

        BTW … the Audi TT was always supposed to be a roadster. Unfortunately, Audi never put an engine in it until nearly 11 years after the first car.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          “I shy away from the Audi lineup due to electrical issues nearly all of the more recent vehicles have had.”

          Which electrical problems in which recent Audis are you talking about?

          The HPFP issue started with the E90 3-Series, didn’t it? And then they fitted the N54 in the 5-Series the year after.

          My impression of the C63 is that the head bolt issue was fixed in 2011, but I’m not a Benz enthusiast.

      • 0 avatar

        Don’t forget th009, that serious, disciplined approach was mad possible by VW’s deep pockets and tutelage. Audi, left alone would not have been able to do it.

        Just for a sad comparison, look at what happened to Alfa Romeo during that time, maybe a 164, maybe a 156, MiTo? No continuity, just fits and starts.

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          Marcelo, I agree with the deep pockets required, in addition to the long-term commitment. In the case of Acura, Honda should be able to (or should have been able to) fund it.

          Alfa Romeo is indeed a sad case of brand neglect, and has gone in the opposite direction. The 4C is promising, but it’s roughly as relevant to Alfa’s business as the NSX is to Acura’s.

        • 0 avatar
          MeaCulpa

          Audi did contribute quite a bit to that success by developing the Golf, spearheading diesel development, making sure – sort of – that VW got the German, and later canadian, government sales of the Iltis.
          Pretty much things that made VW what it is today.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        You shouldn’t forget the diesels, right up there with mercedes and miles ahead of beemers earlier attempts, in the building of a European luxury brand. And the 200, V8 and A8 giving luxury credibility to a base A4, and then there’s the use of motorsports as marketing tool, first the Quattros in Group B and Pikes Peak (with great drivers like Walter and Michele, the later being the opposite of Danica Patrick and a Lady that made Per Eklund utter “nowadays you’re lucky if you win the men’s race”) demonstrating the benefits of 4wd, then racing in the DTM and other series with the large saloons, winning and thereby promoting 4wd and the A4 in the BTCC and now the relentless slaughter at Le Mans.

  • avatar
    tced2

    The main problem is that Acura doesn’t get focused on what they are actually doing. For example, the first-gen TSX was a good car unlike any other car in their lineup (or the Honda line). The second-gen TSX was made bigger and a V6 was available (the fun-to-drive quotient was lowered). They already had a perfectly good bigger V6 car – that would be the TL. They also attempted to move the TL up into the RL territory.

    There are other economic problems – like the TSX is manufactured in Japan – and the currency conversions don’t allow the TSX to be profitable at a more affordable price. They tried to fix all that with the ILX (made in Indiana) but the configuration of the car is more like a Civic (on which it is based). The ILX comes up short in various specifications (lower powered engine, 5-speed automatic tranny) that don’t compare well with the competition.

    They need unique cars at unique price points. I expect top-of-the-line engineering and features in each model – like the most powerful Honda-world 4-cylinder engine in the ILX, 6-speed automatic – unique to the Acura lineup.

    • 0 avatar
      B Buckner

      The first TSX was a European Accord. The original Integra was based on the Civic.

    • 0 avatar

      The ILX is a bit unfortunate, not because it’s a bad idea or bad car (it’s really quite good) but it’s just poorly packaged. I know there were engineering issues, but the 2.4 litre 200HP motor should’ve been the standard engine from the start, and the tech package should be available with every motor and engine configuration. The hybrid model was a waste. All they needed for the ILX was:

      2.4l base — Auto? y/n
      2.4l Tech — Auto? y/n

      In many ways the ILX is the spiritual successor of the Integra. Similarly prices, nice interior, good tech, clean but sharp lines and dressed up but not ostentatious.

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        Agreed. Although, from a marketing perspective, it’s a bit pricey given its Civic heritage.

        However, Civic heritage (not interior) appeals to me. I’m sure the car will be cheap and easy to maintain for 10+ years / 200K.

  • avatar
    JuniperBug

    For years people have complained about the ugliness of the Acura beak, to the point where people haven’t bought one just because they couldn’t fathom having to look at that front end every day. Here’s an idea, Acura: get rid of the damn thing! The Elephant Man was distinctive and recognizable, too, but I don’t remember him getting many dates, either.

    This leads me to my second piece of advice: cultivate an identity beyond simply being “that brand whose cars are neither super-luxurious nor driver-focused, but at least look like something you could use to open a can of cat food.” Undo the BS from the last 10-15 years and make cars that are stylish, appeal to drivers, and punch above their price point in terms of quality. It worked in 1994; why not now? It also wouldn’t hurt to recreate the magic of the original NSX, minus the subsequent 2 decades of neglect which rendered an icon of engineering and passion into little more than an overpriced joke.

  • avatar

    What neighborhood?

  • avatar

    “despite being a front-drive, V6 powered sedan, which many enthusiasts regard as poison in the luxury segment”

    Yeah right.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I agree – nothing wrong with V6 FWD.

      The problem is that just about every FWD V6 car made by Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Ford, GM, Hyundai, and VW are all already “near luxury” or “affordable luxury” cars.

      This means that there’s no room for what Acura used to be (sporty near-luxury cars). So, they’ve either got to become a real luxury brand (like Lexus), or become a trim package on Hondas. It’s the same problem faced by Lincoln and Buick, except without the geriatric demographic.

