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  7. Renaissance after the confusion...

[YesAuto Design Decoding] If you talk about Honda Technology, there must be many Chinese consumers who know this manufacturer from Japan, known for its own research and development of various black technologies, whether it is Fit, Accord, Civic or CR-V. The Chinese market has many fans. But when it comes to Honda’s luxury brand, not many people may know it. This brand, which was born in the U.S. market and has a history of more than 30 years, was a smash hit when it was first launched and was welcomed by American consumers. During the alternate period, I was obsessed for a while for various reasons. Now it is regrouping, hoping to win the popularity of Chinese and American consumers through better design and more advanced technology. How will Acura design go in the future? Here I will reveal the answer for you.

Today's Acura is not only cultivating the North American and Chinese markets, but also selling in Kuwait, Ukraine and other places. Many Chinese consumers are unfamiliar with this brand because it accounts for a very small proportion in the luxury car market in my country. Except for the three domestically produced CDX, TLX-L and RDX models made by GAC, the imported models are on sale. There are only mid-to-large SUV MDX and supercar NSX. From the product line, it is not difficult to find its niche.

Why emphasize Acura's product line in the United States? Because although it is a luxury brand of Honda, it has never been officially sold in the Japanese market, and its main energy is actually in North America, the United States and Canada.

-Unparalleled first ten years

Acura, as a luxury brand under Honda, was established in North America on March 27, 1986, aiming to provide consumers with luxury and performance vehicles. But why did Honda launch a luxury brand at that time, and why did it choose the United States? This should start with international trade.

In 1981, in order to avoid the crisis of domestic automakers, the United States required Japan to implement autonomous restrictions on U.S. auto exports, and agreed to voluntarily limit the number of auto exports to the U.S. Since that year, only 1.68 million vehicles of various types can be exported to the U.S.

Creating high value-added models is just one of the solutions, and the other solution is localized production. If it is a model produced in the United States, it will naturally not occupy a limited export quota. At that time, Honda started producing the motorcycle Gold Wing at the Marysville plant in the United States. After a series of upgrades, it began to produce the Honda Accord here in 1982 and continues to this day.

As the first model of the Honda brand to be equipped with a V6 engine, the mileage is a brand new model jointly developed by Honda and the British luxury car manufacturer Austin Rover in 1981. It is used to replace the Rover SD1 in the UK and European markets. In the Japanese and American markets, it was launched as Honda's luxury model. For Honda, who has never had experience in manufacturing luxury cars, this cooperation allows them to absorb a lot of experience in building luxury cars from the Rover Group, which has already won praise in the European luxury car market.

The dynamic and youthful impression has become a spoiler that cannot be ignored in the luxury car market. 1987 was Acura's first full sales year in the United States after its establishment. The annual sales volume has reached 109,000 vehicles, and the mileage of flagship models accounted for half of them. Acura’s success at the beginning of its launch can be said to have accelerated the layout of Japanese car companies in the luxury market. In September 1989, Toyota launched its luxury brand Lexus in the North American market. Two months later, Nissan’s luxury brand Infiniti also began to expand. Sales in the North American market.

Many people regard the NSX as Acura’s flagship model, but in the view of the current Acura’s global creative director Dave Marek, he prefers to treat the NSX as a “Halo Car” (halo car). Back in 1989, at the Chicago Auto Show that year, the NS-X, which was still in the prototype stage, was unveiled for the first time, stunning the world and becoming the undisputed protagonist at that auto show.

Although in the first ten years of the brand's establishment, Acura has been very strong in market acceptance, not only has its sales volume been stable, but the brand enhancement brought by the success of NSX has also been recognized by everyone. However, in the mid-to-late 1990s, Acura's sales in the United States declined significantly.

-Ten years of confusion

There are two main reasons for the decline in sales. The first is that the design style of the product itself has changed. Starting from the introduction of Acura Vigor in 1992, the design of the entire Acura brand model has become more and more moderate, no longer like mileage and Integra launch. Time is so energetic, and the appeal to young consumers is no longer as strong as the brand was established in the early days.

The most fundamental reason that brought these changes to Acura was actually the economic depression that began in the early 1990s after the collapse of the economic bubble in Japan thousands of miles away, which is also called the Lost Decade. Affected by the economic downturn, Japanese consumers have changed their consumption concept of automobiles and other bulk goods. Some luxurious, complicated but unnecessary configurations were no longer welcome in that era. Therefore, the design of Japanese cars in that era gradually Return to its own use as a means of transportation.

