Acura has a new sedan — the TLX — and some aggressive new marketing to go with it.
It’s no secret in the auto industry that Honda’s luxury nameplate doesn’t enjoy quite the same upscale perception among consumers as rivals such as BMW and Lexus. Acura cars and SUVs tend to rank high with owners and reviewers. But the brand hasn’t ever achieved the escape velocity its needs to enter the luxury stratosphere, referred to in the industry as “Tier 1.”
Honda wants to change that, and the company is using the rollout of the TLX as its envelope-pushing inciting event. (The four-door replaces two models in Acura’s lineup, the TL and the TSX, and starts at about $US31,000.)
As you can see from the video above, they aren’t holding back. The music is Sid Vicious’ cover of “My Way,” the late Sex Pistols bassist’s 1978 reworking of the Paul Anka classic, immortalised by Frank Sinatra. The 60-second spot, created by Mullen LA, ends with a new tagline: “It’s that kind of thrill” — a suggestion that the TLX isn’t just a very well-made and technologically satisfying machine, but a performance sedan that strikes a jangly, unforgettable note someplace down deep.
No one will miss the message: Acura wants to crack into the upper reaches of the luxury auto world on its own terms. For this spot, Acura will do it with a thrashy soundtrack, some smashy cuts, and a distinct absence of a soothing voice-over.
According to Mike Accavitti, Acura Senior Vice-President and General Manager, the company decided to take an offbeat route. Rather than a heroic rendering of the TLX, Acura chose to present the ups and downs of its development, focusing on the struggle that the vehicle’s engineers endured as they designed and built the car that they themselves would want to drive (hence the inclusion of the “We made this one for us…but you can have one” language).
That meant documenting crash tests, wind tunnels, knocked-over traffic cones, and even a frustrating helmet slam by a professional driver putting the prototype TLX through some frustrating paces.
“We wanted to communicate their passion to the public,” said Accavitti, who ascended to his role earlier this year, when Honda and Acura were split into separate divisions for the first time in Acura’s nearly 30-year history. “We wanted to get back the edge we had in the 1990s.”
Accavitti isn’t worried that customers will mistake Acura’s punk bravado for bluster.
“When you say something that isn’t true,” he stressed, “the consumer sees right through it.”
He did admit that Acura faced a challenge in balancing an aggressive introduction of the ILX with the brand’s traditional values.
“We appeal to a more rational buyer,” he said. “Our goal was to dial it up but not alienate customers.”
According to Accavitti, Honda made the decision in April to provide Acura with the resources to be all that it could be. The company is spending more to market the TLX than it ever has before on an other vehicle.
“We took a look at how other mega-brands are treating their luxury brands,” he added.
The conclusion Honda came to was that a “monumental change,” as Accavitti put it, was in order. “We needed to remind America of what a great brand we have.”
That’s a lot to ask of a single sedan, even if it is a core product in the luxury market. With Acura’s now streamlined portfolio, the pressure is definitely on, and Accavitti knows it.
“With five to six cars,” he said, “you can’t afford to have a miss.”