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Acura takes page from Subaru
All-wheel drive could anchor revival strategy
Hans Greimel
Automotive News
October 13, 2014

TOKYO -- Acura, trying to reinvent itself yet again, is taking a cue from one of America's hottest-selling brands.

Honda Motor Co.'s premium brand wants to position all-wheel drive at the center of its revival bid, much the way Subaru did in the 1990s, to great success.

Awd, already on half the vehicles Acura has sold in the U.S. this year, could be offered as a standard technology on all vehicles.

"I think that's the way we should go," said Koichi Fukuo, Acura's top global executive.

Linking the brand's image to the technology would dovetail with the arrival of next-generation awd technology on Acuras. On the other hand, Acura has renewed all its volume nameplates in the last three years. That cadence means that shifting to an all-awd lineup may take years.

Acura had planned to roll out an rwd V-8 but scrapped the idea when the global financial crisis hit. Since then, it has been casting about for a niche to claim as its own.

"The key is awd," said Fukuo, who as senior managing director at Honda oversees the Acura division and advanced drivetrain vehicles such as hydrogen fuel cell cars. "As a premium brand, we need something different from the competition."
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As far as finding a "niche" goes, I suppose they could do a lot worse than selling all their products (in the NAFTA region at least) with AWD as standard.

From a marketing perspective, it does make sense --- especially since all Acuras will now have "X" at the end of their monikers. At the very least, it will tie their branding strategy into their marketing approach.

However, if this isn't done correctly (and it's made to seem "gimmicky"), I'm not sure how the market will react. AWD products are great, but typically heavier. With gas mileage now a bigger concern for most consumers, it could be as much of a liability as a boon to some luxury intenders.

Just my humble opinion.

The NSX halo car will symbolize the new identity. But how to square that image with the rest of the lineup is a challenge.

"As long as you have an ILX that doesn't even pretend to be exhilarating, you're going to have problems," said Kurt Sanger, an auto analyst with Deutsche Securities Japan. "They are going to launch a luxury halo car the brand might not be ready for."
That's a good point. The ILX isn't a bad looking car, but after they fumbled the launch. It had a steady stream of bad press from journalists who were underwhelmed with the car, and eventually the Hybrid version was dropped for 2015. If I were at Acura, I'd focus some attention on improving it in the short term; even before trying to figure out how to make AWD standard on their entry-level offering.

As an aside, I have a friend who owns one, and while it's certainly not a bad car, you wouldn't think it was worth the price he paid for it.
 

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Would rather have heard that it was Chrysler going to be AWD. Subaru would be more in line with Chrysler than with Acura, since a Legacy and an ILX wouldn't even be close to being cross-shopped.
 

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The thing is though, you need pricing to be right, and Subaru is notorious for cheap interiors.



Their interiors have to be the worst in the business.





one of my friends has one of these fully loaded foresters I took him to lunch and he could not beleive how great my equinox is, (despite the plastics)
 

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Eh. I mean it's not a bad strategy, but that just has to be one piece of it. Quattro isn't what made Audi what it is today, nor Symmetrical AWD for Subaru. It can't for Acura either. And like the articles questions, with economical concerns abounding I'm curious as to what that would do for mileage. Seems like something Acura would half implement then abort with increased mileage considerations. Maybe they use e-AWD to get around the efficiency issue? And this isn't really a unique strategy, as outlined by multiple brands that have attempted to use AWD as a centerpiece for the brand - the fact that Audi is one of those brands is too coincidental to believe.

As it stands the brand will never be a top tier luxury brand, but more recently I thought it seemed as though Honda accepted and understood that. The launch of cars like the RLX seemed to cement that theory. But then this news comes along.....
 

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They could certainly do worse.

Would rather have heard that it was Chrysler going to be AWD. Subaru would be more in line with Chrysler than with Acura, since a Legacy and an ILX wouldn't even be close to being cross-shopped.
That'd be an Impreza, not a Legacy.

The thing is though, you need pricing to be right, and Subaru is notorious for cheap interiors.



Their interiors have to be the worst in the business.





one of my friends has one of these fully loaded foresters I took him to lunch and he could not beleive how great my equinox is, (despite the plastics)
Interiors might not light a fire under anyone's butt, but dat brand strength doe...
 

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Much of the game plan is in flux, he said. But elements are emerging. Acura plans more powerful engines, but it won't be tempted into big V-8 or V-10 powerplants, Fukuo said. It also will stay clear of rear-wheel-drive layouts.
The future for a FWD-based brand like Acura isn't more powerful engines, it's more powerful systems.
 

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I feel bad for acura, on one hand you can certainly have a great deal of success selling front wheel drive only cars. However you can only do this once you convince people that you are a premium brand something I feel that acura has never done. It is like you need to have the high end care just to get more people to buy your lower end car. Also in some segments you are at a distinct disadvantage bringing a front wheel drive car to the game. I feel that this is what separates Infiniti for example from acura even though Infiniti is still strugling.
 

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They could certainly do worse.



That'd be an Impreza, not a Legacy.



Interiors might not light a fire under anyone's butt, but dat brand strength doe...
Subaru sells for other reasons than just AWD and boxers, though those items do help in their marketing.
Their Boxer sound, quirky styling and association with an active cool lifestyle has people seeing some sort of saab world that does not belong in the tweed jacket types cigar in the lecturer lounge saab feeling..
 

