Surprised? Acura Exterior Styling Cited as Top Customer Deal Breaker

#Acura, #TSX

Being ambitious doesn’t always pay off. Though Acura’s year-to-date sales are up 24.6 percent through November, the brand hasn’t exactly been helping its cause by putting polarizing product in showrooms.

Honda’s premium marque has been doing business in the U.S. for close to three decades, but doing business hasn’t been easy in recent years. We’d challenge readers to postulate the biggest reason potential buyers turn down highly pitched invitations to join the Acura family, but that’d be too simple. Many have expressed disdain over the sharp and angular Keen-Edge style, polarizing current and former enthusiasts who are more than prepared to lambast the brand for ditching its sporty, underdog roots in favor of chasing the masses, though they’re hardly the only automaker to do so.

Going after the upscale audience hasn’t paid significant dividends. Consumers have been very reluctant to place Acura on the same plane as its premium competitors, including the likes of BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz. There used to be a time when they were the plucky upstart you probably wouldn’t mind backing. Today, their image and cachet is even more dubious.

“Acura’s identity isn’t clear to many luxury buyers,” said Jesse Toprak, TrueCar’s industry trends and insights VP. “If I'm spending that kind of money, do I want an Acura, or a BMW or Benz? Acura simply doesn’t have the same prestige. Once you hit the $45,000-plus market, many buying decisions are based on image.”

Not helping Acura’s case is their current target audience. Vicki Poponi, Honda’s assistant VP for product planning, says Acura goes after the youngish Generation Y crowd with a “smart luxury” message, but these constituents have had and will have to cope with greater amounts of bills (including higher education-related debt) and subsequently lessened earning power than generations of past. True Car found the average Acura transaction in November 2010 was around $5000 less than the next closest competing marque.

And it appears the exterior hasn’t been the sole styling miscue of late. According to J.D. Power’s 2010 Avoider Study, the interior design was the second-most cited cause for dismissing an Acura product. To little surprise, pure price doesn’t dictate sales, especially within this segment.

We’d dare say Acura has been lacking true excitement, yet their business case has been mostly solid, which should hopefully pave the way for better product. They spend the least amount of cash on incentives (around $2600 per vehicle), retain high residuals, and have garnered acclaim for quality by finishing only behind Porsche in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.

So what’s in the wings? 2012 is reportedly going to be a big year for Acura, and more models and hybrid infusions are on the way. A future small hatchback is supposedly resurfacing after the RSX’s departure after 2006, along with a small sedan in the vein of the original Integra sedans and first-generation TSX to combat the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series. Class size distinctions are in the works to help buyers differentiate within the lineup, particularly between the current TL and RL. Critically, the softening of the Keen-Edge-endowed front end will be spread to other vehicles, started by the newly introduced TSX Sport Wagon.

Acura’s best year in the United States was in 2005, when 209,610 vehicles were sold. The available offerings at the time? The RSX, TSX, TL, RL, NSX, and MDX. We could hardly call it a golden era but car buyers are more discriminate than ever before, and they won’t settle for what’s perceived as merely upgraded Hondas.

