The launch of the Acura Automobile Division on March 27, 1986, was a uniquely historic event, not just for Acura and its customers, but also for the global automotive industry. It was the beginning of a bold and successful venture - the creation of an entirely new automobile division built from the ground up while marking the creation of the first-ever Japanese luxury brand.
This prestigious marquee was created to bring stimulating performance, elegant styling, state-of-the-art technology, advanced engineering and an unprecedented level of customer service to the luxury import market.
Now well into its third decade, Acura continues to show extraordinary results. As one of the top-selling luxury import nameplates in the United States, Acura offers premium performance vehicles, through a network of 268 dealers.
Among many of Acura's firsts:
In 2006, the Acura division surpassed the 200,000 unit sales mark for the second straight year, posting year-end sales of 201,223 total units. Acura light trucks led the division, with a record-setting 63,285 units. High demand for the all-new RDX turbocharged premium crossover SUV and the MDX luxury SUV delivered combined light truck sales that set a new record, besting the previous year's sales figure by over 4,000 vehicles. Meanwhile, the TSX sports sedan continued an astounding four-year streak of record sales, totaling 38,035 units--a 9.5-percent increase over the previous year. Strong sales continue for Acura's top-selling model, the TL performance luxury sedan, posting an impressive 71,348 units sold in 2006.
While selling an increasingly large number of automobiles, Acura has consistently performed exceptionally well in one of the key measures of success - making the ownership experience the most satisfying as possible. Acura has ranked number one in the annual J.D. Power and Associates Customer Satisfaction Study™ (CSI) survey four times and continues to score above the industry average.
In the J.D. Power and Associates® 2006 Initial Quality Survey, a highly regarded measure of customer opinion, the Acura TL was ranked within the top three in the entry premium sedan segment. The JD Power and Associates 2003 Vehicle Dependability Study rated the RL luxury sedan the Most Dependable Midsize Luxury Car.
On the sales side, in a 2007 Pied Piper Prospect Satisfaction Index, Acura dealers ranked highest among new car dealerships in America. The survey identifies which new vehicle dealerships provide the best customer service treatment when shopping for a new car.
RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
The success of Acura can be attributed largely to the extensive research and development that goes into every vehicle. Acura automobiles are designed and built using leading-edge technology. They are also well known for unparalleled ergonomic design, overall quality and excellent durability.
To give designers and engineers the kind of creative freedom and positive working environment they require to function at their best, in 1960 Honda formed an autonomous research and development company that enjoys complete independence from its parent company. This independence allows engineers to go their own way, investigating new ideas and innovations with little budgetary and bureaucratic constraints encountered by engineers at many other automobile manufacturers.
After an Acura is designed and developed, it is exhaustively tested at facilities in Japan and the United States. All new products undergo environmental testing in harsh climates, extreme altitudes, and varying conditions all over the world. Acura's main R&D testing facility in Japan is the Tochigi Proving Grounds, which offers a broad range of technical and demanding driving situations. Acura vehicles are also tested at two major test facilities in the United States. The Transportation Research Center (TRC), in East Liberty, Ohio, has many of the same evaluation and testing capabilities as the Tochigi Proving Grounds. Further illustrating Acura's commitment to the U.S. market, the Honda Proving Center of California (an expansive testing facility in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles) allows thorough development and product testing close to the Acura Division North American headquarters in Torrance, California. The facility features unique testing attributes including a 7.5-mile high-speed oval track, a dry/wet skidpad, and a five-mile winding road course that offers a full range of challenging road surfaces.
2007 marked the next big step for Acura and American R&D. In May of 2007 the ribbon was cut to celebrate the opening of the all-new Acura Design Center, built exclusively for the luxury brand. This new design center, located adjacent to Acura's headquarters in Torrance, California, will further sharpen the division's focus on creating products for the North American market that meet the needs of a new generation of luxury vehicle buyers.