In addition to the change in design style, another factor is the change in the name of the car series. Acura abandoned the names of Legend and Vigor, which had a certain reputation in the market and had a large number of fans, and began to use numbers and English words like NSX. Model naming method. In this way, it is not only difficult for consumers to remember the name of the new car series, but the popularity of the new model is not as good as before.

In the same year, the successor model of mileage, Acura RL, was released. A year later, the coupe version of RL used the name CL to join Acura's product line. If the arrival of TL and RL just caused consumers a little discomfort, the successor model RSX of the Integra coupe born in 2001 and the successor model TSX of the Integra born in 2003 made the Acura naming method irregular at that time. .

Acura naturally discovered this problem internally, and reflected on the changes that the brand should make. Just as they are planning to open up a separate production line for Acura, set up a separate design center, and change the flagship model RL that is facing a replacement to a vertical platform with a V8 engine, develop more multi-cylinder engines and other strategies, and prepare for the revitalization of Acura. At that time, an unexpected crisis occurred.

-Re-recovery and on track

    In the four years from 2009 to 2012, Acura only launched a new model, the ZDX. This coupe SUV developed based on MDX technology also had a sister model in China. That is the song of Guangqi Honda. . However, ZDX ended its short life after only 4 years of production.

As a luxury brand under Honda, Acura has never entered the Japanese domestic market, so it has always been criticized, not as global as Lexus, which is also from Japan. In fact, in the first fifteen years of the brand’s establishment, all Acura’s models were not only produced and developed in Japan, but also sold in Japan with Honda’s LOGO, which represented products with higher configuration and better quality. The Honda Verno channel sales of sports performance are clearly different from lower-priced products.

to sum up:

After several years of dormancy, Acura has not only cleaned up its product line, but also updated the car's name to be more reasonable. Judging from historical sales, Acura has indeed ushered in a bottoming out after this. Looking back at Acura’s development over the past three decades, after a period of popularity and a period of confusion, Acura’s designers and engineers have made a choice between “more and more complex” and “less but refined”. In the next article, I will take you to the Acura Design Center to chat with Acura’s current global creative director about his design inspiration and explore the design direction of Acura products in the future, so stay tuned.

[YesAuto Design Decoding] In the last issue of the article, we reviewed Acura’s more than 30 years of development history from its establishment to the present. Whether it was the explosive start of the first ten years or the subsequent downturn, it has become the past. . Looking to the future, as a luxury brand under Honda that was born in the United States and focuses on the North American market, but does not want to give up the big cake of the Chinese market, how will the road of design go in the future? With this question, we came to Acura Design Studio near Los Angeles, California, and Dave Marek, the global creative director of Acura, to find this answer.

Although the headquarters of the Acura brand is located in Tokyo, Japan, the development of most of the models under the brand is actually completed at the Honda North American Research Center in Ohio, and Acura’s production plants in the United States are basically located in Ohio. It seems that Acura’s design studio is set up near Los Angeles, which seems to make the communication between the design and development of the brand’s new car a little complicated. Not only is the distance between the two places, there is a few hours of time difference between the two places, but even In this way, Acura Design Studio is still tenaciously taking root in Los Angeles. This can't help but make people wonder, why choose Los Angeles?

-Why is it Los Angeles?

What do you think of when you mention Los Angeles? Is it the star-studded Hollywood, the NBA Lakers that won the championship, or the prestigious UCLA? These answers may be correct or not. Just like “If there are a hundred readers, there will be a hundred Hamlet.” Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States, may be completely different for different people. Impression, because it is a city of angels known for its multiculturalism.

In Los Angeles and its surrounding satellite cities, white people live around the beach represented by Santa Monica, while black people live in Downtown Los Angeles; Japanese bring authentic Japanese food to Torrance, and Koreans keep fried chicken and beer. In K-Town; In the street parks of Pasadena and El Monte, you can find Chinese grandparents playing cards and chess, and you can even hear the buzzing sound of the special stir-fry technique of Chinese food.

In Los Angeles, you can find products from various cultures such as China, South Korea, Japan, Mexico, etc. People from all over the world have brought their living habits, architectural styles and food culture to this city of angels, which is 1,291 square kilometers. Los Angeles has become a multicultural capital. It is precisely because various cultures blend and coexist harmoniously here that it is easier for designers to find the inspiration they need in the collision of various cultures.

