Acura gains clout, searches for cachet

Can focused team increase maturing brand’;s allure?

Accavitti: Acura is “ever bit a luxury brand.”

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LOS ANGELES — For virtually 3 decades, Acura and Honda had been under the same tent at American Honda, with marketers, item planners and regional sales staffs splitting their time among the 2 brand names. There have been some Acura-only employees in latest years, but for the most component, Honda Motor essentially handled Acura items as upscale trim amounts of Honda-badged goods.

And it showed.

Acura has been wandering in the desert for years, plagued by bland solution, inconsistent advertising and a muddled alphanumeric motor vehicle-naming approach.

American Honda Motor Co. executives hope that their decision this month to develop a cohesive sales and marketing and advertising silo for Acura, along with an r&d staff devoted to the brand, will be reflected in smarter solution and much better marketing — and a far better share of thoughts with Honda Motor Co. executives in Japan.

The new construction is comparable to what Toyota has completed with Lexus and Volkswagen with Audi. But just how a lot can the restructuring do for a practically 30-year-old luxury brand that is even now struggling with picture troubles?

Unlike Lexus, there is no Acura brand in Japan or Europe. Overseas, Acura items put on Honda badges. Virtually all Acuras are assembled in the United States, generating it even more difficult to get on the radar of Japanese executives.

Loose grip on luxury

Virtually half of Acura consumers are conquests moving up from nonpremium brands, according to an early-2013 survey of new-automobile owners. But Acura also has had difficulty persuading buyers to stick with the brand.
Percentage of buyers who moved up from nonpremium brands
Acura 49%
Audi 38%
Lexus 36%
Mercedes-Benz 23%
BMW 22%
Percentage of owners who returned to nonpremium brands
Audi 46%
Acura 45%
Lexus 35%
BMW 34%
Mercedes-Benz 27%
Source: AutoPacific

Acura’;s MDX crossover is a hot vendor that usually conquests the German manufacturers and Lexus.

“Not a lot of shoppers view it as a luxury brand. It doesn’;t have the standing of a Lexus or Audi. It truly is far more like a Buick, a semi-premium vehicle,” mentioned AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan. “They do not appear to know what direction they want to go in. They never have the Lexus experience at the dealer. No one is clamoring for an Acura.”

Honda executives and dealers are optimistic that current actions will adjust that dynamic. A key issue was that American Honda had “long been separated by function rather than brand. Automotive operations was diverse than auto revenue,” explained John Mendel, American Honda’;s executive vice president.

One more issue was that nationwide and regional approaches did not align. Obtaining distinct brand silos will maintain those twin techniques on-message, Mendel explained in a current conference phone.

Art Wright, a Honda and Acura dealer in Lehigh Valley, Pa., welcomes the changes, saying, “We had been going nowhere under the previous construction.”

Wright describes the present Acura identity as “schizophrenic.” The MDX and RDX crossovers are sizzling sellers that often conquest the German brands and Lexus. But the sedans get no traction against other luxury brands. He holds out hope that this summer’;s crucial launch of the TLX, an Accord sibling that replaces both the TSX and TL sedans, will provide a bit more allure.

Mendel isn’;t going to dispute the criticisms produced by Wright and others of Acura’;s inconsistency.

“We want focused assets and a committed organization [for Acura], to not get ‘averaged out’; when you assess it to the Honda brand,” Mendel mentioned. “There is a lot of recognition that Acura must be and can be a a lot stronger brand.”

Mike Accavitti, the brand’;s new basic manager, confidently sees the future Acura “as becoming each and every bit a luxury brand as the Germans or the other Japanese or the domestics.”

Acura will have to move quickly to get there. Most luxury nameplates that borrow mass-market place underpinnings take care to hide their mainstream roots. And while the redesigned RDX has a V-6 under the hood — instead of its Honda CR-V sibling’;s inline-4 — Acura saved money by shelving the RDX’;s Super-Dealing with All-Wheel Drive method for the CR-V’;s more pedestrian technique.

And when comparing the ILX compact sedan with its Civic cousin, AutoPacific’;s Sullivan carps: “The ILX has a hollow-door sound, and the door handle feels like it is going to break off. This is not luxury-automobile quality.”

For all the pounding Acura requires from critics, empirical information demonstrate a lot of potential for the brand on the flip side of its weaknesses. For instance, far more luxury-automobile owners are considering purchasing Acuras following than Infinitis or Lincolns — 31 % vs. 24 and 16 %, respectively — according to AutoPacific data. Still, the German brand names, Lexus and Cadillac have considerably higher intention prices.

And even though Acura has a substantial conquest fee of luring folks out of their nonpremium vehicles, it also loses a disproportionate sum of customers back to the mainstream.

“There is no way the sizzling chick in This Is forty would be driving an Acura,” Sullivan explained, referring to the movie whose lead characters personal a Lexus and a BMW. “It is not the brand you believe of when you think of luxury. It is the one you move into when you are relaxed with your Accord.”

You can reach Mark Rechtin at — Adhere to Mark on

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