Legend Driver
I am sad to see the trend Acura has taken, after such a brilliant start in the US. I drive a 1991 Legend 4dr. and I can't say enough good things about it. It is gorgeous to look at (people still assume it is much newer) and so much fun to drive. I cruise along calmly and comfortably with the engine just waiting for a sign from my right foot to let it fly. It is roomier, and just as comfortable as any sedan Acura has brought to the US. And the reliability is amazing. With only 90,000 miles on the car I am hoping to be driving it for at least another ten years. I would love to see a return to Acura's style AND performance roots. It certainly couldn't hurt their sales.
JA
I am so glad I am not the only Honda/Acura 'loyalist' with feelings of disgust when seeing the Acura offerings (since '07 things are really tanked). I have owned a '87 Integra, '95 Integra and am currently drivng a '05 TSX. All manual shift all great cars measured by: high value/dollar, reliability, low maintenance costs and style. Acura is no longer a high value player ($40k+ for an MDX give me a break?!), ZDX (that is to say a restyled Honda Crosstour a.k.a Accord) for $50k? Give me a break. Add to that the stupid front end styling and headache inducing interior designs (insane number of buttons and swoopy lines of all sorts). My '05 TSX has been running strong, but after reading MANY posts of folks who have faced "thousands of dollars" to repair their A/C, it seems like Acura is trying to DRIVE AWAY LOYALISTS. If they think I am going to "trade up" to a new Acura once my A/C blows up, or fund their service department by fixing it, they have another thing coming. If and/when it dies prematurely (before 200k miles) I shall be shopping a new brand. Such a shame. I pine for the days when the Integra GS-R, TL Type-S, NSX and others graced the showroom floors and drivers hearts.
Alex
The smiley face grill and rear have to go away!
TGEE
Acura's lost its reason for existence. Their only strengths are superb reliability; excellent repair departments; and price. After a dozen or so Civics, Accords and two Preludes I bought a 2001 CL Coupe and hated the no-option slush-box trans. Traded for a '03 CL-S with a 6-speed as soon as they were available. My wife's gone "upscale" with a 2008 and then traded for an ugly 2010 TL. I'm keeping my CL: 125K miles, tight and quick and my first brake job (cut rotors and pads) was at 114K. As with violins, owning a Strad (BMW, MB, etc.) doesn't make you a violinist. Neither do the other brands make one a driver. But I have given up. At the time that everybody else seems to have two or more upscale coupes with ya-yas and a manual box, Acura's snubbed their nose at this segment. I'm keeping the CL but choosing between the Mustang GT, Vette Coupe, A5, G37 and a number of others. Might have bought a TSX wagon if it had some power and a stick. Acura management is drinking something bad and has become indifferent to the loyalists. Maybe their plan is to bury their upscale badge. The present line-up would not make me shed a single tear if they did. "Acura is dead. Long live Acura".
Steve
That is "they sure as heck aren't putting it back into the cars". And I own an '09 Odyssey and love it, however there is no way I'd get into the current model. The current Odyssey is ghastly, it might be the only model where used versions are actually selling at higher prices than the new ones; because no one wants the new ones. I actually know someone that bought the new model and took it back and traded it for the previous model.
Steve
I totally agree, whoever believes a beak looks good on any car much less a luxury car should be banned from having anything what so ever to do with cars. It's the most insane thing I have ever seen, take a perfectly good entry level luxury car and put a gigantic beak on the front and as if that isn't enough it's on the back of some as well. Personally I wonder where the pile of dough Honda makes from having three different platforms total and what perhaps 4 different engines? They sure as heck are putting it back in to the vehicles like the domestics are; I'm sure they'll get buyers back due to past experience, but I can't see anyone buying a Honda or Acura because they have a "gotta-have-it" look.
Tom
You said "your a retard". It's you're a retard. The you're being a contraction for "you are". Who is the retard now?
steventlowner
I would never, ever buy a car that I had to "fix" with a paint job, I wouldn't even buy a car model if if I thought the wheels were ugly. The whole design has to work or I won't buy. But that's me. I owned a 2005 TL and waited for the 2009 spy photos to come out, when they did I was simply horrified. I could not believe my eyes...how could't they do it? Almost no one complimented the design, so it is a mystery how they ever let it out of the new design studio. I think that is part of the problem with Acura, anyone associated with the design of the 2009 TL or ZDX should be fired. Even the interior design is terrible. I have seen the interior photos of the new 2013's and they are nice, but booorrring. Frankly I have given up on them. I bought an Audi (almost a CC, but I was angry about the pleather seating) I am afraid I don't see Acura turning the corner any time soon. I am worried about the Audi repair costs because Acura is very reasonable and service is top tier. Please Acura, get it together!
