Acura lowers sights to entry-luxury: Tier 1 off the table

Honda's Acura division has always had a unique position in the marketplace, residing in the somewhat ambiguous 'entry-luxury' category, also occupied by Buick, Lincoln, Volvo, and others. But in recent years, the company signaled a move toward a more prestigious, Tier 1 image. Those plans, it turns out, will likely never come to fruition.

It wasn't long ago that Honda's U.S. design chief Dave Marek claimed future Acuras would rival cars from Bentley and Maybach. Even more recently, we brought you photos of a V8-powered rear-wheel-drive Acura TL. And up until a year ago, the automotive community was still looking forward to a new NSX. Fast-forward a few months and the NSX is cancelled, the rear-drive V8 programs are on indefinite hold, and it's safe to say no one is holding their breath for an Acura Phantom.

But as recently as February, American Honda CEO Dick Colliver insisted Tier 1 was still the aim. Scratch that.

At the Tokyo auto show last week, Honda CEO Takanobu Ito told Automotive News Acura is "in the midst of big changes." He further indicated the company would "change the direction" of its research and development.

Prior to the global economic collapse, Acura hoped to build "glamorous, gorgeous products that would sell," said Ito. Now, Acura will focus on new technologies rather than "glamorous things attached to the product."

A similar message was conveyed to Acura dealers at a recent dealer meeting in Chicago. Rather than trying to compete with Mercedes-Benz or Lexus, Acura will focus on "sensible luxury vehicles," a dealer source told the trade publication. In other words, Acura will stick with its original modus operandi.