Acura has been the premium brand for Honda for nearly three decades and as such has had a long and storied history. For so many years the Civics and Accords of Honda had nearly interchangeable parts with the Integra from Acura, leading to many thefts of the HID headlights off Acura models to be put on Honda versions. Another similarity has always been the ease of turning one of the exciting machines into a great tuner car, the kind you see in the early Fast and Furious movies that look like they are a lot of fun to drive.
Some of this fun came from the fact that Honda and Acura had a manual transmission to offer for years. This gave you the opportunity to purchase a car from either brand with everything you wanted, especially Acura. Because it was such a craze at the time, Acura couldn’t help but put all the go-fast gear on these cars right from the factory which of course included some awesome manual transmissions for us to enjoy.
With a few changes happening over the past few years, Acura has had to lose the manual transmissions entirely starting in 2016. The last model to even offer one, the ILX will now turn to the dual-clutch automatic transmission in order to make the gear changes for this car. The changes that occurred to cause this movement are the increase in SUV sales and the improvements in automatic transmissions over the years.
First of all, Acura sales are basically 100% from North America. These models show up in other countries, but usually under other branding. The Acura name is on par with the Buick name in North America where it enjoys some excellent success in sales year after year, but there have been some trends. The trend of SUV sales rising and sedan sales dropping has caused the movement away from the manual transmissions for Acura. Most buyers would rather not have to change the gears themselves when driving an SUV and the demand for manual transmissions is so small it doesn’t make any sense.
The first argument to keep the manuals for Acura is to look at Honda and state they still offer manuals, but there is good reason for that. It only takes three models from Honda to prove the point, the Civic, Accord and CR-V. These three models together sold more than twice as many models as the entire Acura brand; that is called a volume problem. When your sales are as high as the Honda brand is you can offer a manual transmission, but when it’s the opposite you have to make a hard choice; bye bye manual transmission.
Another reason for this change is the technology for automatic transmissions is so much better now than ever before. Now that computerization has taken such a strong hold in vehicles the automobiles themselves can now shift more effectively and efficiently than we (humans) ever could. This gives much better fuel efficiency to vehicles and when it comes to performance the automatics can handle the task as well. The GT-R and CTS-V are both perfect examples of this and when the NSX comes out from Acura as their next high performance model it will also have an automatic transmission.
Will Acura every build another model with a manual transmission? I would say that is simply going to be a demand and volume issue. Should we see a movement back toward the ILX and away from the SUV lineup then it could be a real possibility, but as long as the Acura name is sold almost exclusively in North America and the SUVs continue to increase in sales (the MDX was the strongest seller in 2014) I’m afraid we have seen the end of an era for Acura.