Auto blogTue, 14 Oct 2014 18:01:00 EST
Acura made a bold move earlier this year when it decided to axe two fairly popular models in the TL and TSX and replaced them with a single sedan: the TLX. After all, how often have you seen modern automakers consolidating vehicles in the lineup? But early indications have shown that the gamble might have paid off, at least so far, because the TLX has been outselling its predecessors for its first months on sale.
Acura has only released TLX sales numbers so far for August and September, but the results have been promising. In August, the company moved 2,286 of the new sedans, beating last year's figures for the same month from both the TL at 2,227 sold and the TSX at 1,755. Then in September, the newcomer did even better with 3,884 units leaving dealers to surpass the two previous vehicles combined from their 2013 monthly stats.
According to The Truth About Cars, the TLX's September numbers were even more impressive when looking even deeper into Acura sales history. It claims that you would have to go back to March 2011 when the TL sold 3,995 units to have seen it beat the new TLX. And the TSX hasn't surpassed the latest model's figure since December 2010.
If you've ever lived in a wintery climate, you may have noticed something strange: no, not the perilously enticing sparkle of cold metal in the sunlight or the way your warm breath suddenly becomes visible in the frigid air, but the way your seatbelt seems increasingly reluctant to retract as the temperature drops. Acura, however, has found the problem more serious than a minor inconvenience, and is recalling some 43,000 vehicles across the United States to address the issue.
The recall in question affects about 7,000 RLX sedans (from the 2014 model year) and another 36,000 MDX crossovers (covering the 2014 and 2015 model years) to have their front seatbelts replaced. In the affected vehicles and in very low temperatures, Acura has found that "the driver's and front passenger's seatbelts may not release from the retracted position." Needless to say, seatbelts that can't be used don't offer any protection in the event of an accident, so the Japanese automaker is notifying owners and dealers to hook up to have those seatbelts replaced.
Acura's struggles have been well publicized. The Honda-owned luxury brand doesn't seem sure of where it's going or what it's trying to accomplish, with its cars and marketing lacking a coherent theme. Now, a new report from Automotive News claims that the brand could follow the success of Subaru and (to a lesser extent) Audi, and adopt all-wheel-drive as standard across its model range.
"I think that's the way we should go," Acura boss Koichi Fukuo told Automotive News.
Acura already offers some form of all-wheel drive on every vehicle in its line aside from the lamentable ILX sedan. That could change as Acura begins rolling out next-generation versions of its still relatively new stable of sedans and crossovers.
Acura has done a good job of keeping the next-generation NSX under the wraps for the past few months, especially after a fiery little incident during testing at the Nürburgring earlier this year. But UK's What Car? recently got a chance to speak with development boss Ted Klaus, and he unleashed a few new details about the much-anticipated supercar to make it even harder for us to wait.
Among the info was a strong estimate of the NSX's performance potential. "We have to achieve the type of acceleration that the customer is achieving with the Ferrari," said Klaus to What Car?. "More importantly we have to achieve this every day and also at the Nürburgring." Assuming Acura's supercar is as actually quick as a 458 Italia, then it could hit 60 miles per hour in around 3.5 seconds.
Klaus also claims that the wickedly fast performance could come at a relative bargain for the class. The price is reportedly being benchmarked against the Audi R8, which would put the NSX around $130,000 in the US. While hardly cheap, it would still be a healthy discount off a 458.
Is there a point in the US auto industry where companies should start considering the welfare of their customers ahead of selling more cars? American Honda Executive Vice President of Sales John Mendel thinks that level exists, and we may be getting very close to it.
According to Automotive News, Mendel believes that finding more customers in the market could require pursuing subprime buyers and offering longer-term loans. However, he refuses to use those tactics. While selling models this way can improve things briefly, the strategies hurt resale prices and lower vehicle profits over time. The company won't do "stupid things in the short-term that damage the person who bought yesterday," he said to Automotive News. "It's a very, very short-term tactic especially in the subprime area."
American Honda, which combines the Acura and Honda brands, has seen market share decline from 9.7 percent to 9.1 percent through July 2014, according to Automotive News, and Autoblog's By the Numbers stats showed it posted falling sales in five of the seven months with data this year. Though, Mendel claims that was partially because the company focused on retail sales over fleets. The delays of the launches for the Honda Fit and Acura TLX likely didn't help either.