California's perennial sunshine also makes designers living here have a better mood. Charles Ellwood, executive director of the VW Design Center once said that he would never go to Sweden to work for Volvo because of the designers there. There are only a few months each year to embrace the sun.

In addition, Los Angeles, which has Hollywood, is also a fashion capital. There are not only many independent designer brands scattered around Beverly Avenue where the big names gather. The quality of the store determines the quality of people’s life. Here you can easily You can find some passers-by who are very fashionable and avant-garde. Wouldn't these fashion trends bring some inspiration to the designers?

-A gathering place for excellent design talents

On the one hand, Los Angeles has a unique climate and geographical conditions. On the other hand, it also has a lot of talents in design. Good design is inseparable from an excellent team of designers, and every year in Los Angeles, a group of very outstanding new star car designers are born, because there is a university here called Art Center College of Design (ACCD, Art Center College of Design, Also known as the Pasadena Art Center School of Design)!

If you haven't heard of ACCD and don't believe in its status in the design field, it doesn't matter. Let's give a few examples of outstanding alumni, and you will have a preliminary understanding of this school. Former BMW design director Chris Bangle, former Ford design director J. Mays, first-generation Acura NSX and Ferrari 599GTB designer Okuyama Kiyoyuki, current Citroen design director Pierre Leclercq, and current ICONA Design director Samuel Chuffart is an excellent representative of these.

In addition to fresh graduates, many outstanding senior designers live around Los Angeles all year round. Why do you say that? Because just look at the number of design centers or design studios of automakers in this area, you will find that this area may be the most densely populated area for designers engaged in automotive design-related work in the world.

There are both freshly graduated small fresh meat designers who can provide fresh blood for the team, and senior designers who can make up for the departure of important members of the team. Los Angeles and the surrounding satellite city clusters are undoubtedly for the design of any car factory The team is attractive enough, coupled with its inherent advantages in inspiring designers, it has become the most densely populated area of automotive design studios in the world.

-Cautious research and development of new models, why not make large luxury cars?

Beginning in 2012, Acura has further sorted out the car series names and classifications while changing the model. It cancelled some models with overlapping positioning and poor sales. In terms of cars, only ILX and TLX from small to large were retained. In terms of SUVs, there are only RDX and MDX in the United States for the three models of RLX and RLX, but in response to the strong demand for compact SUVs in the Chinese market, a CDX has been added.

However, consumers in the United States may not think so. When the top three models of annual sales in a country are all pickup trucks, and are far higher than the fourth place, you may be able to understand that cars are so keen on pickups and pickup trucks. The significance of the SUV country, even Ford announced that it will cut its car business in North America, which shows that the popularity of cars in this market is far less than that of pickup trucks and SUV models.

At present, Acura's designers are more focused on the existing product line, based on the existing products, and then cautiously develop new models. Moreover, for American consumers, it is understandable to regard SUVs as the flagship models of a brand. After all, there is a big contrast between American car culture and Europe.

-Where does the latest family design come from?

For many brands, the concept car is a long, long time to look forward to and explore the travel tools, so it looks very sci-fi, but for other more pragmatic brands, the concept car is often used by them to test the market for new designs. How do the products react to the concept car, often before the release of the concept car, the production car has already frozen the design. Among these pragmatic brands, Honda occupies one of them.

Acura, as a sub-brand of Honda, obviously continues this style of the parent company. At the North American Auto Show held in Detroit in January 2016, Acura unveiled the PRECISION concept car using a new design language for the first time to the world. The large-size pentagonal grille similar to diamonds is more family-oriented than the shield grille used in Acura's production cars at the time.

At the Beijing Auto Show three months later, Acura brought Chinese consumers a model exclusively for the Chinese market: the compact SUV Acura CDX, and met you as the first product produced by the Acura brand in China. When you see this mass-produced car, everyone will be surprised to find that you can find many design elements of the concept car PRECISION that was unveiled three months ago.

Since they all use the same family design, and there are only some obvious differences in the internal structure of the headlight lamp cavity, then just like the problems encountered by other brand family designs, how to ensure that it is not a “domestic doll” The problem also lies in front of Acura's designers. How does Acura under the new design language system distinguish specific models from the front?