      I’d like to see the S-2000 moved to Acura and reintroduced as a halo car (I’d the demand is there). Lincoln should do something similar. But maybe the demand for luxury cars is already satisfied? Or maybe there’s room for selling nice cars to guys like me, who have been turned off by traditional luxury brands?

      A ComfyHappyFastCar sounds like my kind of thing, if it includes something tangible that isn’t already available in my Sienna or my Prius. Or a Camry or it’s half-dozen serious competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      JD23

      There’s nothing wrong with V6 FWD, but not with over 300hp, and certainly not in the $50k-60k segment.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    As my wife said while I was trying to get her to go out with me on a date years ago: slow and steady wins the race.

    Strong brands are not built overnight, but they can be ruined quickly without proper care.

    The truth behind any and all cars is product, product, and product. Get the product right and it will sell. The original A4 was Audi’s reintroduction to the United States and (in looks at least), was a solid improvement over the competition of the day without carrying the negative image or pricetag (BMW douchers or elderly Merc owners).

    First, lay the groundwork for who you are: In Audi’s case it was the all-wheel-drive, less flashy and less expensive German brand for aspiring young adults. Next, prove you’re more than a one trick pony by introducing competitive models in other segments (A6), then continue pushing your technology differentiator with things like the Audi Space Frame in the A8.

    Flash and dash? Audi knew it wasn’t ready for that until it had established a base. Once in place you drop things like the R8 which demonstrate technical competence, design, performance and a “wow” factor that grabs peoples’ attention. Follow that up with things like the A5, B8 A4, the Q5, Q7 and A3.

    Forget just the US – it’s taken Audi a good 30+ years to build a solid foundation globally. I would argue that it wasn’t until 2009 that Audi really started firing on all cylinders. The new A6, A7, A8 and upcoming MQB A3 plus MLB EVO A4 are the next big leaps that should propel Audi further ahead.

    This is a long winded way of saying that it takes massive amounts of time, you cannot cut corners (ILX…), have to develop a unique, strong and consistent design language and identity and, by the way, did I say that this all takes a lot of time?

    Acura has suffered from inconsistent branding, imaging and product. When I think of Acura I think “the thrifty man’s upscale Honda”. Not what they want. Audi has managed to both draw people away from Merc and BMW and also attract the youth market.

    Audi’s former US head, now at Infiniti, already warned his bosses that revamping the company will take many decades and they will need to be ready to make some considerable investments in the brand.

  • avatar
    mst70

    Great article – I completely agree. I bought a ’91 Integra GS new and loved that car – it was the best car I’ve ever owned, in terms of quality…it was still on it’s original clutch at 140,000 miles. It was great looking (for it’s time), fun to drive, reasonably priced and felt like the people who designed and built it really cared about cars.

    It’s sad to see the steaming piles of over-styled appliances offered by Acura now, and how far the brand has fallen. I knew things were looking bad when they stupidly decided to walk away from all of the brand equity they had in the Legend and Integra nameplates. I can picture the Marketing fools in the pitch meeting now…they’ve probably moved on to consumer goods and are coming up with names for toilet tissues, as they clearly knew nothing about the car business.

    Thanks for making me think back to that great little car, Derek! Let’s hope someone who cares about cars gets them back in shape, and will get rid of those stupid razor blades on the front of the cars now…

  • avatar
    chaparral

    One billion dollars will develop a new Integra, which is really what they need.

    K24/201 under the hood, double wishbones front and rear, spend some money and keep the weight down under 2700, and they’ll be able to move all they build for thirty grand.

    • 0 avatar
      Rum

      I owned a ’94 Integra GSR for about 10 years. It was such a great car in so many ways. I loved it. Still, there’s no way any car company could recreate such a machine today at a reasonable cost. The fundamental attributre of that car was lightness, which enabled its 8000-RPM NA motor and double wishbones to shine. Today, a car in that size and price class would be at least 500 pounds heavier. Then what? Add a bigger, heavier engine, or a non-screamin’ turbo powerplant? Now it’s not like the Integra at all anymore.

      The K-series engine, while has many merits, just isn’t the exciting little ripper that the B-series were.

      • 0 avatar
        Demetri

        I also owned one, but was not the biggest fan of the engine. I much preferred the H-series engine in the Prelude, and later, the K-series in the RSX. My biggest problem with the car was the seats. I had the optional “leather” seats in mine, which were more like vinyl, and were unbelievably hard. Even though I owned a Teg, I was more of a Prelude fan myself. I always felt the Prelude was the better car, even though it was a little more expensive and lacked the liftback functionality.

        • 0 avatar
          Power6

          I am a bit embarrassed to admit I owned a legendary Integra GS-R, the ultimate 2001 only silver GS-R…and I didn’t like it. The cheapness and lightness was cool, but downshifting to 3rd to pass on the highway and getting smoked by minivans wasn’t cool. Perhaps if I was into the track days just a bit earlier I would have tracked and held on to it. That car taught me a lot about what “usable power” means.

          The GS-R was the BRZ/FR-S of its day, slow but loved for handling, some people can’t appreciate that.

          With the BRZ twins and the Civic Si there is no room for a new Integra on the market.

      • 0 avatar
        chaparral

        $15,000 is enough of a cost premium over a basic, same-size Civic, to build the car as a carbon monocoque and build most of the suspension from alloy steel forgings, 7075-T6 aluminum, and magnesium. That – and being very “relaxed” about satisfying NVH demands – knocks it back down into the 2200-lb bracket.

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        Crash and roll-over regs make selling any such Integra today illegal.

