Honda Sees TLX Reversing Acura Brand’s U.S. Sedan Slide

Honda Motor Co. introduced a performance-oriented sedan that the company says is critical to reversing a drop in premium Acura car deliveries that kept record U.S. sales out of Honda’s reach last year.

The company showed a prototype of the TLX sedan yesterday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. Pricing and volume goals for the TLX, which goes on sale in mid-2014 and will offer a new all-wheel-drive system, weren’t given.

“Acura is a legitimate luxury brand and we are working on the product that will support that premise,” Mike Accavitti, Honda’s U.S. senior vice president, told reporters in Detroit. “We’ve had our focus over the last few years on the SUV lineup. Now we’re focusing on the sedans. The TLX is the representation of that focus.”

Tetsuo Iwamura, Honda’s executive vice president, said in December that fixing Acura’s sedan lineup is a top priority. A 10 percent drop in combined sales of Acura’s ILX, TSX, TL and RLX sedans in 2013 kept the Tokyo-based company from a goal of achieving record sales in 2013. Including MDX and RDX sport-utility vehicles, Acura’s U.S. sales rose 5.9 percent.

The brand will grow this year, led by the TLX, RLX large sedan and a full year of the new MDX, which went on sale in 2013, Accavitti said. He declined to provide a volume goal.

New Engine

The 2015 TLX, which replaces the TL, gets a new 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine using direct-injection and eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, the company said. For higher performance, the car is also available with a 3.5-liter V-6. Both cars will have top fuel-economy ratings in the mid-size luxury sedan category, the company said, without elaborating.

The car’s combination of performance-oriented handling and power and a very quiet cabin will help the TLX stand out among luxury sedans, Accavitti said.

“We know we have to elevate the status of the brand,” he said. “When you re-establish a luxury brand, it takes years and it takes a consistent effort on the product and marketing side.”

The car will be built at Honda’s Marysville, Ohio, plant. Acura’s U.S. headquarters are in Torrance, California.

Honda’s American depositary receipts fell 0.4 percent to $39.93 at the close in New York. They’ve gained 4.7 percent in the past 12 months.

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