Jo Hollingsworth
My loyalty to the Acura brand is based on my wonderful experience with my 2002 RSX with over 160,000 miles. Like Ray, I can say my repairs have been minimal, and like Ray, the most-trouble free car I have ever owned. I really like the hatchback style--which won't be available until 2015, I believe. I will try the ILX with the manual--maybe it will up to snuff.
Harrison
Hey Joe... lift up the plastic cover over the bottom of the RDX tailgate... guess what's under there? The CR-V! Try for yourself.
Harrison
I sold Acuras for 4 years. I left the brand because they kept dropping models and not replacing them and when you're selling a product fewer offerings aren't your friend. I'm glad I left for a real luxury brand and haven't looked back. Too bad, I was part of that 200,000+ year but the company is ruled with an iron fist from Tokyo and they won't let the Americans do anything.
jim
Acura has actually gone downmarket since I first looked at a 1989 Legend at the dealer. The Legend was really very premium at the time. The assembly quality was great. It looked good. The revised Legend even more so. That was also the heyday of the NSX. Since then. there was been no progress or innovation at all. Styling was a huge part of why Acura did poorly for the last 15 years. They had a strong start in early 90s but they started building cookie cutter Japanese generica. The only good Acura product has been TSX for YEARS. They could build premium vehicles but they do not choose to. It is also appalling how Acuras rust exactly like a Honda. Good luck seeing a Legend in Minnesota. Just saw the first one I had seen in a decade. I respect Honda a lot but Acura just wasn't managed well. Much like Lincoln...
Mike
I have owned an Acura MDX since 2000. At that time, the MDX was ahead of all the other SUVs in it's price range. I have over 109,000 trouble free miles. The MDX has been very reliable. The engine still has plenty of get up and go. The interior still looks nice; however, the leather on the armrest and driver's side door are rippled and the driver's side carpet is worn in the footwell area. I am on my third set of Continental tires. The new MDX is a nice looking SUV in my opinion; however, I have to agree with a lot of the bloggers here regarding lack of overall styling in the Acura line. They used to be an industry leader in Navigation systems, handling, and performance, and styling. Nowadays, they have fallen way behind in these areas. They still make a very reliable car. Acuras are a lot more reliable and cheaper to maintain than the German made luxury cars. Don't get me wrong, I really like the looks of the Audis, BMWs, and some Mercedes. I think their styling and performance are cutting edge, however one has to wonder whether they are worth the price of admission after the thrill is gone and when it comes time to pay for the maintainance and parts replacement after the 50,000 mile warranty has run out?
mari
That ACURA nose on the cars is awful. None of the cars look like luxury vehicles to me. That nose on the SUV is not that bad. Honda, it's time to redesign all of your cars. How about some bright colors too. How about original red? A nice metallic British racing green would be nice too with a tan interior.
Dani
Based on the wide variety of cars you are looking at, it sounds like you are one of those bored people who waste a car salesman's time on a Saturday because you don't feel like going to home depot to look for another project to do around the house. Have a heart dude, with the economy in the toilet and sales people make a living off of commissions that are not as high as people who aren't in the business assume they are, you're taking food out of the mouths of their children. A Lexus LS460 is like 2 classes above everything you mentioned except the M and the 5 Series which it is only one car class above, but at the same time is not now nor will it ever be considered a sport sedan so it is really in now way suppose to be comparable to anything except maybe a future Lincoln flagship model or maybe the Hyundai Equus. And for the CC's interior to lack appeal to you tells me you were test driving the base model, because the upper trim levels look as good as an Audi, even if the wood is plastic in most VW interiors.
Dani
Acuras look like descendents of the Pontiac Aztec (especially the ZDX) how can anyone fault their exterior styling.
Richard
