LAS VEGAS -- Honda will overhaul and reposition its Acura lineup over the next 18 months and abandon its long pursuit of top-tier luxury-car status for the brand.
After years of trying to propel Acura into the front ranks with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus, Honda says it will settle for offering mid-level premium vehicles that favor fuel economy over performance.
With one exception: At the Detroit auto show next month, Honda will bring back the Ferrari-fighting Acura NSX -- a new version of the mid-engine supercar that disappeared in 2005 after a 15-year run. But instead of a monster engine, the NSX will have a compact, direct-injection V-6 teamed with a lithium ion battery pack. Another key to recalibrating Acura is the rollout of three new or redesigned sedans in the next 18 months, including a smaller compact and a bigger flagship.
"We are not satisfied with Acura's current positioning," Honda Motor Co. CEO Takanobu Ito said this month at the Tokyo Motor Show. "We want to showcase interesting and fun technologies and show excellent environmental performance."
In the works for Acura:
-- The ILX compact sedan will arrive in spring, using Honda's global Civic platform. It replaces the tired TSX that used the bones of the European Accord.
-- A redesigned RL flagship that is larger than the current version is due next fall.
-- A redesigned mid-sized TL sedan follows in the spring of 2013.
"Our sedans haven't been doing the job for the brand," said Vicki Poponi, American Honda assistant vice president for product planning, at a briefing here for dealers and the media.
Poponi said the TSX, TL and RL were cannibalizing sales because they were too close in footprint and interior size. The new models will create a bigger spread in the lineup.
Changes in the crossover categories also are coming, with a redesigned RDX compact arriving next spring and the next MDX in 2013.