Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Editorial: Mike Accavitti Leaves Acura Under Mysterious Circumstances

Image courtesy of Allcarbrandslist.com
Last week, we learned that Mike Accavitti, senior Vice President of American Honda, and the head of Honda's Acura division, has abruptly left the company. Former auto design division director, Jon Ikeda, has taken his place. The circumstances of Accavitti's departure are still unknown at this time, but considering that Accavitti has only been on the job for a little over a year, it does make the departure appear a bit suspect.

Last year, Honda took a huge step in giving Acura its own division along with its own director. The idea was to give the Honda luxury division freer reign to do its own thing rather than being constantly limited by the parent company. The other hope was that by bringing Acura's sales and marketing structure closer to its key competitors, the brand would be able to better compete. Enthusiasts were hopeful that under Accavitti's reign, Acura would finally get back to producing vehicles that enthusiasts would be proud of. Accavitti himself, despite coming from a marketing background, seem to genuinely care about what the enthusiast crowd thought of Acura's vehicles. While he was still leading the Acura division, sales had gone up 12 percent over the course of the year, despite the company's sedans being skewered by the automotive press. Accavitti's departure during a time of sales growth draws to the surface many questions.


So what exactly does Accavitti's departure mean for Acura? With Accavitti heading up the newly
formed Acura division, the hope was that Acura would be put back on the right track of being competitive with the big three German luxury brands and as well as its Japanese competition. With the all new NSX coming ever closer to being on sale, the Acura division was also banking on the fact that their halo sports car would reignite interest in the brand. Many people speculate that with Accavitti gone though, a lot of the projects that he started in order to help the brand re-achieve its glory years would be shelved. All I know is that it would be incredibly foolish of Acura to shelve the NSX right now. Considering that right before Accavitti left, a pair of NSXs hit the road on a country wide tour, shelving the NSX would be public relations suicide for Acura.

The question remains though: what pushed Accavitti leave Acura? While no one is certain, it has not stopped rumors from popping about about his departure. There are those that believe Accavitti did not leave willingly, but was instead pushed out by Honda's top brass in Japan. Why? There are two prevailing theories amongst the group that believe Accavitti was pushed out: 1.) Accavitti was known for not being afraid to speak his mind, and when he disagreed with the big bosses in Japan, he made it known. As a result, Accavitti was pushed out because corporate wants another "yes man" running their American divisions. 2.) Under his command, the Acura division simply did not grow as much as corporate had wanted it to, and decided to replace him with someone they thought could do better.

Another theory regarding Accavitti's departure stems from the fact that Accavitti seemed disappointed with the way things at Acura were going. Many believe he was just sick of the limitations being forced on to him by corporate in Japan. Under their strict guidelines, the Acura division could not grow the way that Accavitti had envisioned, and the way that the automotive press were skewering Acura's latest sedan offerings, from the RLX all the way down to the refreshed ILX, left a bad taste in Accavitti's mouth. According to Temple of VTEC owner Jeff Palmer, throughout his many interactions with Accavitti, his talk with him at a 2016 ILX test drive event stood out the most. Accavitti asked Palmer what he thought of the refreshed ILX and Palmer told him that he felt the engineers did everything the could with the car, but felt that they were not given enough to work with in the first place. Rather than vehemently defend the product like most people in Accavitti's position would, he agreed with Palmer. While I am not saying this interaction with Palmer is what caused Accavitti to leave, but he must have, at some point come to the conclusion that he would not be given the tools from corporate to make the Acura division successful, and decided to leave.

Image courtesy of Automotive News
Even though it may be some time before we learn the truth behind Accavitti's departure, we do know who has already taken his place. Former design division director Jon Ikeda was elected to replace Accavitti shortly after his departure. Ikeda's selection to become the new head of the Acura division seems to have left the enthusiast crowd with mixed feelings. There are those that believe that being a designer, Ikeda might finally have the power to fix one of Acura's biggest problems: bland design. Others believe Ikeda was picked because of some anecdotal evidence that Ikeda seems to match the "yes man" archetype that corporate in Japan wants. Whatever the case, all we know is the Acura's future is now officially up in the air. Will Ikeda continue what Accavitti started and try and get Acura back on track with competing in the luxury crowd, or will he take the brand in a entirely different direction? Only time will tell.