Acura RACING PEDIGREE
Acura's deep-seated commitment to performance started at the very beginning -- well before the Acura Division was founded. Soichiro Honda, who founded Honda Motor Co., Inc., in 1948, was a racing enthusiast at heart. He steered the company into competitions early on and since then the racetrack has provided an indispensable training ground for engineers and designers of Acura vehicles. Using it as a high-speed laboratory, designers and engineers learn and apply their craft under intense conditions, where the difference between success and failure is often measured in hundredths of a second. Engineers directly involved in the development of championship racing engines are often assigned to design the engines of Acura's passenger cars.
Honda has been successful in every form of motorsports in which it has competed. Honda-powered cars won six consecutive Formula One Constructors' World Championships (1986-91) and five consecutive Formula One Drivers' World Championships (1987-91).
Race-prepared Acura Integra automobiles won two consecutive International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) International Sedan Manufacturers' Championships and three consecutive IMSA International Sedan Drivers' Championships (1988-90).
The Comptech Racing Acura-Spice GTP-Lights race car, powered by a modified Acura NSX engine, carried driver Parker Johnstone to three consecutive Manufacturers' Championships and three consecutive Drivers' Championships in the prestigious IMSA Camel GTP Lights series (1991-93).
In 1994, Honda made its Champ Car racing debut. Team Rahal brought the Honda banner to CART while the Acura-sponsored Comptech Racing team joined the series at the Portland Indy Car event with Johnstone at the wheel. The very next season, Johnstone was the fastest qualifier at the Indy Car event in Michigan, and Honda scored its first Indy Car victory weeks later when Andre Ribeiro took the checkered flag at the New England race in August of 1995.
2000 highlights included the company's 50th Champ Car race victory, eight race wins in the 20-event season, including a sweep of all four permanent road courses on the circuit and a series-leading 11 pole position starts.
A very successful 2001 CART FedEx Championship Series season provided a fourth CART Manufacturer's Championship and sixth consecutive Driver's championship for Honda.
In 2002, Honda's final year of participation in CART racing, Honda drivers scored five victories and five pole positions. Race winners included Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti.
Honda entered the Indy Racing League (IRL) IndyCar Series for the 2003 season, beginning a new era of competition. Honda's racing subsidiary, Honda Performance Development, Inc. (HPD) led the IRL effort in partnership with Ilmor Engineering Inc. HPD and Ilmor work together as technical partners to design, develop and produce engines for several IRL teams.
In its first season in the IRL, Honda fielded four teams with a total of six drivers. Tony Kanaan won in Phoenix and Brian Herta won in Kansas giving Honda its first two IRL wins. By the end of what turned out to be a non-stop learning experience for Honda and its partners, Honda sat third in the Manufacturer's Championship, with Kanan finishing fourth in the driver's championship and Kenny Brack finishing ninth.
In 2004, in only its second year of IRL competition, Honda captured the prestigious Manufacturer's Championship with four races remaining in the 2004 season.
A year later, in 2005, Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta powered the Andretti Green Racing team to a 1-2-3-4 sweep of the IRL's first-ever street race, in St. Petersburg, Florida. That same season, Wheldon won the Indianapolis 500 and 21-year old Danica Patrick was the story of the race, qualifying fourth, becoming the first woman to lead the race, and finishing fourth overall.
For 2006, Honda took on the added responsibility for supplying the entire IndyCar Series field with engines throughout the season, plus the entire 33-car starting field at the Indianapolis 500.
Keeping Honda Indy V-8 engines reliable - and equal - was a major challenge for HPD technicians and engineers in 2006. Yet, the challenge was successfully met at all levels. A total of 40 drivers logged more than 171,000 racing miles last year, with only three race-day engine failures in a 14-race season that lasted from March through September. In addition, for the first time in the 90-year history of the event, the Indianapolis 500 was run without a single engine-related retirement for the entire 33-car field.
2007 marks Acura's first foray into the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), and a major milestone for the division's motorsports program. After two years in development, Acura made its first official factory-supported motorsports effort in the company's history, supplying engines for three ALMS racing teams: Andretti Green Racing, Highcroft Racing Ltd. and Lowe's Fernandez Racing. All three Acura ALMS teams will compete in the LMP2 racing class.
