30 Years Later: Why Have Consumers Rejected the Acura NSX?

1st Generation NSX & 2019 NSX

In 1990, Acura released a ground-breaking supercar that smashed every preconception of “exotic”. Fast-forward 30 years and the NSX has been struggling in the supercar market; total sales in 2018 was a scant 170 vehicles.

The 1990 1st gen model was designed with comfort and reliability in mind, in addition to speed and good handling.

“Before NSX, it was always assumed that supercar performance came at the price of a comfortable interior and everyday driveability,” said John Ikeda, Vice President and General Manager of Acura. “NSX shattered those notions and raised the bar on ever other exotic and supercar maker, with the effects still being felt today.”

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Gen-1 NSX featured a unique powertrain and an all-aluminum construction strengthened by durability testing recommended by Ayrton Senna and finessed at everyone’s favorite test track. When Senna tested the NSX, he found severe deficiencies that Acura then went and rectified.

“I’m not sure I can really give you appropriate advice on a mass-production car,” Senna told the team, “but I fell it’s a little fragile.”

Input the NSX production team took to heart and began fixing immediately. As testing at the Nürburgring began, the “Green Hell” soon exposed the flexing body Senna had felt. At the end of eight months of testing, Acura engineers had increased the original NSX’s rigidity by 50 percent.

1st Generation NSX & 2019 NSXMost importantly, you could buy a 1st Gen NSX and expect to drive it for years—models with 200,000+ of mileage still drive smoothly—and replacement parts didn’t break the bank. This was the “everyday” supercar that consumers got to know. This changed with the 2nd Gen NSX, first released in 2016 and since sales have been unremarkable, to say the least.

In 2018, sales totaled just 170 cars, with some months bringing in only 3 sales. It’s a toss-up whether it’ll make a comeback this year but so far, it’s not looking good. January 2019 sales totaled 31 cars, down a few from last year and nearly halved from 2017.

It might be that customers were expecting a front-engine, V10 coupe but, instead, they got a twin-turbo V6 with hybrid tech. Despise the lack of enthusiasm from the car community, Acura put some serious money behind changing the original NSX.

“Changing the powertrain design and layout was not an easy task,” said Ted Klaus, NSX Global Development Leader. “Frankly, it was like undergoing a heart transplant while running a marathon. But 10 seconds behind the wheel, and you understand why this power unit is key to delivering a New Sports Experience.”

1st Generation NSX & 2019 NSXThis bold, experimental move by Acura appears to have fallen flat with consumers, who might prefer a typical powerful supercar such as the Corvette ZR1. Had Acura stuck with its original design, it may have been able to carve out a sizable portion of the market. Instead, they radically changed the car’s feel and features, such that some customers may see it as an entirely different model.

Currently, the supercar market is saturated with options. Manufacturers like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Audi, BMW, McLaren, and Mercedes all have viable models in the game. The NSX’s base MSRP stands just below $158,000, but the number is much higher when options and customization are factored in. Customers who have that kind of money to spend may just go for a pedigree brand or go for a cheaper option that delivers the supercar driving experience, such as the Nissan GT-R.

Despite all this, the “Made in America” 2nd Generation NSX isn’t to be scoffed at. The 2017 model’s 0-60mph time was 3.1 seconds, and it managed to stop from 60mph in 95 feet. It still retains many of the comfort features of the first model, and the hybridization of the engine tech will appeal to some. The NSX has ample time in 2019 to rebound—whether it accomplishes this remains to be seen.

Acura unveiled the concept NS-X at the 1989 Chicago Auto Show. During the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, Acura celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the NSX’s unveiling with a video homage to the original vehicle. To learn more about the 2019 Acura NSX, please visit Acura.com.

Images Credit: Acura