TOKYO -- Acura's new global design chief wants to spice up Honda's premium brand, but one polarizing feature won't change.
The shieldlike double pentagon grille -- derisively billed "the beak" by critics -- is here to stay, says Toshinobu Minami.
Minami, 44, took the reins of exterior design for Honda and Acura last September, chosen by President Takanobu Ito to inject more visual interest into the company's utilitarian styling.
He says Acura's oft-maligned grille may have gone too far in the past. But the look is growing on people, he says, and the basic design language will stay, albeit toned down a bit.
"We concede that we went a little overboard at some points," Minami said in a recent interview. "We actually had pretty bad feedback on this initially from different directions. But we are not going to buckle under that pressure."
The V-shaped grille was most recently carried over to the new Acura ILX entry sedan that went on sale this spring. It also appeared in the redesigned TL that debuted last fall and the NSX concept sports car shown this year at the Detroit auto show.
But the new look has been toned down from earlier incarnations, which were introduced under Acura's "keen edge" design overhaul that started in 2008.
"There hasn't been that great of a change, but maybe people have gotten used to it," Minami said of the grille. "There may be small evolutions here or there in details."
Minami says he wants to make the Honda brand sportier and more active, closer to Acura's traditional territory. In turn, Acura will be "going further out, maybe pursuing premium."
Minami, who penned the NSX concept, worked in the early 2000s as lead exterior designer on the Acura TL and second-generation Acura RL, neither of which had the keen-edge grille.