        What I really miss is the VISIBILITY from those cars…

        • 0 avatar
          chaparral

          The crash tests required for legality are the same as the ones in 1996. The crash tests to get five-star safety ratings, good IIHS ratings, etc, have changed significantly and made cars much worse in every other ways.

          You could sell a 1996 Integra today. It’d get “poor” ratings from IIHS, get two and three-star ratings, and there’d be some sales resistance and probably higher insurance rates, but you could still legally sell it.

          The ABS computer would have to incorporate stability control, at a minimal weight gain. You’d have to add TPMS. But you don’t have to build a significantly beefier car if you don’t want to. Most people want car makers to build tanks, so they do.

  • avatar
    lowsodium

    I dont know what I weep more over: The fact that Acura doesnt build anything good anymore, or that those old Integra’s are being ruined by “Import enthusiasts”.

  • avatar
    Bellerophon

    One of my most enjoyable rides was my 1989 Acura Integra 2dr. economical, sporty and reliable and always fun to drive. A real standout car at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      EAM3

      I had an ’87 Integra LS that I bought new. Drove it for almost 5 years and well over 200K miles. Terrific little car, economical, fun to drive, huge inside, very well designed, well made and reliable as could be. And yes, the visibility was awesome. I loved that car! For a little variety I decided to try German cars after I sold it.

      Fast forward to 2004, I leased a TL 6 speed hoping to recapture the magic of my Integra. First and foremost, the car was nice enough but the dealer service costs were outrageous. Additionally, I had more than my share of non scheduled dealer visits. When the lease was up, I considered getting another one. The beautiful saddle color interior that my TL had was no longer being made, replaced by a Camry-esque beige that bored me to death. I went back to German and I could not be happier with my 2006 330Ci ZHP, which still puts a smile on my face every time I drive it.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Nostaliga, nostalgia…

    The Integra/RSX were just as much Civic platform variants with bigger engines and more sound insulation that the ILX/Civic is today. Also, if you go back to the US press comments about the original NSX, they were all about how much “wouldn’t it be nice if it had more torque”

    It’s not that Acura failed in becoming a tier-1 luxury brand, it’s that it didn’t execute it’s mission in being the ‘smart-luxury’ tier-2 brand. it takes more thought to build a cheap car well than it does to make an expensive car desirable.

    Where Acura strayed was in chasing the boomers up the age scale. The fabulous and practical TL became the bloated beak-mobile, the RL went out of its way to be non-offensive. RDX’s, not RSX’s. Who could blame them, there was a demographic sea-change going on in automotive buying patterns, and the yen wasn’t on the side of the Japanese any more. You could just as well blame Porsche for not being the makers of the 911 anymore.

    However, a really fundamental problem with Acura is shared with Honda; for an engine company, it’s engine lineup got disappointingly out of synch with it’s model lineup. Many of both divisions problem might be solved by not just updating engines, but re-expanding the variety of engines being offered.

    Also, I hear that Honda had a pretty decent test driver for the original NSX. I hope they break out his notes when they work on the suspension tuning for the new one.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      @stuntmonkey
      >>Also, I hear that Honda had a pretty decent test driver for the original NSX. I hope they break out his notes when they work on the suspension tuning for the new one.

      :)

      It’s telling how the old and better Honda tapped the talents of Senna. BTW, the film “SENNA” is well worth watching.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Acura could build a RWD car tomorrow, have it on the lots by Monday, and it still wouldn’t solve their problems. Acura went astray around 1995-ish when the RL and TL appeared. They saw a bit of a resurgence with the 2nd and 3rd Gen TL, but that was derailed when the 4th Gen TL with beakinitis debuted.

    People remember Acuras for their names. Legend, Integra, hell even the Vigor. People didn’t say they drove an Acura, they could say they drove a “Legend” and you immediately knew what it was. Acura needs that again. No RWD Twin Turbo Diesel Hybrid V8 AWD 4WS will fix that. When buying luxury, you buy branding first, the car second. Say what you want, it’s always been that way and will continue for the foreseeable future.

    Oh yea, my point here is, design will rarely be consistent. Not every generation of a car will look marvelous. HOWEVER, if branding is established, design starts not to matter nearly as much. The next Camry could be a not so good looking car, but I bet it would still sell and Toyota would still have the next generation to rebound.

  • avatar
    Derek

    Great Post! I saw two Integras of this same model on my drive home yesterday, side-by-side and the same metallic blue color.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    #1: WHY are you sitting on the hood of such a classic car in the first place? True car people do not use their own or anyone else’s cars as park benches. #2: All the wrong people have these cars now with their fart cans and lowered suspensions. I guess that’s even worse than sitting on a car. Yeah, let’s take one of the best suspensions a car ever had and melt the springs so that the suspension just goes away. Oh, and let’s get that dent out of the hood where someone sat on it.

    • 0 avatar
      LuciferV8

      Dear Honda/Acura:

      -Bring back the Integra.

      -Actually follow through with bringing back the NSX.

      -Leave the ZDX in its grave and never speak about it again.

      -For the love of God, don’t make an Acura nameplate version of the Crosstour.

      -Make a car with the performance/styling of the Dualnote/DN-X. Oh wait, scratch that – we know you don’t have the stones to even attempt to pull that off.

      -Ditch the doofy Transformers-esque styling up front and bring back 5th and 6th gen Accord styling cues.

