For years, Acura has made noises about becoming a “Tier 1” luxury brand, going to head-to-head with BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Out of the Japanese luxury brands, only Lexus has really reached that status.
While Acura had higher goals, products were produced with polarizing styling languages. The new “Power Plenum” grille alienated those who liked the division’s more conservatively good-looking cars. In addition the TSX, TL and RL are all positioned too closely and cannibalize each other. Acura is looking to fix that by better differentiating them.
Acura aims to revive itself with new products that focus on engineering and efficiency. The new slogan is: “Smart luxury.” Acura says today’s luxury cars focus on performance beyond what average drivers can handle, and the brand is trying to score by being different.
Buick has done well for itself as a near-luxury brand; look for the two to go head-to-head in the future. Right now Lincoln is positioned as near-luxury, but it has higher aspirations for itself. Volvo is another competitor, but it too has grand plans. We’ll see if those materialize, but for once Acura is embracing its role. The change starts at the North American International Auto Show next month. There, Acura will unveil three all-new models. The most telling is a new compact sedan, dubbed the ILX Concept.
It will preview (it is a concept in name only) the production car that is launching next Spring. The ILX will occupy a space Acura has always done well in, and it derives its underpinnings from the Civic sedan. Hopefully the car will look nothing like the Civic. Acura envisions younger customers who want something more than a mainstream brand opting for the ILX. If it looks nothing like the Civic, it could have a good shot at carving a niche for itself. The ILX will compete against the Buick Verano, a car that sets a high bar in the segment.
Also launching is the second generation 2013 RDX crossover, and a concept previewing the NSX. The NSX is divergent from the rest of Acura’s strategy; it will be an image car aimed at making a statement. New product from Acura is set to come at a quick pace over the next two years. ILX launches in the spring, a new RL full-size sedan is coming in the fall, and then a full redesign of the best-selling TL mid-size sedan is scheduled for 2013. The ILX will be interesting to see – a good look at Acura’s future is about a month away.