Acura Is Going Automatic, Leaving One Model Left With Manual In 2016

The consumer markets have spoken and one auto manufacturer has listened. Acura will soon be offering only automatics in their lineup, and in 2016 only the ILX will have a manual transmission. A new era in the automotive market is upon us, and while I can hear the groans from the car enthusiasts who swear by the manual transmission, paddle shifters is that kid on the block who’s taken over and everyone now follows.

The original story posted on Car and Driver goes through Acura’s transition thoroughly. The company that brought us the Integra is realizing that consumers don’t want the manual transmission, and there are a few theories as to why this is happening. For one, automatics are getting great gas mileage, a stronghold and persuasive buying point manuals once had.

Some people are blaming the non-car enthusiasts for this change, but let’s think about the sports cars and exotics that now offer paddle shifters. Ford Mustangs offer automatics, and for a while now, Ferrari has put paddle shifters in their cars. Most notably, the LaFerrari doesn’t even come with a traditional manual. Every car in-between Ford and Ferrari that attracted hardcore car enthusiasts and were for people who could drive manuals are now available in automatics or auto shift. This is the direction car manufacturers have gone, and with manuals only making up 6% of the market, demand is dwindling for a clutch.

With touch screens, navigation systems, iPhones, and other devices that distract drivers, the last thing most consumers want is to worry about shifting. Yes, the purists out there will say that manual is the only way to thoroughly enjoy a car, but an overwhelming majority of drivers, including car enthusiasts, are finding auto shift and automatics to be just as much fun. Let’s also remember the demographics here as well. With most people moving back into the city, having to upshift and downshift at every intersection and being in traffic on the highways is a chore most people don’t want to add when commuting.

Is there a place for manuals? Absolutely. For Acura however, most of their car buyers use their Acura’s as daily drivers, and with the Honda-owned company not offering much in the sports car market, most of the manual transmission lovers will have to look to older models to get their fill. Otherwise they’ll have to change brands, but even Lexus and Infiniti are beginning to change along with consumer demand.

At the end of the day, the goal for any company that sells products is to increase sales. As mentioned earlier, manuals only make up 6% of the market, which means 94% of consumers want an automatic or paddle shifters. Cars with manual transmissions really are a dying breed, and maybe some automakers will still offer traditional manuals on models they know have a cult following of loyal consumers.

The entire auto industry is in the midst of a revolution, and with electric cars gaining traction, who knows what other components will be different in cars in 5-10 years.

Acura is seeing the change and they’re going to listen to consumers. Other car manufacturers will follow suit, and are already moving away from the manual transmission but still offering it on some of their models. It’s truly amazing what consumer buying power can do, and with the advances we’re seeing in the auto industry, this change to going automatic and auto shift was bound to happen.

Acura Going AWD To Compete With Subaru and Audi?

CIAS 2013 - 2014 Acura RLX
MSVG / Foter / CC BY

According to a report by Automotive News, Acura is looking to make AWD standard on all their models and go the route of Subaru and Audi. But is it too late for the Honda-owned luxury car manufacturer?

While going AWD creates benefits for the consumer, Acura has to distinguish themselves from Subaru and Audi first. What is the Acura brand? Who are they marketing to, and are they a luxury car company, or more similar to Subaru who market to consumers that need AWD to deal with snow and difficult terrain?
Subaru has already built up a strong tradition of manufacturing durable and long lasting AWD sedans and station wagons, and their Impreza and Legacy are in a league of their own that’s very difficult to break through and compete.

Audi on the other hand is pure luxury that offers AWD as standard, but their cars are predicated on luxury more than off-road capability. Their sedans and smaller crossovers are competing against BMW and Mercedes Benz, and it would be a mistake for Acura to jump into the fray and compete against the best the automotive world has to offer.

Acura needs to change their image, or promote the brand that displays a definte direction so consumers know exactly what they’re buying. Introducing a crossover SUV wouldn’t be a bad place to start, and then figure out where their sedans compete in the automotive market. 

AWD is the right answer, but to the wrong question. Consumers don’t know where Acura fits in the luxury market, and they have no idea whether it’s a luxury brand or not, especially with the changes they’ve made to their lineup by getting rid of the TL and TSX. Acura has a lot of questions to answer and evaluate where their brand stands among its competitors, but when it comes to standardizing AWD on all their models, they’re on the right track.