After years of uninspiring product, Acura Division is giving its dealers a reason to get excited.
Promising a return to the 'precision crafted performance' image that launched the franchise, Acura is delivering product that it feels lives up to the slogan.
A hint of that came with the five-speed automatic transmission added to the 3.2TL in the fall. But March will bring a 3.2CL coupe that Acura hopes will beat the BMW 3 series on price and performance. Later in the year, Acura will field a rival to the Lexus RX 300 sport-utility but offer a much larger 3.5-liter V-6 engine.
'It's worth the wait,' said dealer council chairman Bill McDaniels, who owns Acura stores in Charleston and Columbia, S.C. 'Acura has taken a little while to find its direction, but I think they are there now. People will see that Acura is back.'
Dick Colliver, American Honda Motor Co. executive vice president of sales, predicts the fresh products should put Acura at the 140,000-unit mark this year, which would be an all-time high. That would count only about 12,000 sales of the sport-utility; once that vehicle is ramped up, Acura expects to sell about 40,000 a year.
Does the renewed emphasis on performance image mean Acura will add a V-8?
Colliver didn't deny it. 'It's being considered for our halo car. It would be expensive and limited volume, so it would cost a lot. But if anyone can develop a V-8, Honda's engineers can.'
Acura dealers had their highest profit margins ever in 1999, up 42 percent from 1998, which had been their previous high, Colliver said. The arrival of new product should boost those margins even higher.