With the debut of the dramatic 2021 Acura TLX and the return of the high-performance Type S badge, the Japanese brand is hoping to set its revival in motion.
Acura has big plans to return to its roots of building luxury cars that focus on performance and fun, which is something it admittedly lost focus of since its glory days of the Integra (later RSX) and original NSX. Acura became more focused on soft luxury and cost savings than sharp performance, something the brand has received a lot of criticism for.
“You start to deviate from your roots, dilute the DNA, then you lose your fanbase,” Emile Korkor, AVP of Sales and Marketing at Acura Canada, told autoTRADER.ca. “We’ve lost a lot of enthusiasts and a lot of young buyers. We forgot to have fun. Driving’s a pleasure and we want it to continue being a pleasure.”
The first step in Acura’s revival was to bring back a sport sedan, a curious thing to focus on when SUVs and crossovers dominate the landscape. In 2019, Acura sold just 2,873 TLX sedans in Canada, while in the same period, 9,716 RDX compact SUVs found new homes. Still, Acura is hoping its dedication to a lower-volume, high-performance model like the new TLX Type S will prove to its fans that the brand values them and no longer wants them to feel alienated.
“We made our name in the performance sedan business,” Korkor said. “It’s really just about what we represent as a brand. It’s not about the volume. It’s about representing our customer fanbase well and focusing on our roots.”
One huge shift towards this return to form is more differentiation between Acura vehicles and vehicles from its parent company, Honda. For a while, many automotive experts have wondered why anyone would buy an Acura when Hondas are already so good. Acknowledging this, the TLX has an entirely new chassis that was built from the ground up and will not be shared with any Honda product. This differentiation will be a huge part of Acura’s strategy from now on.
“If a customer’s going to be spending more money, they should be feeling something different,” Korkor said, adding that simply taking parts off the Honda shelf won’t cut it anymore. “We are doing things on our own now.”
Korkor said this is the strategy Acura will take when overhauling the MDX and RDX crossovers, which will be built on all-new chassis not shared with the Honda Pilot or CR-V, respectively. With its refocus on performance, it must be wondered, then, if Acura would consider a Type S variant for its SUVs, something Korkor wasn’t able to comment on.
“This is a critical time for us. This return to our roots is a very big deal for us,” he said. “We have to stay focused on being the best Acura we can be and bringing back those customers we know and love.”