Acura Precision Concept Demonstrates the Power of Design
Sex has been used in advertising for more than a century. If a company successfully evokes feelings of attraction and desire through visual means, or so the theory goes, then the potential customer is more likely to recall the product or service, and to recall it fondly.
For example, Acura’s identity is closely tied to the alluring NSX sports car, which sells in low numbers, rather than the slab-sided MDX crossover, which is the company’s best-selling model. Why is that? The gorgeous NSX inspires desire; the comparatively dull MDX delivers attractive lease payments.
Today, as quality materials and modern technologies trickle into the most common of automobiles, luxury marques increasingly sell on style rather than substance in order to justify the premium to be paid for their brands’ perceived superiority. Frequently, performance is used to justify this positioning. Think of BMW’s longstanding “Ultimate Driving Machine” tagline or, as of late, Acura’s “Precision Crafted Performance” identity statement.
However, as the world marches toward a future of autonomous mobility, it will be design that draws customers to specific vehicles. When driving dynamics no longer matter and software takes charge of getting your body from one place to another, your chosen form of mobility will represent little more than a fashion statement, like the shoes you wear or the watch on your wrist.
This, in a roundabout way, brings me to the Acura Precision Concept vehicle that debuted at the 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. It is no secret that Acura has been stuck in a rut for the past decade. Sales are currently on an upswing, but that’s true of every car company as they all surf a resurgent economic wave. Waves eventually crash onto a shore, and when that happens again, my bet is that Acura’s recent fortunes will slip.
Milquetoast design is the problem. Everyone knows that an Acura is nothing more than a restyled Honda, one already sold here or exclusively in other global markets, and tuned for greater driving enjoyment. A decade ago, this didn’t seem to matter because the redesigned 2007 MDX crossover and the 2004-2008 TL sedan looked nothing like the Hondas upon which they were based, and the 2004-2007 TSX sedan was special because it was Europe’s version of the Accord, and therefore looked nothing like a U.S.-spec Honda.
But now, especially with the shiny new grilles, Elite trim levels, and democratized technologies popping up on Hondas—plenty of fun to drive in their own right—what’s the point of getting an Acura? Somehow, Acura has become for Honda what Lincoln is for Ford. Redundant.
The Precision Concept represents for Acura a light at the end of a dim product development tunnel, and in a way that the Continental doesn’t for Lincoln. Sure, the new NSX sports car is fantastic, but the halo effect from this vehicle won’t sell Acura’s volume models. Design will. And if the Acura RLX looked anything like the Precision Concept, you wouldn’t even be thinking about how to swing the lease payment on a new 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Nobody needs an Acura. They’ve gotta want one. The Acura Precision Concept possesses the power to inspire that desire.