      -Make the TSX RWD and throw the engine from the RDX (or even better, the MDX) in.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      He wouldn’t have known 20 years ago that the car was going to be a desirable classic. :-|

  • avatar
    B Buckner

    I owned an 86 MR2 and an 88 Integra at the same time. The MR2 was built using much higher quality interior materials. The Integra suspension would bottom out, sending an horrific slam into the chasis, when hitting a bump at high speed. Both engines were 1.6 liter double overhead cam designs. The MR2 was chain driven, redlined at 7500 rpm and sounded like a Ferrarri when pushed. The Integra engine was redlined at 7000 rpm and sounded like crap. The Integra eventually rusted out. Not a fan.

  • avatar
    chrishs2000

    I remember when the RSX came out, and all the enthusiasts complained and whined because it had Macpherson struts and it was too big and bla bla bla.

    Those truly were great problems to have. The RSX Type-S was a genuinely damn good car, and very unique. It really didn’t have any competition after the Celica went away. But like every good Honda product, they let it die without a replacement.

    • 0 avatar
      Demetri

      I loved the RSX, and felt it was a better car than the Teg in almost every way. Great interior. The handling was a bit of a step down though. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the switch to MacPherson struts, but I know the 2001 Civic also made the same switch and somehow trashed the handling in the process. RSX was not nearly that bad thankfully.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    WHY in the hell would they get rid of the SH-AWD system, which is the ONLY thing giving the car some credibility? If you want to produce luxury but you are too lazy to make a RWD platform, then it damn well better have AWD.

    FWD is for the Avalon. The Avalon is for old people. Old people don’t like high-tech angular cars. Ergo, RLX fail.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    The MDX is really the best Acura available right now. That’s not saying the others are bad, but the MDX is the natural champion.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Except for its fit and finish (see 2010 TTAC review, which I confirmed on a 2012 MDX). But yeah, it’s one of the most popular 3-row mom-machines.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      My vote is for the Acura TSX Wagon as their most interesting in car in their current line up. Just by being a wagon, it departs from conventional thinking. And people forget the original Integra was also available as a 5-door… haha so the TSX Wagon is the true successor to the Integra.

  • avatar
    jaje

    I think the best $1B spent at Honda is early retirement for its aging management who seems to be clueless as to what Honda needs (soul / passion / leading edge).

  • avatar
    philadlj

    That picture can’t have been snapped in Canada. The roads are paved!

    ;)

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    My second new car purchase was a 1987 Integra. This was after significant research, and after discarding candidates like the Scirocco 16v and the Corolla GTS (yes, the AE86). In fact, I’d zeroed in on this car before the second-channel Acura brand was introduced. My requirements were: inexpensive, great handling, light weight, good economy, and fwd–my sporty cars had to climb snowy mountains then–and my benchmark was the first-gen CRX. The sales experience was dismal (I was 25 then), but the service experience was stellar. It was even better than I had hoped for as a sporty economy car. wasn’t a perfect car, and it had a few warranty concerns. But each time I took it in, the dealer gave me a new Legend for a couple days. Guess what I bought two years later? I kept that Integra for 15 years and 230,000 miles, and the Legend lasted until 2004. As a brand Acura ended my fickle car-trading ways.

    Acura came out of the gate tightly focused: it was a Honda, except even more so. They were tauter, quieter, and quicker than Hondas. You knew what you were getting for the extra money, but they were still an excellent value. As Hondas got more and more refined, the differences got less and less distinct. I had no interest in the second- or third-gen Integras, partly because I was still happy with my 2400-lb first-gen, but mainly because they got heavier and thirstier. I did come close to trading the first-gen Legend for a second-gen six-speed Legend coupe at one point. As a buyer, twenty five years later I remain focused on value–and as a value proposition, only the 04-08 TL has interested me since then.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      @ rocketrodeo
      >>My second new car purchase was a 1987 Integra.

      The 1987 Integra (5 door, 5 spd manual) was my first new car purchase. I cross-shopped it with the VW Fox and Honda Civic. I stretched my budget for the Acura and agree with your assessment… nothing but happy memories driving on the right side of the tach.

      My wife now drives a 2012 TSX Wagon… another 5 door hatch! Not the same personality, but so far so good. She originally had her heart set on a CUV — like so many suburban moms — but the TSX Wagon wooed her away… a pretty remarkable feat.

      I really hope Acura can eventually, slowly, deliberately, return to the company it once was.

  • avatar
    stottpie

    “I can’t even remember the last time I saw an Integra on the road. ”

    huh?

    i literally see dozens of integras every single day. literally dozens.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Even here in California, I don’t see that many Integras any more, certainly not more than one a day, if that.

      To be honest, with the newer Acuras, I can’t tell you which ones I’ve seen because they’re all generic enough with the damn beak, and I haven’t figured out the naming convention yet for anything that’s not an ILX or an RL. It’s the similar confusion many people get for the Lincoln MK names.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You must live somewhere that does not know salt. Long gone a decade ago here in the frozen, salty, Northeast. They never stood a chance against Saab Turbos here anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        Marko

        I still see the 1994-2001 Integra around here in New England, though usually with visible rust and questionable modifications. The 1990-1993, however, is a rare sight nowadays, and I have not seen a 1986-1989 in years.

        I don’t think pre-“9-x” SAABs held up any better.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          You changed your comment from “are any more common” to “held up any better!”

          Because I was going to say, I saw a pre-facelift 9000 this morning in great condition.

          Of course I also saw a DeLorean on my way to work. It was an odd morning.

