Drifting Acura brand gets own sales, marketing unit

The new Acura Division will be headed by Mike Accavitti, 55, senior vice president of American Honda.

LOS ANGELES -- American Honda last week took a big symbolic step toward giving Acura a clearer direction by carving out a separate sales and marketing operation for the luxury brand.

The new Acura Division will be headed by Mike Accavitti, 55, senior vice president of American Honda. Former Acura sales boss Jeff Conrad will take charge of the Honda Division as its general manager, while also being promoted to senior vice president at American Honda. John Mendel will oversee both Honda and Acura divisions as the head of American Honda Auto Division.

The realignment, which takes effect April 1, brings American Honda's sales and marketing structure closer to the model used by rival automakers with luxury channels, such as Toyota-Lexus and Nissan-Infiniti. It's also part of an effort to bolster Acura's appeal at a time when German brands such as Mercedes-Benz and Audi are reaching deeper into the entry-luxury market to pick off fans of more mainstream brands.

Acura who?
How Acura measures up to key competitors among consumers who plan to purchase a new vehicle in the next 12 months
Advertising awarenessPurchasing consideration
Percentage of consumers who say they have recently seen the brand's advertising:Percentage of consumers who say they would consider a given brand for their next vehicle purchase.
Source: YouGov Brand Index

"There's a lot of recognition that Acura should be and can be a much stronger brand than it is today," Mendel said during a conference call last week. "And that's what I think you're seeing us do."

YouGov Brand Index, which measures consumer perception daily, says Acura trails BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Lexus and even Volvo in advertising awareness, purchase consideration and in the firm's key overall brand-perception metric among consumers who plan to buy a new car in the next year.

The good news is that Acura is much closer to its rivals in purchase consideration than in ad awareness and brand health. Its overall Brand Index score is also better than its low advertising awareness would suggest, which means Acura's brand is punching above the weight of its marketing budget, YouGov CEO Ted Marzilli said.

"There are things going for it. It's not a dog of a brand," Marzilli said. "So maybe with some more nurturing, love and marketing muscle and focus put behind the brand, it may have a shot."

You can reach Ryan Beene at autonews@crain.com

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