I love my Honda's (97 Accord, 99 Prelude, and 04 CRV), but I am thinking Mercedes C-Class when my wife finally says 2 cars and no more. The reason - styling and a club for people who like to enjoy their cars on the weekend. The "beak" Acuras and ghetto music ads turn me off. All of the TSX interiors are black. I guess they are unaware of how hot 100 degrees really is. AND I have the money to buy a new car. Sadly, I can get a C-Class with a 6-speed manual transmission, and a light colored interior. Honda are you listening? I figure my wife will give you about 4 years to get your act together - maybe even less. I pointed out a Mercedes C-Class on display in the mall, and she didn't faint!
Alan
I had an '05 TSX and loved it! Great car, a lot of fun to drive. However, in July of '09 the air conditioning went out at a cost of a couple thou to fix, plus I needed new tires. with over 70,000 miles on it, I decided it wasn't worth the investment, so I got a new car. As much as I liked my TSX, I would not consider a new one mainly because it looked so ugly. The front end looks like it is wearing a dental retainer of some kind. I liked the VW CC, but when I discovered I couldn't get one with a sunroof that slid open, I lost interest and got a regular Passat, two liter turbo instead. It is as much fun to drive as the TSX, every bit as reliable, but roomier and with several features the TSX didn't have. The kicker was no interest financing. Acura definitely has lost their way.
Former Acura and Honda Owner
I also went out and bought a VW CC. Saw a few pictures of slightly modified CC's and instantly fell in love, a week later I bought the car. I can not be happier, after 2 months of ownership I still can not take my eyes off the car now that its slightly lowered on 19's. Poor man's audi is what I call it. Acura and honda never even crossed my mind. lexus, infiniti, audi, and bmw did, but were out of my budget range.
ATL
I am currently in the market for a new car - after several BMWs, and a great Audi-when I look at the Acura lineup-I just can't get past the awful front grill they have decided to add on the entire lineup of their cars. Honda needs to spend the money-like Kia-(who now has an Audi designer) -and get serious about building car that are not only well built, but beautiful too.
gimme a decent sport sedan
I am test driving cars and wanting to purchase a decent sized sedan that has some gumption, rides smooth but handles curves fairly well. Acuras will not get consideration as long as the cars have that goofy animated cartoon smiley face on the front and rear of the car. And the Accord is dumpy looking. The exterior of the VW CC is gorgeous but the interior is not appealing. The Lexus LS460 is a decent looking car and excellent interior but is sloppy in the curves. What's left? Infiniti G37 which seems a bit small, the M37 is ok but not quite all there, the 2008 CPO BMW535i is a blast to drive but has fuel pump reliability issues, MB E350 haven't driven yet.... I am looking at new and CPO vehicles up to mid $40k range and so far frustrated that there is not a car that has the looks, the power, the handling, the thrill, and ample leg room and trunk for traveling w/ 4 adults.
Former Integra Owner
Well, No Kidding. Their products simply aren't beautiful. I now own a VW CC. $30K. I-4 turbo, 6spd, 19' thunder wheels. I linger over it's lines every time I enter or exit. The Acura stuff... please. very unpleasant to the eye. It reminds me of programs designed for Microsoft... the engineers like it but users don't. Give me something in the realm of Apple, Bose, & BMW... then I will again look at the marque. Pretty, stylish, beautiful doesn't cost any extra to produce... until you can get me in the door, I can't even consider something that expensive and so, so ugly.
DOMINGO M.
The design is on the way down while quality has stabalized at excellent, yet I would never pay (again)50 K for an upgraded Handa.These people have fallen asleep at the helm while the rest , even Hyundai have surpassed them !! DM
Don Watson
My sentiments are the same as most others, all Honda styling has gone in the toilet, the only well styled model is the Civic coup plus the rest of their line is so big they wont go in my garage. I drive a 94 integra i bought new and am now on my 17th year with it, has over 293,000 miles on the O.D. The Acura grill makes me sick to my stomach, when i see one, which is not to often in L.A. anymore. Another of Honda problems is there love affair with dark colors.
camborghini
acura is one of the worst luxury car companies on the market today, and honda is on a downward spiral too. The cars honda is producing right now seem incredibly boring. I would probably point to the lack of a halo car as the reason for the brand blandness to be honest.
carguy