On March 17 of 2007, the all-new Acura ARX-01a chassis was unveiled at famed Sebring International Raceway in Florida. The chassis marked Honda Performance Development's first effort in race-car design and development and will be utilized by two of Acura's three ALMS teams this year - Andretti Green Racing and Highcroft Racing Ltd. will field the ARX-01a chassis in LMP2. Meanwhile, Lowe's Fernandez Racing--the team expected to have the greatest focus on ongoing engine development--will utilize a Lola B05/40 chassis.
The Acura engine used in LMP2 is a normally aspirated 3.4-liter V8, and is the first pure racing engine completely designed and developed in-house by HPD's special facility in Santa Clarita, California. Additionally, it marks the first time that HPD has concurrently taken on multiple motorsports programs in both the ALMS and IRL.
The American Le Mans Series draws on the heritage of long-distance "endurance" motorsports racing in both Europe and the United States, as exemplified by the historic 24 Hours of Le Mans. The ALMS series includes the 12 Hours of Sebring - a U.S. fixture since 1952 - plus events at the country's premier road race circuits, including Road America, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Laguna Seca, Miller Motorsports Park and Road Atlanta.
The American Le Mans Series is one of the fastest-growing racing series in the United States. Five of the 10 races in 2006 were broadcast by CBS, with the remaining five events shown on the cable/satellite-sourced Speed Channel. Testing of the Acura LMP2 entries originally began in late August of 2006, with the ALMS competition debut taking place in March 2007 at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Acura MODEL HISTORY
The two initial Acura model lines went on sale in March 1986. The Integra sports sedans, in both 3-door and 5-door versions, was introduced along with the Legend 4-door luxury performance sedan. The Legend coupe was introduced a year later, in 1987.Acura introduced the second-generation, 1990 model Integra in 1989. The following model year, the mid-engine 1991 NSX exotic sports car joined the Acura lineup. Then, for the 1991 model year Acura released the second-generation Legend sedan and Legend coupe. The 1992 lineup added the Vigor sports sedan. The 1994 Integra sports coupe and sports sedan represented the third generation of the Integra nameplate. A removable top version of the NSX, named the NSX-T, was added as a 1995 model.
In early 1995, the Vigor was replaced by the all-new Acura TL series. The TL was unveiled as a 1996 model signaling the beginning of Acura's conversion to alphanumeric model designations. That was followed in the fall by the introduction of the 1996 Acura SLX, the first sport utility vehicle offered in the United States by a luxury import nameplate. The Acura 3.5 RL assumed the role of Acura's flagship luxury sedan in February of 1996. Acura completed the revitalization of its model lineup with the introduction of the 1997 Acura CL series of performance luxury sports coupes, the first model ever designed, developed and assembled in America by a luxury import nameplate, and the sixth model in the Acura line.
For the 1999 model year, a completely redesigned 3.2 TL was introduced, reasserting Acura's powerful presence in the near luxury segment. In 2000, Acura incorporated significant technical advances in both the 3.2 TL and 3.5 RL.
That same year also marked the introduction of Acura's first built-from-the-ground-up luxury sport utility vehicle, the 2001 MDX. The new MDX received strong accolades from the media including winning Motor Trend's coveted 2003 Sports Utility of the Year award. The 2001 model year also saw the introduction of the all-new, high-performance 3.2 CL and CL Type-S luxury performance coupes.
For the 2002 model year, Acura replaced the Integra with the all-new RSX sports coupe, redefining its entry-level vehicle with advancements in power, technology and luxury. Of special note, the RSX was the first to incorporate i-VTEC technology.
Acura also substantially upgraded the 3.2 TL and added a high-performance Type-S version to its lineup. Boasting a special 260-horsepower 3.5-liter engine, the TL Type-S added a surge of performance to Acura's best-selling luxury sedan. The 3.5 RL also received numerous enhancements including increased horsepower, sport-tuned suspension, enhanced braking and more responsive steering.
