Who Makes Acura Autos?

by Richard Rowe

Since they first entered the American market, Japanese cars have had a hard time gaining respect among more brand-conscious buyers. Nissan, which spawned Datsun badge, might have been one of the first Japanese manufacturers to recognize the value of name rebranding -- but Honda was the first to create a whole new brand, and a whole new lineup to appeal to more discerning American customers.

Moving Upmarket

Following the fuel crunch in the 1970s, Hondas exploded in popularity in the United States. Customers loved Honda's ethos with regard to fuel economy and bang-for-the-buck quality, but the brand was pigeonholed in the marketplace. Going into the 1980s, Honda wanted to sell better, faster, more luxurious cars on par with the best offerings from BMW and other European manufacturers, but found to its horror that Americans used to buzzy little Civics didn't take them seriously in the matter. Honda's own good name had become a liability.

Acura and the Legend

Honda had already gotten wind that Toyota was developing its upmarket Lexus brand in 1983, and Infiniti was already stirring on Nissan's drawingboards by 1985. Honda beat them both to market though, debuting its new, upmarket Acura division in 1986. Despite grumblings from American manufacturers that this was nothing more than a fleece job from a foreign economy car manufacturer, dissent was quickly silenced with a massive right hook in the form of the Legend. Produced in a joint venture with Britain's Austin Rover Group and sold there as the Rover 800, the Legend immediately earned its name by winning Car and Driver's Ten Best three years running, and Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year.

Later Acuras

Since the success of the Legend, Acura has been Honda's division for the best of its American offerings. Acura badges have seen duty on the Integra, its RSX replacement, and of course, the budget-supercar NSX. If nothing else, the latter is notable because it was the first automobile Honda ever equipped with VTEC, meaning it was also the first to use the kind of variable valve timing systems used in such abundance today. All of these same were sold as Hondas in every other market outside the United States.

About the Author

Richard Rowe has been writing professionally since 2007, specializing in automotive topics. He has worked as a tractor-trailer driver and mechanic, a rigger at a fire engine factory and as a race-car driver and builder. Rowe studied engineering, philosophy and American literature at Central Florida Community College.

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