Acura needs a completely new design studio as the Acura's trademark grille and the keen edge styling is polarizing it needs to be completely abandoned. I find the chrome grille so ugly, I would insist that the dealer paint it body color at no charge if I were to buy a TSX or TL (in fact I have seen several on the road with the grille painted over). I still can't figure out why it took Acura so long to realize the styling was causing the division to lose sales. I would also have to agree that the interiors look plain and hardly much better than a Honda interior (not very upscale at all). To make matters worse Acura (like Honda) offers for most of its models only dated 5 speed automatics and pretty much the same dated v-tec engines that they have been offering for over a decade with no really new technology to boast the power and efficiency of the engines (yes, Acura has just started to offer a 6 speed auto on one or two of its models but even than its behind its competitors that offer 7, 8 speeds autos and much faster shifting dual clutch autos). As far as offering hybrids--it's bad ideas sense it would still be using Honda dated non-competitive ima powertrain (and for Honda hybrid means underpowered, slow, and boring). I also fear that the hybrid hatchback may be just a rebadged CR-Zzzzz only since Acura will try to make it more upscale it will be even heavier than the already overburdened CR-Z platform Acura will a car that will be slower and handle worse than the already slow and not that great handling Cr-z.
Erickenbacker
Acura is a terrific brand in need of a clue. Edggy styling doesn't have to be hideous but then why isn't just attractive good enough for styling? Prenty of young people are buying 3 series BMWs that are more handsome than cutting edge. The styling of Acura has been on a steady decline for years and it is now to the point that you almost can't look at the exterior. Hire Pininfarina or someone that actually understands car styling and all will be well. Hell even Hyundai is making nice looking cars now, seems like Honda/Acura would be able to do so.
George Kenney
In the spirt of "Retro" the Cruiser name can be retained and every 7 years a new Cruiser could be launched.Possible Cruisers: 39' Plymouth Coupe, 55 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer, 1961 Chrysler 300G Convertible, 1969 Plymouth Barracuda. All would make fine retro looks, 5 seat compat size. By changing the look every 7 years you will get repeat Cruiser buyers PT Cruiser, PC Cruiser, DC Cruiser C3 Cruiser etc...
Everett Rupert
I have never understood what Acur is trying to say with its styling. It is certainly not a pretty car, nor is it completely ugly, but therein lies the problem; it's neither fish nor fowl.
Jim
Honda overall is blowing it. I have only owned hondas swince 1988, never had a problem, they run great, but they are making bad choices as a brand. No 4wd option on hte Odyssey is a mistake for those of us in the north east with families who also want extra safety. I own a honda element, which is the most comfortale (more head room than any large SUV out there like the Toyota Sequoia) and true utility vehicle ever....It needs some redesign, I know, but it has not competition. They dont market it and now they are discontinuing it. As ford brings on the C-max, and I see other concepts going for this small but Big suv category (sort of a mini-minivan) honda has taken themselves out when they already have a platform to improve upon. Still good quality, just not all there with the design and marketing anymore....
Chris
I'm still driving my CL after many years of reliable and comfortable performance. I recently purchased a new Mercedes C class after looking at the the TL. The TL looks great from all angles that do not include the grill. The interior is great. But I couldnt ignore the beak? buck tooth? whatever? grill. The designer who designed it and the executive team that approved adding this, potentially ugliest thing ever to roll off a production line, design across all Acura vehicle's should be fired and banned forever from the automobile industry.
Jake
I'm currently doing advance research to find the car that I will get in a year, and when I compare Acura's to other luxury brands, Acura can't even compare to them. And like Kam said, even the Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata looks better and more upscale. Even though the Hyundai copies Mercedes Benz exterior design style, at least they don't cost twice as much. I'm going to be smart shopper and get a reliable safe car with great exterior and interior, good horsepower, and at a more affordable price.
Ray Ostanek
I'm with Joe on this one re: reintroducing the sports coupe. My wife's 2002 RSX-S still runs like a top with 150k on the odometer. Repairs have been minimal. Easily the best, most trouble-free car we have ever owned (and that includes a BMW 3 series). We are pestered by dealer about buying another Acura; we remind them that they abandoned the segment when they dropped the RSX-S. Have looked at supposedly identical Civic SI but the lack of 2 door hatch body style and cheaper trim/paint, fit/finish are turnoffs for her. Still waiting, Acura...
Joe
