Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Teeming Masses

Trying to do a bit a recon for a consulting project I'm working on, I decided to pick my roommate's brain a bit. "What comes to mind when you think of Acura?" I asked.

Blank stare.

"Okay, what models do you think of for Acura?"

"Um, they have that RSX, right?" (It's actually been dropped.)

"Anything else?"

"I think they had a really expensive sports car; it was pretty cool lookin'."

"The NSX, right. Have you heard of the Legend?"


"How 'bout the Integra, [our friend] Kim's car?"

"Oh, right, yeah, I guess that's an Acura, too."

"Ever heard of the RL, TL, TSX?"

More blank stares.

Okay, so every once in a while, I need to be grounded, realizing that most people--even my roommate, who actually has a semi-interest in cars--have no idea what the hell is out there. I have to be reminded that to others, Acura's current lineup is as familiar as the current lineup of Steve Maddens is to me.

Okay, I actually really hope this is complete hyperbole, since cars tend to be more conspicuous than shoes. But the point is there. It's good to talk to people who don't share my interest in cars. It's also nice to have friends who, though they may not have much knowledge of the car market, always at least seem to be interested in what I have to say about it.

That is all.


Kevin said...

I used to love Acuras. In the early '90s, a 1st or 2nd gen Integra was my absolute dream car. But they seem to have lost their way somehow...

The new RL looks great. But there's no MT option.

I'm friends with a couple who own an '05 TL and an '07 MDX. They bought both of them because they're techno-nerd people. They like how Acura's nav/stereo/CCM has voice control, and how their bluetooth phones integrate with the nav for handsfree. They also like how "swoopy" both cars look. They seriously told me that.

In my mind, Acura doesn't really have a strong identity in the market. Those cryptic model names (MDX, TL, RL, whatever else) remind me of Lincoln, or Cadillac, or something.

Acura is born from Honda, which is known for reliable and efficient powertrains, but a lot of people want 8 cylinders for Acura money, not FWD 6 (and 4) cyl or even V6 AWD like in the RL and MDX.

I haven't noticed them trying to show they have fuel efficient cars (as the result of smaller engines) though. Like Saab, they mostly have FWD cars in a luxury market that demands more powerful AWD or RWD vehicles. So what exactly are they accomplishing?

Lexus, who I'd see as Acura's main competitor, seems to sell way more cars. But Lexus offers more flavors, like the RWD IS and some V8 powered vehicles. Acura is seeming like a bit of an also-ran in the near-luxo market. Or am I not giving them enough credit?

The Auto Snob said...

It's interesting that you comment about Acura's lack of strong identity, especially w/ regard to their model names. Back when they decided to drop the Legend name, the rationale was that people identified strongly with that nameplate, but not with the Acura brand. They'd say, "I love my Legend." But no one was saying, "I love my Acura."

If what you say is true, then their plan has backfired. I do think that they did squander the Legend name, and it's likely that they've realized that by now. But I respect the choice not to pull a cartoonish, Ford-like move and bring it back.

I'm really not sure, but my hunch is that luxury buyers do like the alpha and/or numeric naming conventions. It gives an Acura buyer the feeling like they're buying something more like a Lexus or Mercedes.

The plan goes awry when you confuse the hell outta people with your inability to decide whether to pronounce the name MKZ or Mark Z. Lincoln went back and forth like seven times on that issue.

As for Acura, I respect that they're doing their own thing. I disagree that Lexus is their prime competitor, and I would agree that they're in the 2nd tier of luxury, with the likes of Saab, Volvo and now Lincoln. If there's a company they're chasing, it would be Audi, for obvious reasons.

Interestingly enough, I now see the progression as follows: Lincoln is now chasing Acura, which is chasing Audi, which is chasing BMW. There's a different "chasing" relationship between each pair, but when it comes down to it, they're all true.

Thanks for keeping up w/ the blog. This is truly valuable feedback for me, and it's much appreciated.