  • avatar
    sckid213

    “Today’s Acura is not your father’s Acura!”

    …and that’s a bad, sad thing.

    Acura really reminds me of Oldsmobile circa early ’90s. Past its prime, and viewed as nothing more than a gussied-up version of a lesser brand. “Differentiated” by marketing – not good products. Vulnerable to newly resurgent players in the field. Not taken seriously as a near-luxury brand. Sustained only by their modern-day version of the Cutlass Supreme, the MDX. Introducing lame low-end products that don’t compete with real luxury cars (ILX Calais?). Delusional attempts to compete with Germany on niche products (ZDX Trofeo?).

    Times change and sometimes brands gotta give. Olds had a nice rebirth at the end with its last line of products (Aurora, Intrigue, Bravada), but it wasn’t enough. And it sure as hell cost a lot more than $1 billion. I hope Acura’s story ends differently, but I’m not sure it won’t.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    In the 90’s, Acura really was in a great place.

    Their cars seemed to ooze quality, were tastefully styled and attractively priced. I remember everyone in college wanted an Integra. The Legend was a beautiful car, especially the coupe. The CL and TL were a bargain for under $30k.

    Their lineup now is horrible, the TSX is about the only car I would think about buying, but the styling is still off. The TL almost doesn’t even hide that it’s a gussied up Accord for $40k. And the flagship is basically a TL with a few extra inches in back.

    Someone needs to really grab the brand by the horns. They need to get away from basically being something like a Mercury upgrade to Ford.

  • avatar
    rocketrodeo

    “[Acura’s] “biggest negative is we are known as a value company in the premium space…”

    I can’t possibly see how this is a negative. The problem is that their product doesn’t meet value expectations anymore. If you are going to compete in this segment with V6s and fwd platforms where nearly everyone else is using V8s and rwd platforms, at least at the top end, you are by default competing on a value basis. Acura has always been a logic vs. emotion kind of company, and that appeals to a certain kind of luxury buyer. They used to be alone in this part of the market, but that buyer has a lot of choices these days.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    I think Acura should merge with Lincoln, then they could slap a new, updated blend of that ugly beak superimposed on Lincoln’s baleen grill. The new lineup of MK-RLs and MK-RDXs would be a sure hit, and still no one would have any idea what any of those letters actually meant.

    And then after a few more years of steady decline they could just put both out of their misery, to be missed by no one.

  • avatar
    WaftableTorque

    This is my take on the Tier 1 (MB, BMW, Lexus, Chinese Audi) vs Tier 2 (Acura, worldwide Audi, Cadillac, Infiniti, Jaguar, Lincoln).

    There are actually several archetypes of luxury buyers that pop into mind, depending on their end goal:
    1) Demoralize and devastate enemies: This buyer wants to show you who pwn’s whom. Whether it’s the trophy wife, the 3 carat diamond solitaire on her finger, or the Aston Martin you bought for your kid’s 16th birthday, you live vicariously through your family and possessions. Tier 1 and exotics only.
    2) Fashionista: only leases, and too A.D.D. to keep a car longer than 3 years. Buys 4 door coupes instead of sedans; and never owns a ride outside its warranty. Tier 1 only.
    3) Keeping up with the Joneses: motivated to show success, as long as you can keep the payments reasonable. Puts up smoke screens to hide the hurt that is their balance sheet. Tier 2.
    4) Patriot: buys based on country of loyalty or what their parents bought before they immigrated to the New World. Tier 2 American, European Tier 1 if they immigrated from Europe.
    5) High ROI, low turnover. A nicer way of saying frugal luxury shopper. Wants reliability, because they’re going to run this car into the ground after 20 years. Japanese-only Tier 1 or 2.
    6) Stealth wealth: wants to hide their wealth lest their friends and other family members start pestering them for their share; doesn’t feel comfortable pulling up in a Bentley asking his employees to take a pay cut so he can buy a vacation home in Aspen. Skips the luxury brands and go straight to Honda, Toyota, Ford, and Jeep.

    I might name some more if I had time to mull it over. But if Acura is anything, they’re stuck catering to categories 3 through 6. Jaguar is stuck in categories 1 and 2, and doesn’t have the breadth to go after the profitable mass market. Cadillac and Lincoln are stuck in categories 3 and 4 and doesn’t quite reach high enough to get into the first 2 categories. Audi is almost there. Infiniti, Cadillac, and Lincoln could use a few halo cars in category 1.

    An awful thought just came to mind. Acura is off the radar of teenagers and 20 something’s. The ones who determine what’s cool in music, fashion, media, consumer devices, and transportation. I wonder if the ones least able to afford a luxury car is the market that gives the brand street cred?

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    I live near an urban area, and I see Integras everywhere. I have even seen 80’s Integra sedans in good working order on occasion. A good portion of the Integras I see have the Acura badge pulled off and replaced with a Honda badge. DO YOU GET IT YET HONDA?

  • avatar
    Synchromesh

    I traded my awesome ’00 GS-R sedan which I had for 6.5 years in Dec ’11. It really was an amazing car. After driving that for several years I started understanding how great Honda was in the 90s. Than how much they’ve fallen in 2000s.

    As for Audi – you must be kidding. They’re still a tarted up VW and not much more. They might be good-looking cars but their reliability is still a joke.