your a retard neither the rdx nor the mdx is a rebadged honda. i dont see a turbo 4 with sh-awd and sport suspension along with 18inch wheels in honda. nor is the mdx in any way related to the pilot. the mdx is one of the best selling lux suvs. and mind you acura is still outselling infinity. even witha fwd platform acura makes better handling vehicles than lexus. the tl 6mt beats the is350 any day on any track. acura just needs to make smaller, less bold designed cars and fit thrm with the 6at thats available on the mdx/zdx. also get rid of the zdx and rl. re-introduce coupe sports like rsx.
Ric
I had a 2006 Acura TL, Manual and LOVED the car. It looked great and was awesome to drive. Unfortunately my partner got hurt and could no longer easily access the car so I had to trade it in. Now that I'm looking for another car I would NEVER purchase the newly styled TL. Overall the look is horrible, they should have stuck with the 2006 look and improved upon it. I must say the Acura was one of the best cars I ever drove but there are cars out there that drive as well and look better. Take a look at the Audi A5, now thats a HOT looking car.
PeterJ
Every time I've looked at Acura, I come away feeling they very average, too much like their Honda base, and very over priced. Lately they have added very ugly. I was last very near buying an MDX. Took it for a test drive and overyall it was good but not especially quiet. This was 2006, decided to wait for the 2007 and was hit in the head by the ugly look. Everything else except price was a winner, so I shopped elsewhere. If the TSX sport wagon is their new look, they don't have a clue.
Joe
No, Lexus is mostly RWD platforms except RX, HS, and the ES which are rebadge jobs, the other models are STAND ALONE Lexus models with no Toyota Dress-Down counterparts. Acura stagnated when they limited their lineup to rebadging (TSX-rebadged Euro Accord, TL-Rebadged Accord, RL-Rebadged bloated Accord, MDX-Rebadged Pilot, RDX-Rebadged CR-V) Need i go on. Apples and oranges my friend.
Alvin
I couldn't agree more with these comments, by far out of the luxury brands, Acura has the lamest design. The beak in the front and the bow in the rear are a complete turn off. Take for example the previous TL, for the first time it was starting too look like a nice four door car and instead of building upon that design they completely revamped the design to a completely boring car that caters to 60+ crowd(no offense but it's not demographics they are looking for)
OSUOD
The distribution of dealers isn't a plus! Consider that in the entire state of West Virginia there is a single dealership to entice and service buyers.
diesel
..."and what are essentially upscale accords, civics, crvs and pilots do not help their cause." isn't that what Toyota does with Lexus?
Kam
Lexus and Infinity, the two other Japanese "image brands," at least make their cars stylish, high-content and desirable--successfully mixing a nice blend of engines with technological prowess and aesthetics. Acura touts its technology in its advertising; however, the brand's styling (inside and out) does nothing to make me even consider an Acura model. Why would I spend more of my hard-earned money to drive what is, basically, an ugly re-badged Honda? The Kia Optima and Hyundai Sonata both look better and more upscale than a comparably-sized Acura sedan...and that speaks volumes about what is wrong Acura today.
Nunya
I'm all for bold designs but sometimes it's best to stick to what you know. Acura has potential but with newer, better designed cars from BMW, Mercedes, Infiniti, Cadillac and Lexus, Acura has a lot to catching up to do. Acura needs to do a total revamp of every car, because the TL was their best seller. The CTS, 3-Series, and G37 sedan run rings all around it. They need to go back to their tasteful designs and not allow their new young designer cut their teeth on the bread and butter.
Glen Ota
Average cars with average styling, average power, and average interiors. They use to be so innovative than went the Toyota way. Average!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Getting uglier with each new generation. No longer sought after. In simple plain English, "Boring"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Russell
They just need to get rid of the terrible mugs
bucks
I'm currently in the market for a new vehicle and couldn't agree more. Acura builds fine cars that won't enter into my considerations for two reasons; the front end styling that would cause me to close my eyes every time I approached the vehicle and their pretentious "earned your first million by..." add campaign. If Acura had a clue I would write them a fat check.
guest
outdated technology in the form of 5-speed autos and SOHC engines is also a problem. Also, engine output is no longer head of the class. 305hp is the best they can do? also, fwd platforms, lack of a v8 and what are essentially upscale accords, civics, crvs and pilots do not help their cause.

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