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Acura ILX to Boost Brand’s Sales with GenY

The upcoming Acura ILX sedan is expected to boost Acura consideration among Generation Y buyers – those under 33 years of age.  The ILX will be the smallest and least expensive Acura (starting at $27,000 and topping out around $33-$34,000) and is forecast – by Acura – to generate sales on the order of 2,500 per month or 30,000 ILXs per year (Acura managers say 30-35,000 per year is “about right”). By adding the ILX to the Acura lineup and a refreshed RDX crossover SUV Acura hopes to improve sales by 45% in the 2012 calendar year achieving total sales of 180,000 units.  A 45% bump is impressive in anybody’s book, but this comes after 2011’s traumas of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami and the floods in Thailand which damaged Acura production in Asia and component supplies for vehicles assembled in the USA.

2013 Acura ILX

The ILX’s GenY target is a youthful customer with a mature mindset who wants a “Near Premium” small sedan.  They see themselves as individuals with taste.  They live in and around big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Dallas.  They will sacrifice acceleration for fuel economy and innovative design.

Civic-Based ILX Won’t Turn Heads: Based on the Civic platform, the ILX has been substantially upgraded from the mass market Civic.  Acura’s research shows that its GenY target buyers want a vehicle with “cool” exterior styling that is affordable and environmentally friendly.  Is the ILX cool looking?  Is it innovative?  Not very cool or innovative on the outside, but not bad either.  The styling won’t turn heads, but it also will not generate the ridicule some present Acura vehicles have elicited in recent years.  The “parrot’s beak” grille has been toned down and the overall look is more mature than the two-segment higher TL.

Acura-Worthy Interior: The interior is Acura-worthy and the car comes across as larger than the C-Segment product it is. The interior abounds with technology features now expected even in smaller cars.  All ILX models with the exception of the higher performance 2.4L version is available with Acura’s slick navigation system and premium audio system.  The instrument panel looks functional and upscale at the same time.  It is  user friendly to those accustomed to today’s in-vehicle technologies.

Where is Honda’s Powertrain Magic? Honda has always been a powertrain company, but the ILX’s powertrain lineup shows little of the brilliance expected from Honda.  The base engine (about 75% of sales) is a 150HP 2.0L SOHC 4-cylinder mated to an automatic transmission and achieving 35mpg on the highway and 24 in the city.  Everything’s OK there.  Everything’s OK also with the 1.5L hybrid (about 20% of sales) mated to a CVT – Acura’s first hybrid with 38mpg highway and 39mpg city..  The hybrid’s 1.5L 4-cylinder has 91HP and the electric motor adds another 23HP.  But OK is not good enough for a premium brand like Acura.  Even the hybrid does not achieve the psychological 40mpg bogey many C-Segment cars are achieving today.

Acura will rightly point out that the ILX is more upscale, more fully-featured, heavier and slightly larger than the 40mpg club entrants, but still the environmentally conscious buyers Acura is targeting may feel let down by the fuel economy numbers of the ILX. But the powertrain story does not end with the less powerful 4-cylinders

2.4L 4-Cylinder Forces Weird Compromises for ~5% of ILX Performance Buyers: The weirdness comes with the model that could be the car line’s flagship – the 201HP 2.4L 4-cylinder.  This model is available only with a 6-speed manual transmission.  This is somewhat understandable because an automatic that could take the 170lb-ft of torque from the 2.4L would be larger and heaver.  Still, lack of an automatic in this model limits its sales potential among a buyer group that, admittedly, has never flocked to manual transmissions.  So, this is a limited volume model, right?  Right.  But to limit its potential even more, the Technology Package with navigation and premium sound is not available on this model.  Hmmmmm.

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