Apr 1 6:30p at Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL
Honda Motor Co. (7267), seeking a 46 percent jump in U.S. Acura brand sales this year, priced a new “near premium” compact sedan to attract car buyers in their 30s and keep them out of competing BMW and Audi models.
The 2013 ILX which goes on sale in May starts at about $27,000. It’s aimed at older “Generation-Y” customers who aspire to own a luxury vehicle and have limited income, Jeff Conrad, vice president of Honda’s Acura unit, said this month. Honda’s U.S. sales target is 40,000 annually of the ILX, which shares underpinnings with the Civic compact.
The target “seems pretty ambitious,” because younger drivers have been hurt the most by weakness in the job market since 2008, said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst for researcher Edmunds.com. “It’s a bit risky aiming your new vehicles at this group is that’s basically falling off the map.”
Acura was the first U.S. premium brand from an Asian carmaker. Sales have been volatile, peaking at 209,610 in 2005 before plunging to 105,723 in 2009. The company sold 123,299 Acuras in the U.S. last year, less than half the 247,907 luxury vehicles sold in the U.S. by Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) AG’s BMW, No. 1 seller last year of luxury cars and trucks.
Honda says the recession left consumers more cost-conscious and potentially open to Acura vehicles that sell for less than BMW, Volkswagen AG (VOW)’s Audi and Toyota Motor Corp. (7203)’s Lexus. Honda wants to raise total Acura U.S. sales to 180,000 vehicles this year.
“They are making more-rational purchase decisions within the luxury category,” Conrad told reporters in Scottsdale, Arizona, this month. Both the ILX and new 2013 RDX compact sport-utility vehicle which goes on sale in April are for people with “aspirational goals, but affordability is an issue.”
Along with ILX, the company is targeting annual sales of 30,000 RDX SUVs annually. Next week, Acura also will show a revamped large sedan at the New York auto show that will replace the current RL late this year, followed by a new NSX supercar due in about two years.
“The ILX will act as the gateway to the Acura brand,” said Lee DaSilva, a senior product planner for Tokyo-based Honda.
A median Acura buyer is 49, male and married, according to San Diego-based Strategic Vision, a consumer research company. The median age for all luxury auto buyers is 56, said Alexander Edwards, president of Strategic Vision’s automotive practice.
Audi and Nissan Motor Co.’s Infiniti attract a slightly younger customer, with a median age of 48. Lexus buyers have a median age of 58, according to Strategic Vision.
With ILX, Acura will offer four sedans, including the $29,810 TSX, $35,605 TL and $47,700 RL, Conrad said. There are no plans to discontinue any of those models, he said.
The base ILX has a 2-liter, 4-cylinder engine with standard “connectivity” features including Bluetooth, Pandora and text messaging function. For about $30,000, buyers can choose a 2.4- liter, sport version or 1.5-liter, hybrid ILX, Conrad said.
The car is positioned against small models, including Audi’s A3 hatchback, General Motors Co. (GM) (GM)’s new Buick Verano sedan and Lexus’ CT 200h hybrid hatchback, Conrad said. Base prices for are $27,270 for the A3; $23,470 for Verano; and $29,120 for the CT 200h, according to company websites.
The ILX will be built at Honda’s Greensburg, Indiana, plant and arrives at dealerships May 25, the company said. The factory also assembles Civic compacts. The hybrid ILX, with a lithium- ion battery pack, gets a combined 38 miles per gallon in city and highway driving and will be Honda’s first gasoline-electric auto built in North America.
7:30 PM – 8:30 PM
95th Street Library, 3015 Cedar Glade Dr.
RealTime Racing has become a staple of the SCCA World Challenge series over the last decade, racing some of the world’s top-bred Acuras to success. Now the team looks poised and ready to reclaim the manufacturer’s championship in the GTS class with their newly-upgraded V6 TSX race cars.
In 2010, RealTime Racing took home the inaugural GTS class Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ championship but last year they had to fend off V8-powered Ford Mustangs. Even though it was a fairly successful campaign with one win, two pole positions, and eight podium finishes, the second place in the manufacturers standings didn’t sit well with the team. In the off-season, RealTime Racing decided to swap out the four-cylinder powerplant in its race car for a more formidable V6.
For the 2012 season, the TSXs will be powered by Acura’s 3.5L VTEC V6 engine, which will give it the power it needs to compete with the likes of the BMW M3, Nissan 370Z, Mitsubishi Evo, Audi TT, and more.
“In order to improve the competitiveness of the TSX in World Challenge, we have moved forward with switching RealTime from the four-cylinder to the V6,” said Lee Niffenegger, Senior Engineer at Honda Performance Development. “Making the switch to the top trim level of our TSX engine line-up will enable RealTime to continue its record-setting performance in the Series, while further establishing this Acura model as one of the most successful in World Challenge history.”
Peter Cunningham, team owner and the winningest driver in World Challenge history, will be back behind the wheel of the number-42 RealTime Acura TSX, joined by teammate Nick Esayian in the number-34 TSX. You can watch the St. Petersburg doubleheader season opener live this weekend.