Click above for a high-res gallery of the 2009 Acura TL

Acura wants to assure dealers that its plan to become a Tier 1 luxury brand – able to hang with Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus – is still underway. But according to Dick Colliver, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., the key to playing with the big boys isn't limited to what's on showroom floors. Colliver told Automotive News, "Being a premium luxury brand is not just about product. It's the way dealers handle customers. You've got to earn your way into the segment. You don't necessarily have to have a $90,000 sedan to get there."

Even though that formula seems to have worked for Lexus, Acura has different plans. The recently released TSX, RL and TL have set the tone for the next few years, and another crossover, designed to slot in between the RDX and MDX, is currently under development.

Colliver also mentioned that work on the NSX replacement is "mostly done," so even though Honda shelved the V10 supercar to cut costs and keep an even keel during the economic downturn, the NSX could be pulled out of the corporate garage, dusted off and brought to market once conditions improve.

Acura's entry-level image could help the automaker weather the economic downturn better than its rivals from Germany and Japan, but when the market firms up, Acura will need products (with high-output engines and RWD) at the ready to compete with the stalwarts of the luxury set.

[Source: Automotive News – Sub. Req.]

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