“You paid how much for that Hyundai Genesis sedan?” is a question that was preceded years earlier by “You paid how much for that fancy Honda?”
Twenty-five years after Acura opened its doors to customers in the U.S. on March 27, 1986, the brand provides more than 100,000 units of extra sales to Honda. That’s far off the pace of the pre-recession 2005 and 2006 sales performances of more than 200,000 units sold, but still a respectable performance for a second-tier luxury brand in the U.S.
Acura launched in 1986 with two models: the V-6 powered Legend and the four-cylinder Integra. Both immediately proved popular and in 1987 — Acura’s first full year on the market — sales surpassed 100,000 units.
Acura’s popularity increased until 1990, when Lexus and Infiniti arrived in North America. That year marked the first (slight) decline in sales, but it was also the first year in which the NSX was sold. While Acura started its new battle against Japanese competitors from Toyota and Nissan, the brand also had Ferrari in its sights with the NSX supercar and its aluminum monocoque body and VTEC technology. Just as Lexus forced Mercedes-Benz to up its game with flagship luxury sedans, the NSX made Ferrari take notice. The NSX served as a halo car for Acura, which let the car linger relatively unchanged well into the 2000s.
In 1991, the midsize Vigor sedan hit the market, expanding the Acura lineup beyond the Legend, Integra, and NSX. Powered by a longitudinally-mounted five-cylinder engine, the Vigor was sold for five calendar years, according to Acura, before being replaced in 1995 by the more conventional TL. The TL wasn’t the only alphanumeric addition in 1995; 200 units of the SLX were sold that year, too.
For at least the first decade of Acura’s existence, the Integra was integral to its success, but also limited its growth. If Acura was to compete at the same level as first-tier brands like Mercedes-Benz, it could be a problem that the best-selling model is often an inexpensive, sporty hatchback.
The early 2000s were good to Acura. The Vigor-replacing TL was a hit, even if the Legend replacement — the RL slowly lost market relevance. The MDX and TL continued to carry Acura forward, but Acura began to fill other segments, as well. The TSX arrived in the 2004 model year as Acura’s entry-level sedan with a higher level of refinement than the Integra or RSX. The RDX sporty compact crossover was introduced in 2007 and the boldly-styled ZDX crossover launched late in 2009. Calendar year 2011’s biggest Acura news — besides the brand’s 25th anniversary — is the refreshed TL.
The TSX now has a wagon body style for the 2011 model year, and a sub-TSX vehicle is on the way, hoping to ride the wave of efficient premium vehicles as gas prices rise. What do you expect to see in the next 25 years from Acura?