If you only look at the front face of a model, your eyes will first be attracted by the grille and headlights. From a distance, you can be sure that this is an Acura. In this case, the bumper is very different. It's hard to notice, after all, they seem a little bland in comparison. But if you put all the cars and SUVs together, the differentiation will be clearly visible!

Therefore, we see that neither the newly released CDX nor the new generation of RDX have adopted a through-type taillight design, and refer to the taillight shape of the concept car PRECISION. We have reason to believe that in the future, Acura will The penetrating taillight design will not be used on models other than NSX.

In the Acura Design Studio in Los Angeles, I also saw a new car covered by a black curtain. Although I’m not sure about its specific model, judging from the outline of the roof and the taillight details outlined by the curtain, this The beautiful car and the concept car PRECISION have a high degree of similarity, and its taillights are exactly the same. According to foreign media reports, at the Pebble Beach Auto Show in August this year, Acura will bring a pre-production four-door high-performance sedan, perhaps it is the one I saw in the design room.

-What will the future interior look like after the great changes?

After talking about the appearance, the next step is of course the interior. At present, the three domestically produced Acura models have completely different interior styles. Although the TLX-L changed its appearance to the latest family design language in the mid-term, the dual-screen interior still belongs to the previous generation design language, basically retaining the appearance at the beginning of the market, so it is often criticized by consumers.

At the Los Angeles Auto Show ten months after the concept car PRECISION debuted, Acura brought you a concept cockpit called Precision Cockpit. In this concept cockpit, two large screens also appeared, one of which appeared as an instrument. On the back of the steering wheel, the other is far in front of the center of the center console, basically parallel to the line of sight.

However, in order to make the position of the central control screen basically equal to the driver's line of sight, the screen appears far above the center of the center console, which can be seen by the driver using the peripheral light when driving. However, as a result, the screen is too far away from the driver's seat, and it is difficult to straighten your arms to operate the screen in the normal sitting position of driving. How to solve this problem?

But Acura's system is completely different from Lexus's, because in addition to sliding and clicking, it also has a “precision positioning” function. In other words, the central control display is also divided into two parts, one large and one small like the touchpad, and where you want to click on the screen, just click on the corresponding place on the touchpad. The so-called “where to hit where” means this. Therefore, although it has the same multi-touch function as the touchpad of a notebook computer, it is more like a screen that cannot be brightened in a convenient place.

In addition to the display screen and Touchpad trackpad, the RDX interior also places the rotary driving mode control in the same place as the NSX and CDX, which is also the same as the concept cockpit design concept. So we have reason to believe that in the future Acura's new car, the driving mode control will still adopt this method.

For my point of view, Dave also said that the concise central control design style of the concept car PRECISION will be the design direction of the Acura brand’s future central control area, but the city of Rome is not built in a day, and the evolution of the interior requires gradual steps. In the future, we can't expect to be completed overnight, after all, we still have to consider consumers' actual car usage habits.

-How does Acura go in China in the future?

The Chinese market has now become an important battlefield that every luxury brand reluctantly discards, so what means to win the favor of Chinese consumers is a question that every big-name designer will consider. So what changes will Acura make for the Chinese market in terms of design?

Even Dave said frankly that the US market should consider introducing a longer version of TLX, so that it will be more attractive in terms of space than its competitors. However, the interior of the TLX is still the design language of the previous generation. It is difficult for consumers to be tempted by other competitors in the luxury mid-size car market. With the 2.4L naturally aspirated engine, although the power is sufficient, it can be used in cars all over the world. Manufacturers know that Chinese consumers have a preference for turbocharged engines.

Unique models, exclusive extensions and the introduction of sports kits are currently Acura's targeted design for the Chinese market. Coupled with some unique exterior and interior colors, Dave said that while trying to meet the preferences of Chinese consumers, they also try their best to hope that everyone can get the original Acura products.

to sum up:

Of course, now Acura has also begun to accelerate the pace of product updates. In addition to the new four-door high-performance sedan mentioned earlier, the replacement of TLX and MDX is said to be completed at the end of this year or early next year. In addition to the rumor that the sporty SUV model ZDX is about to return, Acura has finally seen signs of revival after a period of confusion. I also hope that Acura’s design team, under the leadership of Dave, can provide Chinese consumers. Bring more products that are more suitable for us.