    • 0 avatar

      Tarted up VW or not, they’re eating Acura’s lunch.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Synchro –

      Seven years ago I would have agreed with you, but that’s simply not the case today. No Audi shares any platform with any VW brand product like they did back in the late ’90s and early ’00s. The closest Audi comes to being a ‘tarted up VW’ is the MQB A3, and that’s an architecture kit, not a platform in the traditional sense. The Golf and A3 share the same engines and distance between the front axel and pedal box – that’s about it.

      The two companies run as completely distinct entities that share common ownership and subcomponents. That is one of the keys to Audi’s success: there are a lot of redundancies between the two companies but having completely separate management, manufacturing, sales and marketing allows the two companies to differentiate substantially.

      On the reliability note there are a few things that need to be understood about premium buyers:

      1. They are purchasing based on emotion more than they are lowest cost of ownership. See the previous TTAC discussion about Land Rover for more on this.

      2. Leasing is a higher % of sales in the true premium segment ($40k and up), which means these cars are kept for between 3 – 4 years and 36,000-50,000 miles.

      3. Premium buyers tend to be less cost sensitive to things like maintenance and upkeep. $100 oil change? No problem. $1,000 brake job? Expected.

      That all said, overall reliability of Audis has improved substantially in the past five years. No, it’s nowhere near Honda/Acura reliability, but guess what – Audi is pulling in and keeping buyers. Acura has a problem where people like their Acuras, but don’t necessarily love them.

      There are a lot of cars out there that are likeable. “Like” doesn’t get the girl. It doesn’t keep you in a car, either. Love does.

      As Bertel has pointed out – these are emotional purchases, otherwise we’d all be driving $12,000 beaters. Very few people can justify the need for a new car.

      • 0 avatar
        ihatetrees

        Perhaps an addendum?
        3a. Premium buyers tend to be less time and cost sensitive to warrantied repairs.

        That, and lux brands often have excellent dealer service with a (large-ish) stable of loaners. Premium car transportation is a service.

        And if things get even mildly confrontational over repeated repairs / claims, the dealer often folds rather than deal with their legally savvy customers.

      • 0 avatar
        Synchromesh

        That’s some interesting points there, hreardon.

        I’m certainly not arguing about Acura vs Audi. I stopped being an Acura fan when they replaced the awesome Integra sedan with that Eurotrash abomination named TSX in 2004. And when they canceled the RSX in 2006 I crossed off Acura from the “manufacturers that are cool in my book” list completely. But just to be fair Acura sold 156K cars in 2012 vs Audi’s 139K. So technically they still outsold Audi.

        As for Audi being different by VW, I beg to differ. Sure, they might not share a large amount of physical parts but they share their so called “engineering” as well as ownership. That’s enough for me to avoid both like the bubonic plague.

        I do agree with you that in general premium buyers might a different story but not everybody is one of those snobs. Expectedly more expensive maintenance aside, when I pay more for the car, reliability should be higher not lower than your average Japanese compact. When one gives a manufacturer $40K+ for a car it should be reasonable to expect that said said machine will be engineered and built to a *much* higher standard than your garden variety Corolla. Instead it’s built to a get-rid-of-it-before-warranty-expires standard of your average modern German car. And that’s something I refuse to buy into as somebody who likes cars and knows a little about them.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          Synchro –

          I wouldn’t call it snobbery. Sure there are some who are legit badge snobs, but I take as an example a lot of the guys from Audi Club North America who meet up. These guys generally are well off, and many of them (most) do lease their S-cars, but it doesn’t necessarily make them snobs in the traditional sense.

          Paying more for a car does not necessarily equate to greater reliability. Again, take the previous TTAC article about Land Rover as an example of a loyal customer base who doesn’t seem to give two nickels about long term (or even short term) reliability. For those who don’t keep cars longer than the warranty period – why care?

          I get your point about reliability and why it should be there on a $40k car, but at that price point customers are paying for a lot more than just reliability.

      • 0 avatar
        iNeon

        $12,000 beaters.

        LOL

  • avatar
    Charlie84

    I’ve read all the comments and spent some time thinking about this topic. The conclusion I keep coming to is inescapable: I don’t know what an Acura is and I can’t think of a reason why Acura should exist. Clearly, neither does Acura.

    Yes, they made some good products back in their hey-day. But has Acura ever had a strong brand identity/mission? The Integra and Legend sold well because they were great products –not because they were Acuras. The Acura nameplate was useful only as far as luring a few Legend buyers into showrooms who wouldn’t otherwise consider a lowly Honda. So, that’s the best thing I can say about the Acura brand: it doesn’t necessarily get in the way of people choosing their products. But nobody has ever lusted after an Acura, per se.

    So, my main question: Why should Acura exist? Why should it exist as a brand, not simply as a way for Honda to charge a bit more money? Because let’s face it; almost all of Acura’s products could be sold as Hondas and there would be little-or-no branding dissonance.

    Follow-up question: Does Acura’s existence help or hurt Honda? Whereas many of their products are insufficient for a luxury brand, many of them would actually help re-establish Honda’s reputation as a producer of high-tech/high-engineering products. I suppose this notion actually goes all the way back to the original NSX –it wasn’t an Acura in most of the world, because it didn’t need to be. It was the ultimate Honda, as it embodied all of Honda’s core engineering values to the highest degree. If Honda wasn’t pre-occupied with sinking resources into creating a relatively unsuccessful second brand today, I wonder what they could achieve with their own products and brand. A Honda is ideally supposed to be forward-thinking, engineering-driven, and high-quality. These are already “premium-segment” brand values, anyway. With a little work, I think the Honda brand could easily be turned into the Apple of the automotive world.