The 2003 model year began with the addition of an available close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission fit to the 3.2 CL Type-S. Designed specifically for the performance characteristics of the CL, the 6-speed manual was coupled with a limited-slip differential that provided additional performance and handling responsiveness.
The 2003 MDX, Acura's award-winning luxury SUV received a next generation V-6 engine that boosted horsepower as well as an all-new automatic transmission and Vehicle Stability Assist™ (VSA®). The MDX also debuted the second generation of the Acura Navigation System with Voice Recognition™ and an available Acura DVD Entertainment Center.
The 2004 model year saw the debut of the Acura TSX sports sedan. With an i-VTEC® engine, drive-by-wire throttle, available 6-speed manual transmission and the latest in safety and interior technology, the TSX served up an exciting blend of power and refinement. For 2004 the TL performance luxury sedan was redesigned and debuted as an all-new model with aggressive new styling, a potent VTEC V-6 engine and, for the first time, an available 6-speed manual transmission. Inside, an array of cutting edge equipment made the TL the most technologically advanced car in its class. It was the first vehicle in North America to offer a standard 5.1 DVD-Audio system, a revolutionary new sound system that delivers sound resolution 500 times better than existing compact disc systems. In addition, the TL's Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink® system delivered hands-free phone capabilities allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while making or receiving calls from their mobile phone. The 2004 MDX received additional horsepower, new styling and added interior features designed to ensure its place as the benchmark in its segment.
In 2005, Acura completed the revitalization of its sedan lineup with the introduction of an all-new 2005 RL. The RL featured a powerful 3.5-liter VTEC® V-6, a close-ratio five-speed automatic transmission, and the Super Handling All-Wheel Drive System™ (SH-AWDä) which distributes torque not only between the front and rear wheels, but also overdrives and splits torque between the left and right rear wheels. In addition, the RL was equipped with an assortment of leading-edge technology including real-time traffic information gathered from XM Radio® satellites to be incorporated into the navigation system display. The RSX sports coupe received a large number of chassis, body and suspension enhancements designed to improve handling precision while at the same time providing a more refined ride. The RSX Type-S also received a performance boost.
In 2006, the RL received an optionally-available Technology Package featuring the Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS™). The system prompts the driver to take preventative action as danger increases, but if an accident appears to be unavoidable, the system automatically applies strong braking and pre-tensioning of the front seatbelts. The RL Technology Package also features Adaptive Cruise Control (which automatically adjusts vehicle speed to maintain a specific following distance interval with the vehicle ahead in the same lane) and Michelin® PAX® run-flat tires. The TSX sports sedan received a host of technological upgrades including a Bluetooth® HandsFreeLink™ wireless telephone interface, an auxiliary jack in the center console for connectivity with iPOD® and MP3 players and an updated Acura navigation system. The TSX also received additional horsepower and more aggressive styling front and rear. Lastly, 2006 Acura models received a new six-year or 70,000-mile powertrain limited warranty in addition to the standard four-year or 50,000-mile limited bumper-to- bumper warranty.
In 2007, Acura light trucks took center stage with the introduction of the all-new RDX entry premium SUV and the completely redesigned MDX luxury SUV. The RDX was equipped with an all-new 2.3-liter DOHC i-VTEC turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine that produced 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. The RDX also features Super Handling-All Wheel Drive™ (SH-AWD™) and the latest in cutting edge technology. The second generation MDX once again raised the bar in the luxury SUV category. The MDX features the largest and most powerful V-6 engine in Acura history, an all-new 3.7-liter VTEC V-6 that generates 300 hp and 275 lb-ft of torque. Coupled with SH-AWD and a new optional Active Damper System, the MDX pushed the limits of SUV performance.
In addition, Type-S returned to the 2007 TL model lineup. Equipped with a 3.5L V-6 engine and a sport tuned suspension, the Type-S aimed straight for the enthusiast driver. Meanwhile, the RL and TSX continued to be leaders in their respective classes, with the TSX continuing its incredible four year run of record sales and the RL further solidifying its place in the luxury market.