Remarks by Jon Ikeda, Vice President and General Manager of Acura & Dave Marek, Executive Creative Director of Acura
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us.
This year, we're celebrating Acura's 30th anniversary and I couldn't be more excited about the momentum we've established and the path ahead. We've thought deeply about our history, our heritage, and our soul. And we've rekindled the youthful spirit and ambition that turned Acura into a powerful, challenger brand.
Getting Acura back to our roots is my top priority. Moving forward, we're going to compete by pursuing our own unique ideas and dreams for the future.
It's been nearly a year since we re-established Precision Crafted Performance as the direction of the Acura brand.
This is our purpose. This is why we exist. And most importantly, this is our future.
You can already see this spirit expressed in the NSX, which is now in customer hands. The NSX represents much more than a halo for our lineup. It's a blueprint for our future, a unique expression of Acura performance that shapes everything we do.
We are incredibly honored that the NSX was recently named Road & Track's 2017 Performance Car of the Year, recognizing not only the incredible innovation that the NSX has brought to the supercar universe, but the skill, determination and challenging spirit of our team.
Now, increasing the emotion of our designs is critical to our strategy. And with the introduction of the 2017 MDX, we're taking our first steps in bringing the powerful design language inspired by the Acura Precision Concept to our core models.
With its bolder design, premium interior refinements and distinctive new marketing vibe the reaction to MDX has been tremendous. With the MDX leading the way, we posted our best-ever October sales for light trucks.
The RDX also registered its best-ever October, and it has been the outright segment sales leader year-to-date. And the RDX and MDX are two of the top three luxury SUVs with buyers under-35. These millennial customers are a key driver for the future of our brand. But we aren't stopping here.
Over the next few months, you're going to see the Acura Precision Concept design language boldly transform core models beyond MDX.
Throughout my career, there has never been a more exciting time.
Advances in electrification, autonomous vehicles and connectivity are fundamentally reshaping the future of mobility. Acura is determined to leverage this massive shift to deliver new value to our customers.
Our entry into the world of electrified vehicles began in 2012, with the introduction of the 3-motor Sport Hybrid system on the RLX. This revolutionary powertrain achieves pinnacle levels of precision and performance by marrying torque-vectoring all-wheel drive with electric motors.
For the NSX, we turbocharged the Sport Hybrid concept to create a next-generation supercar, the first to use electric motors to sharpen and enhance every element of vehicle performance acceleration, braking and cornering.
We were thrilled when the NSX, here on the floor today, claimed victory at Pikes Peak in its North American racing debut.
Validating performance in the most extreme of conditions the Acura NSX climbed the 14-thousand-foot peak in 10 minutes and 28 seconds, winning the Time Attack 2 production class.
Racing is deeply rooted in Acura's spirit. Very soon, we'll hit the track with the highly anticipated NSX GT3 with a team of talented drivers campaigning in both the IMSA Weather Tech and Pirelli World Challenge series, starting at Daytona in January. Stay tuned for more news about our motorsports plans in 2017.
The second building block that I want to talk about today is the path to the automated vehicles of the future.
Already, more than 70,000 vehicles on the road today feature the AcuraWatch suite of active safety technologies representing a bridge to tomorrow's highly automated vehicles. This fall, the 2017 MDX became the first SUV in its class and the second model in the Acura line-up to apply AcuraWatch as standard equipment on all grades. We will continue down this path, eventually applying AcuraWatch standard on all of our core sedans and SUVs.
AcuraWatch will continue to advance with the addition of Traffic Jam Assist next year, significantly reducing the stress of stop-and-go highway driving. The advanced nature of AcuraWatch enabled our engineers to use the Acura RLX Sport Hybrid as the foundation for our second generation automated development vehicle, also with us today, which is currently testing in the Bay Area.
It debuted earlier this year, fitted with a new suite of advanced sensors and processors that support a concept known as sensor fusion. Simply put, sensor fusion leverages multiple sources of overlapping data to validate information with a high degree of accuracy.
The same concept is applied in the AcuraWatch system available on our vehicles today. We will continue to develop AcuraWatch and we are well positioned in this space.
Now, another challenge and opportunity facing automakers is connectivity, to more intuitively integrate our products with our customers' digitally-powered lives. In other words, we need to match the prowess of our technologies with the simplicity and user-friendliness of our designs.
The Acura design team has been working to solve this challenge by looking at every element of the system in unison, physical and digital, to create a true, choreographed in-car experience.
