As the brand evolves, new names will have to re-emerge
As Cadillac and Infiniti can attest, naming a lineup of luxury vehicles is not an easy task. Just as each of these automakers started to build brand recognition for their individual models, they introduced drastic changes to their naming schemes that confused customers and even their own dealership networks. While speaking with Jonathon Rivers, the Senior Product Planner Acura Sedans, a brand that had received its fair share of criticism over naming schemes, we had a chance to discuss this topic.
During an interview about the recently-revealed 2021 Acura TLX, we asked Rivers if he believed the brand could ever revert back from the alphabetic names it currently uses including ILX, TLX, RDX, MDX, and NSX.
"It's funny, I work closely with our Vice President, Jon Ikeda. I've brought it up, he's brought it up, we've gone back and forth and it's really interesting because it's such a unique part of our legacy and our history," he said.
For those who don't remember, Honda launched the Acura luxury brand in the United States and Canada back in 1986, just before its rivals Nissan and Toyota launched their Infiniti and Lexus brands. Acura launched with two models, a full-size vehicle called the Legend and a compact vehicle called the Integra. The Legend was sold as a sedan or coupe while the Integra was a hatchback with either three or five doors. Both were rebadges of Honda models sold in Japan.
The NSX, (New Sportscar eXperimental) which was the company's first alphabetically-named model, joined the lineup for the 1990 model year. By 2000, Acura began pivoting to alphabetic names with the TL, CL, RSX, and MDX and by 2006, the RL, TSX, and RDX.
Rivers explained that Acura should be cautious in regards to names. "The second-generation NSX took a beating in the beginning because it wasn't exactly what we used to have. It wasn't a manual. Now it's hybrid. When you start to introduce new technologies and new things like that, you just have to be really, really careful."
"We think, at the end of the day, especially now that NSX is winning championships, racing and is actually, and being highly coveted by some of our top buyers and customers out there, that it actually does live up to the name," Rivers said, stressing that Acura doesn't want its names to simply be a market exercise. "For us, the Legend and the Integra, those names, if they ever come back, it has to be with the right product that matches it."