When Acura launched the new TLX sedan as a prototype at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show it promised that the car would be a "red carpet athlete." Presumably that meant it would mix photogenic looks with an engaging drive. Now, it's your chance to dress up the vehicle for the festivities with its new configurator that's just hitting the Web.
Prices start at $30,995* for the basic 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 206 horsepower and an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic or $35,220 for the least expensive 3.5-liter V6 with 290 hp with a nine-speed auto, but the bill goes all the way up to $44,700 for a V6 with all-wheel drive and the Advance Package (*plus a $895 destination and handling charge for them). Only the six-cylinder can be optioned with all-wheel drive, but all front-wheel-drive models get Acura's slick P-AWS system that steers the rear wheels.
Outside of the available Technology and Advance packages, the options are kept pretty slim. The range of colors is fairly subdued too with shades of black, white and silver, plus dark blue, dark red and a deep brown called Black Copper Pearl. Upholstery options are limited to a few choices for each exterior color.
Automakers make halo cars to drum up excitement and show off what they can do, but there's more to it than that. Advanced platforms allow a company's engineers to experiment with all sorts of technologies. And in the case of the upcoming new Acura NSX, that includes new paint processes.
Speaking with Autoline in this video interview, Honda's North American Senior VP Jon Minto talked about an innovative zirconium e-coat which it's applying to the new NSX. Unlike some experimental paints developed for Formula One, however, this coating is not designed to minimize drag or enhance cooling: it's designed to be more environmentally friendly.
It's one of a few measures which Honda is implementing on the NSX before expanding it to more accessible models, along with another process that uses fewer coats to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent. Watch the interview with Autoline host John McElroy right here.
Immediately after landing at Washington's Dulles airport, an Acura representative handed me the keys to a 2014 TSX with fewer than 180 miles on its clock. The four-cylinder engine started and I pointed its signature beak towards a destination in Middleburg, VA. It was a curious move by the Japanese automaker, especially considering that I had flown no less than 2,300 miles to drive the discontinued vehicle's ostensible successor, the all-new 2015 Acura TLX.
Yet spending a solid 40 minutes with a sparkling-new version of the outgoing model that still smelled showroom fresh, allowed me an opportunity to scrutinize the dropped sedan and remind myself why it had never really blown me away - it was good at doing many things, but truly great at doing none.
Time with the TSX also started me thinking about the Acura TL, the second model that the TLX will effectively replace. I have better memories of the slightly larger sedan, especially the SH-AWD 6MT trim - it's a solid driver's car - but it, too, fell short in areas where competitors, including the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, excelled.
Let's say you just got a big promotion at work or the kids are moving out of the house, and you finally have some extra money. You decide to blow it all at once and treat yourself by upgrading your ride. Naturally, you look to a luxury automaker. What do you choose?
Models like the Audi A3 and Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class may be tailor-made to introduce buyers to the premium segment, but a new study finds that they don't garner the highest rates of non-luxury customer conquests. It turns out that a Volvo leads among folks moving up to a premium brand, and it isn't even one that's made anymore, at that.
A recent study by Polk and IHS Automotive looked at what models had the highest rates of buyers upgrading from a non-luxury segment. The information comes from its new vehicle registration data through April 2014. All ten top models boasted conquest rates of over 50 percent, but the Volvo C70 led the field with 68.01 percent of its customers coming from non-premium brands.
Assuming all goes to plan, automakers test their vehicles to the breaking point in the months and years leading up to that vehicle's actual release into the public. Which is good, because it's much better for a car to break in glorious fashion in the hands of the company that produces it than in the driveway of an owner who just spent their hard-earned cash to get it.
Such was the case with this production-guise Acura NSX prototype that we saw running around the Nürburgring just the other day. We can't be 100-percent certain, but the burned-out carcass is wearing the same number plate as the car that was spotted earlier, so it's likely the very same NSX. We have no idea what was the cause of the blaze that turned this Acura into the car-b-q you see pictured above, but our spy shooters on the ground in Germany say it was not involved in any collision, having caught on fire all on its own with engineers behind the wheel.
The good news is that nobody was hurt, though the car is quite clearly a complete loss. We're sure there's another ready to to test in the burned car's place... just as soon as the engineers at Honda figure out exactly what went wrong. Have a look at the smoldering aftermath up above, and feel free to scroll down below to see a video of the car in much better circumstances.