So let's take a look at what they've created, in what we're calling the Acura Precision Cockpit.
The Acura Precision Cockpit previews the styling and technology direction of future Acura production models.
Now, why introduce an interior and technology concept at a major auto show. Our exterior design direction was established by the Acura Precision Concept and has been incredibly well received.
For today's buyers especially millennials, the in-car technology experience is just as important as exterior design.
The Acura Precision Cockpit fuses ergonomic design with a never-before-seen operating system, which features a new interface that goes beyond the traditional touch screen or remote-based approach.
And to share more about this exciting direction, please welcome Dave Marek, Acura's Executive Creative Director.
Thanks, Jon. It's great to be with you again.
In January, we debuted the Acura Precision Concept at the Detroit auto show, establishing a bold new design direction for the Acura brand.
The Acura Precision Cockpit builds on that direction, delivering a sporty human centered interior design.
Together, the Precision Concept and the Precision Cockpit are the fundamental building blocks for Acura's future. To us, interiors are critical for communicating performance.
The Acura Precision Cockpit's seats, steering wheel and drive mode dial are adopted from the NSX, pointing to a sporty future for the brand. Natural wood, leather and alcantara finishes create a premium look and feel. The instrument panel houses a wide, ultra-clear, 12-inch driver's display.
The digital meter utilizes a real-time 3D engine to support advanced graphics that enhance the driving experience. For example, a dynamic semi-autonomous layout displays other cars and road objects recognized by the vehicle's advanced sensors, visually distinguishing other cars operating autonomously.
An advanced vision mode leverages sensors and artificial intelligence to display cars, pedestrians, cyclists and other objects obscured from the driver's line of sight, along with predicted future pathways. This mode builds human confidence in the car's semi-autonomous systems. Distinct colors and animations match the driving mode selected by the driver – white for Snow, blue for Comfort, red for Sport and orange for Sport Plus.
A matching, wide center display is placed high in the cabin close to the driver's natural line-of-sight. The center display is operated by a curved touchpad that is optimally positioned in the center stack. This touchpad is ergonomically designed to eliminate the need to visually locate a button or a switch.
Now, as Jon indicated, the new touchpad we've developed is a unique approach. We did a lot of research. Of course, we looked at smart phones, tablets and other devices, studied the customer experience and the unique environmental conditions inside the vehicle.
The system we conceived has been created with the driver in mind. A traditional touchscreen approach is intuitive, what you see is what you press.
But it also forces a compromised placement of the screen – close to the driver and out of the driver's natural line-of-sight.
A traditional remote interface – found in many luxury cars – solves these problems, but creates a new one: the interaction between the remote and the display is indirect and clumsy.
The Acura Precision Cockpit's touchpad overcomes these issues by using absolute position mapping for the first time in the driving environment, combining the flexibility and usability of a touchscreen with the comfort and reduced driver distraction of a remote.
With absolute positioning, the interaction with the touchpad aligns precisely with the actions on the main display, eliminating the clumsy remote experience that you're used to.
Every spot on the touchpad is mapped to a specific function on the display, just like a touchscreen. The simplicity of this design makes it unique, functional and personal – and particularly well suited for performance-oriented machines.
The research and development of our touchpad was validated by tens of thousands of hours at the Ohio State University's world class Driving Simulation Laboratory established with the help of our Ohio R&D Center. What we discovered was that, on average, drivers become acclimated and comfortable with our new touch pad in just minutes.
Along with previewing our future designs, the Acura Precision Cockpit, reveals the Android-based, next-gen Acura OS that will power our future production cars. The user interface is clean, simple and beautiful, minimizing layers and clearly displaying information to the driver through a center display with two dedicated zones. The larger left zone is dedicated to apps and navigation, while the smaller right zone allows the driver to quickly switch through audio, weather & notifications.
Every element of the Acura Precision Cockpit, physical, digital and audio was designed by one team working seamlessly together to create a choreographed driving experience. This is a prototype system that we are evolving into the new interior design for production vehicles starting in the next few years.
Now, I'll turn it back over to Jon.
Thanks, Dave. And thanks to all of you for joining us today.
Precision Crafted Performance is the future of this brand but it's not a destination.
As we demonstrated today, it's a mindset and a commitment to doing new and challenging things based on our own unique ideas for our customers.
We have a world of opportunity ahead of us and I couldn't be any more energized about our ability to create a new driving experience that is uniquely Acura.