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Honestly I think they are trying to more follow the path the Audi has Taken (FWD/AWD vehicles), though they will have to step their game up and make competitors to premium brands. That means an actual 3 series, 5 series, and 7 series competitor though FWD/AWD alas Audi. Actually I wonder, if Acuras platforms might make for a better Audi?. My friends Audi S4s engine is slung completely in front of the front axle making for poor load dynamics.
 

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If it is true that Acura is moving to an all-wheel drive as a standard and there is little sacrafice in terms of fuel efficiency along with good pricing then it should be a good move for Acura. Considering Acura is a luxury brand and Subaru is NOT....

Subaru has done an excellent job in offereing roomy AWD wagons that rival SUVs in terms of cargo space along with excellent fuel efficiency like the new 2015 outback. Just shows how that brand is improving.

Car Vehicle Gear shift Speedometer Motor vehicle
 

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If it is true that Acura is moving to an all-wheel drive as a standard and there is little sacrafice in terms of fuel efficiency along with good pricing then it should be a good move for Acura. Considering Acura is a luxury brand and Subaru is NOT....

Subaru has done an excellent job in offereing roomy AWD wagons that rival SUVs in terms of cargo space along with excellent fuel efficiency like the new 2015 outback. Just shows how that brand is improving.

View attachment 24978
In practical terms, Subaru's best feature is relatively low pricing compared to other AWD SUV offerings. The Legacy and WRX are facing extinction in the US market if things continue being flat like they are. BR-Z is already pretty much dying, despite efforts to create a sense of scarcity.
But their SUV Sales are on fire. Outback up almost 40% that is impressive
 

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In practical terms, Subaru's best feature is relatively low pricing compared to other AWD SUV offerings. The Legacy and WRX are facing extinction in the US market if things continue being flat like they are. BR-Z is already pretty much dying, despite efforts to create a sense of scarcity.
But their SUV Sales are on fire. Outback up almost 40% that is impressive
Great point. Subaru seems successful because they are rugged wagon/CUVs known for being a bit more efficient and AWD capable. Kind of like an family and Eco friendlier Jeep. That's what they're selling and that branding is why here successful. Grafting that to Acura won't work. Offering all AWD shouldn't hurt Acura but it won't make them more legit or relevant.
 

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Subaru sells for other reasons than just AWD and boxers, though those items do help in their marketing.
Their Boxer sound, quirky styling and association with an active cool lifestyle has people seeing some sort of saab world that does not belong in the tweed jacket types cigar in the lecturer lounge saab feeling..
All true, but you didn't mention their marketing. Its brilliant, especially the advertising component. Their TV ads are my favourite, often funny, cute (yes, cute kids driving cars- something that apparently a kid can do in a Subaru ad but not a Corvette ad!) and sincere. And their message is consistent- Subarus are long lasting (i.e durable, reliable and inter-generational) and safe. Its not exactly a novel message, but its consistent and well executed.
 

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I think the day has come and gone for AWD making a name for a carmaker. Both Audi and Subaru started with AWD when no one else had it, or if they did it was just one model. Today it is expected to be an option for tier 1 luxury and seems to be around enough in mainstream models that it isn’t a rarity. Will this help Acura in the snowy parts of the country? Most likely they will pick up a few incremental sales, but as Acura is primarily FWD in the first place I bet snow considerations never scared off many people from buying an Acura. I don’t think AWD will be Acura’s magic bullet….

Acura needs to do more to differentiate themselves from Honda. Though their styling is different, there is a Honda-ness to all Acura’s that I can’t put my finger on. I think that Honda-ness needs to go.
 

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Acura has definitely lost their way and have not clue what to do. Subaru is doing well, but it's not only due to their standard AWD, after all it's nearly always been there, but mainly due to Subaru taking a page from Toyota; bland cars sell really well.

I wonder when Honda is just going to take Acura behind the barn and put it out of it's misery? And I used to love Acura's products.
 

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All true, but you didn't mention their marketing. Its brilliant, especially the advertising component. Their TV ads are my favourite, often funny, cute (yes, cute kids driving cars- something that apparently a kid can do in a Subaru ad but not a Corvette ad!) and sincere. And their message is consistent- Subarus are long lasting (i.e durable, reliable and inter-generational) and safe. Its not exactly a novel message, but its consistent and well executed.
Moreover, Subaru has successfully courted new customers while still maintaining loyalty among existing ones.

One common thread between Honda/Acura and Subaru in the U.S. market is that both brands have a very attractive customer base: well educated, high income, and frugal, with a relatively high proportion paying cash for their new automobile purchase.
 

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I think the day has come and gone for AWD making a name for a carmaker. Both Audi and Subaru started with AWD when no one else had it, or if they did it was just one model. Today it is expected to be an option for tier 1 luxury and seems to be around enough in mainstream models that it isn’t a rarity. Will this help Acura in the snowy parts of the country? Most likely they will pick up a few incremental sales, but as Acura is primarily FWD in the first place I bet snow considerations never scared off many people from buying an Acura. I don’t think AWD will be Acura’s magic bullet….

Acura needs to do more to differentiate themselves from Honda. Though their styling is different, there is a Honda-ness to all Acura’s that I can’t put my finger on. I think that Honda-ness needs to go.
The way Honda sit on the road always struck me as odd. Kind of like a basket. Acura really made just three cars in their history that were worthy of the hype.




 
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