Honda Taps Sid Vicious to Push Acura TLX Sales After Delay

Aug 12, 2014 10:13 am ET

(Updates with today’s ADR trading in the final paragraph.)

Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Honda Motor Co. is starting a costly marketing push for its Acura brand with a commercial set to a punk rock cover of “My Way” by Sid Vicious, highlighting the development of its delayed TLX sedan.

The spot promotes the 2015 TLX, the replacement for Acura’s TSX and TL sedans that was scheduled for introduction in the first half of the year. The sport sedan’s release was held until this month to ensure new software, powertrain, and handling and safety technologies were ready, said Mike Accavitti, chief of the Acura brand, in an Aug. 8 interview.

“The chief engineer put it a good way: It’s worse to launch a new car with new technology that doesn’t work than it is launching a car with old technology,” Accavitti said of the TLX. “We wanted to make sure everything was right, and because of that we pushed it back.”

Delays for both the TLX and the Honda Fit hatchback, which also took longer to reach the market than planned, contributed to the Tokyo-based carmaker’s 1.3 percent drop in U.S. deliveries this year through July as industrywide demand grew 5 percent. Promotion of the Fit began in July as supplies built up and this month Acura begins promoting TLX with what Accavitti said is the largest advertising push in the brand’s history.

Honda delayed the Fit because it needed more time to start making the new product at its new Celaya, Mexico, plant with recently added workers, he said.

‘My Way’

The Tokyo-based automaker, previously known for fast turnarounds on assembly lines, won’t say how much it’s spending on the TLX campaign, which promotes the driving performance of the mid-size sedan designed and built for Acura at the company’s U.S. production and engineering base in Ohio.

“It’ll be our biggest, both in terms of spending and effort,” Accavitti said, without elaborating.

Acura has said its biggest previous promotion was last year for the revamped MDX sport-utility vehicle. The brand spent $74.4 million to advertise MDX in 2013, out of $237.7 million for total Acura advertising expenditures, according to New York- based Kantar Media.

Breaking from traditional Acura ads featuring a narrator explaining model attributes, the main commercial for the TLX is a fast-moving, 60-second story of TLX’s development and testing, filmed mainly at Honda’s North American R&D center and test track in Raymond, Ohio. In the spot that starts airing next week, Acura engineers race to ready the car to a raucous version of “My Way” by Vicious, the bassist for the Sex Pistols, covering the Frank Sinatra classic.

Sinatra’s version would have been “way more” expensive to use, Accavitti said, without elaborating.

Acura Sales

The TLX, priced from $30,995, excluding delivery and handling charges, is to be the top volume Acura sedan, Accavitti said.

To lure sales from competing premium sedans, the car’s appeal is performance-oriented ride and handling. That’s achieved with new four- and six-cylinder engines, and eight- and nine-speed transmissions, Acura’s latest versions of “precision all-wheel steer” and “super-handling” all-wheel-drive systems and a more rigid frame and chassis, he said.

Accavitti declined to set a volume goal for the car, but said the company’s dealers received requests from 40,000 people interested in getting information on the car before it went on sale this month, double the number of “handraisers” for Acura’s top-selling MDX, he said.

‘Acceleration Point’

Acura sales dropped 18 percent in July as dealers sold down remaining units of outgoing TL and TSX sedans, he said. This year the brand has dipped 1.8 percent to 90,431 sales through July.

“This car is going to be an acceleration point, where we’re going to see the slope of the Acura sales curve increase for the better,” he said.

Honda’s American depositary receipts fell 0.3 percent to $33.92 at 10:07 a.m. in New York. They had tumbled 18 percent this year through yesterday.