LOS ANGELES -- Twenty one years after Honda created its Acura luxury division in 1986, the brand finally got its own design studio.
By that time, Honda's U.S. styling team had designed several Acura models, including the 1994 Integra, 1995 CL coupe and 2000 TL sedan. But designers thought there was too much overlap between the Honda and Acura work going on at Honda's studio in Torrance, Calif.
And since Acura was sold only in the United States, the bosses at Honda Motor Co. decided the upscale division needed its own styling center on Honda's sprawling Torrance campus.
"We needed to focus on our brand a little more," said Jon Ikeda, Acura's chief designer. "We used to be in one building with Honda, and our designers were all jumbled up. The guy next to me would be working on a Honda; or I would be working on an Acura, then a Honda. There was cross-pollination. We needed more independence."
But things sometimes move glacially at Japanese car companies. It was the U.S.-designed 2001 Acura MDX crossover that helped Honda brass in Japan make up their minds, earning American Acura designers much-needed respect from Japan.
But it wasn't until 2007 that Honda Motor granted Acura its own studio, in a 50,000-square-foot building separate from the Honda design house.