From ColumbusAlive.com – Columbus Dispatch

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2014

There’s a lot riding on the Acura TLX that began mass production yesterday in Marysville. Hopes
are high that the retooled brand will provide the automaker with the hit that’s been missing for
years.

“This car is carrying quite a lot of responsibility,” said Mike Accavitti, senior vice president
and general manager for Acura, Honda’s luxury brand, in an interview at the plant.

The TLX sedan will arrive at dealerships next month with a base price of $30,995. It replaces
the TL and TSX, which are winding down production.

This is Acura’s first new model since April, when Honda shifted its leadership to make Acura
more independent. Accavitti is serving in a newly created position that oversees the brand’s sales,
marketing and service.

While Acura tries to craft its own identity, it remains part of Honda’s manufacturing
infrastructure. Acura vehicles are built at the same central Ohio plant as the Accord and TL.

Employees paused yesterday for a brief ceremony to mark the start of the new model.

Acura has had success in recent years with its crossover SUV models, but its sedan sales have
slipped.

“There is a lot riding on the TLX in terms of building up Acura’s image as a car company, not
just an SUV company,” said Michelle Krebs, senior analyst for AutoTrader.com. “They just kind of
lost their way on the car side.”

TL sales peaked in 2005 at 78,218 and fell to 24,318 last year. Many observers panned the 2009
redesign of the TL, whose aggressive lines and prominent grille were a big departure from its
predecessor.

The TSX, which is slightly smaller than the TL, peaked in 2006 with sales of 38,035 and fell to
17,484 last year.

Acura sedans compete against an array of German and Japanese brands, plus Cadillac.

Honda started Acura in 1986 as the first luxury offshoot of a Japanese automaker. Despite the
head start, Acura has spent most of its existence playing catch-up to Lexus, the Toyota-owned brand
that started a few years later.

In the new lineup, the TLX is Acura’s midsize entry, between the compact ILX and the full-size
RLX.

“The TLX is going to be the backbone, if you will, of our sedan lineup,” Accavitti said. “It’s
going to get us back in the game of luxury performance sedans.”

He declined to give a sales target, although he joked that the company would build a statue of
him if the new model could hit the TL’s peak.

“I love this thing,” he said, posing for a photograph in the driver’s seat. “It fits like a
glove.”

He is an auto industry veteran, with 25 years at Chrysler, including a stint as president and
CEO of the Dodge brand. In 2011, he came to Honda, where he held top positions in marketing and
product planning before being named to his current job.

When asked about some of the brand’s perceived missteps in recent years, he said he wants to
focus on the future.

Among his goals: improve Acura’s advertising and clarify its identity.

“It’s really important that customers understand that Acura is a brand that can deliver luxury,
prestige and performance,” he said.

He said the TLX will be supported by the largest marketing campaign in Acura’s history.

The new model will come with three main powertrain options, a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine
with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission; a 3.5-liter V-6 with a nine-speed automatic
transmission; and an all-wheel-drive version of the V-6.

Accavitti said he expects the first two powertrains to each get about 40 percent of the model’s
sales, and the all-wheel-drive version to get the remaining 20 percent.

The TLX is 190 inches long, 4 inches shorter than the TL.

For the Marysville plant, this is the third new or redesigned model in three years, following
the redesigned Accord in 2012 and the debut of the Accord Hybrid in 2013.

“We’re really, really excited,” said Rob May, plant manager. “It seems like all the anticipation
is finally over, and we can finally get our hands on the parts to build products to, hopefully,
send them out to awaiting customers.”

dgearino@dispatch.com

@dispatchenergy

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