The History of Honda’s Classic Acura

Eleanor Hanson

The classic Acura was one of Honda’s biggest gambles. Japanese vehicles had a reputation for being economical above all else, putting functionality over form. Thus, when Honda unleashed the Acura on the Western market, the sense of shock at seeing a Japanese luxury vehicle took a while to die down. Some might argue that the classic Acura design generated a shock that never really died down. After all, the arrival of the Acura heralded the release of more Japanese luxury vehicles into Western markets, something that had been previously unheard of.

Debuting in 1986 after nearly ten years of development and design, Honda released the Acura, which became a success. In 1990, Honda announced plans to expand their manufacturing and research operations in the US, the company’s primary market for the classic Acura. At the same time, plans are set into motion dealing with how to release the Acura into other markets, such as Canada and Europe. In 1991, Honda successfully released the Acura into the Hong Kong market, as well as integrated new technology into the design to improve performance. Unfortunately, design problems led to slower sales in the mid-1990s, which prompted Honda to both reduce production and attempt to do a major re-tooling of the overall design of the vehicle. However, at the same time, the niche market of import tuners were drawn to the Acura because it was easy to modify.

The classic Acura designs were eventually revamped in 2000, which did away with what many described as bland design elements. The new designs, combined with technologies to upgrade the performance and fuel efficiency, and decreased costs, allowed Honda to once again make the Acura one of the main import luxury vehicles in the market. Combined with the retained ease of modification that attracted car tuners to them in the previous decade, the effect was a startling resurgence to the initial strong showing that the Acura made when it was first introduced to the market. Later models followed the concept of a luxury vehicle at an affordable price, with good features and some customization options. So far, the strategy has been successful.

In 2004, the classic Acura designs were revamped into the Acura TSX for the European market. Apart from the upgraded design and internal systems, it was also given four-wheel drive and a 4-cylinder engine. Minor modifications were made to make the Acura TSX more suitable for the European market. The new design was received well by the market and quickly became one of the premier import luxury cars in the European market at the time.

However, certain features like rear wheel drive and V8 engines, have become prominent among the competitors of the classic Acura. Honda currently is sticking to its guns in maintaining the simple but elegant design, combined with functional technologies and systems. While opinions vary, there is some worry over the fact that the latest models have not been as tuner-friendly as previous ones. Some speculate that Honda will have to once again rethink the design of the classic Acura in order to keep up.

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