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      I agree with you – frankly Acura has never really existed as a car company, it is just a set of typically premium trim level Hondas that they choose to put Acura badges on in some markets, and are happy to sell with Honda badges elsewhere.

      I honestly don’t think anything at all would be lost if they just sold them as Hondas here, as they do in Europe and Japan. There’s nothing about the Honda brand that says you can’t have a luxury or premium trim level on it.

      Lincoln may have a history, but by now they have the same problem. Not because Lincolns are bad, but because there’s no reason not to buy a Ford Titanium trim level.

      • 0 avatar
        Charlie84

        Right –the close relationship between Ford and Lincoln products prevents either brand from making a strong statement about themselves in a halo product.

        The new NSX and RLX could easily be badged as Hondas and put out as statement cars. “We are Honda. And this is what we can do.” I think it could be similar to Nissan keeping the GT-R branded as a Nissan. Nissan even considered doing a separate Infiniti version and appears to have wisely decided against it. I think the Audi R8, among many other improvements at Audi, was important in re-defining Audi as being the equal of MB and BMW. Heck, even Hyundai decided against setting up a luxury brand for the Genesis and Equus, despite the fact that those two cars have less in common with ordinary Hyundais than any Acura has with Honda products. VW will sell you a $62K USD Porsche Cayenne Hybrid and it’s still got the same logo on the grille as a base Jetta or Golf.

        I think the moral of the story here is that separate luxury brands not only duplicate efforts, but also deprive companies of the opportunity to make products that can lift perceptions of their main, volume brand.

  • avatar
    JD23

    Acura’s most significant problem is that Honda is not committed to making the investment necessary for Acura to be a legitimate luxury brand. Instead of increasing the R&D budget to develop a unique Acura platform and powertrain(s), Honda forces Acura to compete with the big boys by cobbling together models based on the Honda parts bin. Although the Accord and Civic are leaders in their respective segments, it is unrealistic to believe that Accord and Civic based vehicles with a slightly nicer interior and tweaked powertrain can compete with Audi, BMW, MB, and Lexus in the $40k and over market. Honda’s problems are not isolated to Acura; as a whole, it has become too conservative and reeks of a slavish obsession with meeting quarterly earnings goals by expense controls, rather than by aggressive growth.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    “Acura’s most significant problem is that Honda is not committed to making the investment necessary for Acura to be a legitimate luxury brand.”

    This. A very simple example is their ‘choice’ of powertrains. You can either get big heavy V-6s that exaggerate the nose heavy FWD characteristics of the car or you can get underpowered low torque 4 bangers.

    This is about 10 years behind the other luxury makers who are using small displacement turbos which provide good torque for automatic transmissions and are somewhat fuel efficent.

    The integra owners long to a time when manual transmissions were the #1 choice with near luxury segement. That time is over..americans like their automatics and you need to spend money to make sure the powertrain works well with automatics.

    What I don’t get it TTAC general obsession with Japanese cars. Why should be so excited to go back to the 90s’ when Japanese cars were so dominant. The new word order is better – pick whatever model car you like the best.

    In truth people loved the integra becuase it gave you luxury like features, sporty handling and awesome honda reliability. But nowadays the most makes are reliable enough so Acura has to compete on their own merits as a car. It’s the same with Lexus.

    Fear shouldn’t be the motivating force when you buy an expensive new car. It should be joy.

    • 0 avatar
      WheelMcCoy

      @CelticPete
      >>What I don’t get it TTAC general obsession with Japanese cars. Why should be so excited to go back to the 90s’ when Japanese cars were so dominant. The new word order is better – pick whatever model car you like the best.

      Whenever TTAC posts anything Honda or Acura, there will be a guaranteed 100+ comments. Some of them will be love, some of them will be hate. But better hate than indifference!

      Indeed, much of it is gauzy memories. But there are solid reasons for them:

      – Modern cars are bloated. The 87 Integra was just under 2400 pounds.
      – Modern cars have high belt lines and lousy visibility. The early Hondas and Acuras had thin pillars and great sight lines.
      – Modern cars have electric power steering. Early cars had hydraulic assist. And the 87 Integra had a tight turning circle of 32.8 feet! It was nimble.

      Add good fuel economy, reliability, practicality, value, build quality, imagination, aging memories, and voila, you have obsession.

    • 0 avatar

      If I remember, the Integra 1995–2000 DC2 Type R was the to-go car for the uber street racer. Shame Honda lost money on every model sold

  • avatar
    prndlol

    Hey Derek, did your dad plate the car in the summer of 1993 in Toronto? I ask because my first car’s licence plate was ###-SSX and I got it in June of that year.

