Kyodo News is reporting that Honda Motor Company will end production of the Honda Legend, sold in the U.S. as the Acura RL, and the Honda Inspire, which is not exported to America. Production of the Legend/RL will end this month; the Inspire will be phased out in July.
Honda has already notified dealers that it will stop accepting new orders for the cars.
Sources say the No.2 Japanese automaker wants to devote the resources of its Saitama Prefecture plant, which builds the Legend and Inspire, to more popular compact cars and minivehicles.
Honda says it may decide to produce the next-generation RL at a North American facility when a remodeled version is introduced next year.
The decision to drop the Acura RL won’t have a major effect on Honda America’s sales. In May, Honda sold 50 Acura RLs in the United States, down 20.4 percent from May 2011, the first month the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami impacted supplies of vehicles manufactured in Japan.
Acura brought three new vehicles to the North American International Auto Show, including a concept version of the new entry-level ILX sedan; a prototype of the 2013 RDX crossover and the NSX Concept, a preview of Acura’s next-generation supercar.
“Over the next 24 months the Acura brand will unleash a series of new models that will remake our product lineup and shake up the luxury market,” said Jeff Conrad, Acura’s general manager. “Acura will once again defy conventional wisdom to become one of the top luxury brands by creating luxury vehicles based on our own unique values.”
Coming off a year plagued by natural disasters in Japan and Thailand, Conrad predicted 45-percent growth to about 180,000 sales in 2012. It’s a bold prediction considering Acura hasn’t seen 180,000 sales in a single year since 2007, the last year light vehicle sales broke the 16-million mark.
The Acura ILX Concept: Scheduled for launch this Spring, the Civic-based ILX will feature three different powertrains, including Acura’s first-ever gas-electric hybrid. Acura calls the ILX’s exterior as “sleek, sporty and aerodynamically efficient” and says “…the exterior of the all-new Acura ILX combines luxury, performance and efficiency.” Unfortunately that combination seems to yield dull: A junior TL with the same oversized chrome staple-puller in front and anonymity in the rear. Not that this is a bad thing: vanilla is still the most popular flavor of ice cream and Acura is consistently in the top five premium brands in the U.S.
Buyers will be able to choose from an entry-level ILX powered by a 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder engine; a high-performance version with a 2.4-liter four mated to a six-speed manual transmission; and Acura’s first hybrid – a 1.5-liter gasoline-electric system.
As befits an Acura, the ILX passenger compartment is first-class with features like keyless access and pushbutton start, Pandora internet radio interface and SMS voice text messaging function.
The ILX will be built at the Honda plant in Greensburg, Indiana.
Acura RDX: Acura calls it a prototype, but with deliveries scheduled to begin this spring, it’s probably very, very close to what will be in dealer showrooms.
The styling of second-generation of Acura’s five-passenger crossover is a change from the current model but doesn’t break any new ground in terms of the segment, combining Acura’s standard design cues with the arched greenhouse found on several competing models.
There is a new 3.5-liter, 273-horsepower V-6 coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission with lock-up torque converter and an available lighter AWD system. Acura says the new powertrain should be good for an EPA rating of 20 city/28 highway in FWD configuration.
The new RDX rides on a longer wheelbase and wider track that should improve ride and handling. Larger door openings and increased cargo space are pluses for the updated and upgraded RDX.
Of course, the RDX will provide lots of electronic bells and whistles including a three-view rear camera.
The current RDX has been coming from Honda’s plant in Marysville, Ohio but the new version will come from the East Liberty, Ohio, plant.
Acura NSX Concept: This is the one we’ve been anticipating and the only real concept vehicle in the bunch. Still powered by a mid-mounted V6, the new NSX is a definite break from the past.
Acura designers took the standard front treatment and blended it with shapes that make it appear part of the design instead of an obligatory brand badge. The overall effect is similar to the busy front ends that seem to be the rage among Asian automakers but Acura pulls it off very nicely.
The NSX Concept features some new technology including the Sport Hybrid SH-AWD (Super Handling All Wheel Drive™) hybrid system. The SH-AWD system uses a two-electric-motor-drive unit with a bilateral torque adjustable control system, allowing it to instantly apply negative or positive torque to the front wheels during cornering. Acura says this will provide handling unmatched by other AWD systems. The next-generation VTEC V-6 engine is coupled to dual-clutch transmission with built-in electric motor to allow brisk acceleration while obtaining good fuel efficiency.
The real NSX is about three years in the future, but we already know that lead design will be handled by Honda R&D America and production will be in one of Honda’s Ohio plants. As befits the star of the reveal, the NSX Concept was introduced by Honda CEO Takanobu Ito. In his remarks, Mr. Ito said the stateside production of the ILX, RDX and NSX is all part of Honda’s plant to make the United States the “hub of Acura.”
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