Acura – much like Lexus and Infiniti – is a byword for luxury, class and reliability.
But is Acura a JDM brand?
There seems to be a bit of confusion about this, because of the fact that Acura has sold ‘JDM hero’ cars in the past like the DC2 Integra Type R and NSX.
In this short edition of Car Facts (short because the answer is simple, clear and unequivocal) I’m going to clean up this misconception and set the record straight.
A Brief History Of Acura
Long story short, Acura is Honda’s luxury brand.
Acura was actually the first dedicated luxury division to be set up by a Japanese car company, launching in 1986 with development beginning earlier in the 1980s.
Toyota and Nissan were actually inspired by the success of Honda’s new ‘Acura Legend’ in the US market, that they launched Lexus and Infiniti respectively.
However, for the purpose of this article what is most important to understand is that Acura was established as a luxury export brand, and was deliberately headquartered in the United States (although the brand eventually launched into other markets over the years).
In order to break away from Honda’s reputation for building smaller, economical but not necessarily desirable/luxurious vehicles, Honda’s management believed that establishing a unique high-end marque would enhance sales.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Acura Is Effectively A Japanese Company, So It Must Be JDM, Right?
If you’ve read our JDM meaning guide, then you’ll know that the term has a specific meaning.
A JDM car is one built specifically for the Japanese domestic market (i.e. built to be sold new in Japan).
A DC2 Honda Integra Type R that was originally sold in Japan – meaning 180 km/h speedo etc – is a JDM car.
A DC2 Acura Integra Type R is not JDM because it was built to be sold in the American market.
All Acuras are intended for sale new outside of Japan, meaning that the brand is not JDM. The case of ‘mistaken identity’ comes from the fact that so many people wrongly believe that any Japanese car is JDM.
Are Acura Cars Sold In Japan?
You might be aware that Toyota eventually launched Lexus as a separate brand to the Japanese market (many years after the brand’s debut in the United States with the Lexus LS400 – aka the Toyota Celsior in the Japanese domestic market).
Did Honda deploy the same strategy and eventually launch the Acura brand in Japan?
No – Acura never launched in Japan.
Honda had intended to introduce the brand to the Japanese market in 2010. However, the impacts of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis and shifting consumer preferences in the Japanese domestic market towards smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles (which didn’t really fit the Acura mould) meant the plans were laid to rest altogether and apparently have not been revisited since.
In fact, Honda’s CEO called this out specifically in a 2008 speech:
In Japan, where demand has shifted toward small-sized vehicles including mini-vehicles, Honda will strengthen its Honda Cars sales network. Meanwhile, considering the recent changes in the business environment, Honda decided to withdraw its prior plan to introduce the Acura brand in the Japanese market around 2010.
So no, you cannot buy Acura cars in Japan. Maybe Honda will reverse its decision here one day and decide to go down the same path as Toyota with Lexus, but it doesn’t seem like a priority for the company at the moment.
Recap – Is Acura JDM?
No, Acura by its very nature is not JDM.
It is Honda’s luxury and/or performance vehicle export division.
A JDM car is one built for the Japanese domestic market, whereas Acuras are built specifically to be exported to markets like the United States (in fact many are assembled there).
If someone tells you they have a JDM Acura, then they are misinformed themselves. Or someone has sold them an Acura that has been rebadged as a Honda – I’ve seen this a bit on the likes of the Integra Type R.