  • avatar

    Suggested use for Acura’s $1 Billion

    1) Lay off and pay off entire marketing department
    2) Re-hire folks who brand managed the Integra and Legend (not the Vigor)
    3) Lay off entire design team
    4) Head hunt Audi’s design team

  • avatar
    ArizonaSE

    Acura blew it when they started trying to compete with Lexus, BMW, etc. Instead of focusing on their strength of being a reasonably priced, reliable, semi-premium fun-to-drive car, they chopped their entry level cars and begin pushing high-priced, bloated designs with stealth bomber angles and beaks (hideous). The ILX is geared toward drivers who don’t know anything about cars. They think they are driving something special but in reality they got tricked into buying a civic with leather seats and a beak. I have a 1st Gen. TSX with the 6 speed and I think it’s the last good car they sold in the U.S. Yeah, a little boring looking, but you could pick one up a well equipped one for about 30k out the door and get above average Honda reliability to boot. (Although my Acura has had some issues: a/c self destructing, bad synchros). The new TSX offers very little excitement and the TL…well every time I see one on the road I cringe. Never thought I’d see the day when a new Buick is better looking than an Acura. Even though I’d like to buy another Acura, I won’t pay the premium for a car that looks like a locomotive with it’s cow guard grill (and handles like a boat). I’d rather just buy an Accord and pocket the difference at this point. Hey Acura, are you reading this? You can’t market your way out this, you need to go back to your roots. The quote regarding your marketing deficiencies sounds like something some MBA crafted in the boardroom in a weak attempt to explain why no one is buying your cars.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      “Acura blew it when they started trying to compete with Lexus, BMW, etc. Instead of focusing on their strength of being a reasonably priced, reliable, semi-premium fun-to-drive car.”

      Arizona –

      Acura’s competition 15 – 20 years ago is vastly different than it is today. Back then, Lexus and Acura could carve out a niche because the American premium vehicle offerings stank and the reliability of the Germans was in the toilet. Acura and Lexus weaved their way into the middle space that opened up and carved out a nice market.

      Fast forward to today: the Germans have improved their reliability enough that it isn’t a deterrent to most premium buyers and the American premium offerings have improved to the point where they are now contenders. Acura was stuck in the middle with no true identity. Want premium Japanese? Lexus. Want premium American? Cadillac or Buick. Want premium German? BMW, Audi, Mercedes. One reason why Audi is succeeding right now is because they understand what 80% of their potential buyers DON’T care about: RWD platforms, 50/50 balance, perfect road feel. Not that I agree with that sentiment, but the rest of the market does.

      Where’s Acura? Oh, they’re still peddling those nice, reliable cars that nobody really cares about any longer. Their strength became their weakness because they failed to evolve with the market demands. Say what you want about where BMW has been headed, but they would be in major trouble had they not introduced the X5 and X3 years ago to take advantage of the market. Same with their upcoming 2-series FWD platform cars. If BMW doesn’t get into that market to compete with the upcoming CLA and A3 sedan they’re going to be in trouble (see BMW NA sales stats for the past year, especially of the new F30 3-series. They’re less than impressive).

      Same goes for Volvo – they’re the brand that we all used to associate with safety. Where has that gotten them today where just about every car on the market scores a 4 or 5 in the crash tests? Becoming a viable brand takes years and lots of money, but it also requires making some very strategic decisions that play out of a decade or more. Honda hasn’t keep a consistent strategy for Acura simply beacause it cannot develop a justifiable business model for Acura, period.

      • 0 avatar
        ArizonaSE

        Good points, I agree that the market had changed a lot in the last 10-15 years. And I do see a lot of similarities with the situation Volvo is in right now. Call me old school, but I do miss the old quirky RWD Volvos of the 1980s. Back when a Volvo was a Volvo. I had a 1981 240DL with 240k miles on it when I was in college. Always started up, every time. Reliable as heck. The engine was gutless by today’s standards but it was a really well made car. Probably to the point of being overbuilt. And the seats were amazingly comfortable despite its age. Not everyone was sold on the looks, but there is just something about that old school Volvo I miss. In today’s car market, most cars look relatively similar and they they seem to lack personality.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    ‘- Modern cars are bloated. The 87 Integra was just under 2400 pounds.
    – Modern cars have high belt lines and lousy visibility. The early Hondas and Acuras had thin pillars and great sight lines.
    – Modern cars have electric power steering. Early cars had hydraulic assist. And the 87 Integra had a tight turning circle of 32.8 feet! It was nimble.”

    It’s a nice enough car for that era. But lets not pretend it was the good old days. Those things were gutless – and you could get yourself a fox body Mustang instead which is actually more fun..and durable too.

    The integra was a nicer version of the Civic. I had a Civic so I always wanted an Integra. But if I had to do it over again I would absolutely get the stang.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    The cars got slightly fugly with 2009 redesigns and sales dropped off due to the economy, but the latest models look fine, are priced to move, and people are buying again.

    Yes, the Integra is gone, and I still miss mine.

    I still want Acura to do a coupe of some type. Nice to see the NSX Version 2.0, but it’s not a Legend Coupe, CL, RSX, etc

  • avatar
    JD23

    The success of the MDX and RDX is the only thing keeping Acura afloat; those two vehicles now account for half of the brand’s volume. It has been over nine years since Acura introduced a successful car: the 3rd generation TL.

  • avatar
    Marko

    I can count the number of ILXs – which have been out for almost a year, IIRC – I’ve seen on one hand.

  • avatar
    2012JKU

    Acura died in 1995 when they stopped building the Legend. They have been building ugly, soulless, luxury wannabe crap ever since.Now they are the Japanese equivalent of Lincoln. Dead brand walking……

  • avatar
    WestwardGeoff

    I’d never owned a car that elicited waves and/or honks from fellow owners until I bought my base model 2005 RSX last June. I bought the car because I wanted a small, reliable, economical hatchback that would add some fun to the commute, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of money to get it. I also wanted to drive a Honda product after owning many Mazdas and Fords. Never did I expect to experience fellow RSX drivers, and some clapped-out Civic pilots, reach out to me like we were all driving Corvettes. It’s opened my eyes to an enthusiasm for these cars that I thought had died with the Integra.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States
  • J Emerson, United States