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Acura’s ZDX Announcement Shows It Could Still Be A Serious EV Industry Player

If you’re a regular reader, you probably know that I’m a little irritated with Honda and Acura, to put it lightly. I have an Acura MDX in my driveway, and my wife loves the company. I can’t blame her, because Honda makes decent cars. However, when it revealed the third-generation MDX, Acura didn’t release an electric or PHEV variant of the vehicle, and the company even cut the hybrid version from production. It appeared like a significant step backward, and there was friction in my household about which cars to buy in the future.

Some Background

The company’s recent actions were only the latest in a long line of foolish decisions. At the time, I wasn’t sure why Acura was neglecting EVs, but I’ve since learned that Japanese manufacturers have been struggling with China and rare earth metals (including a total cutoff), and didn’t want their economy to be at the mercy of Chinese capriciousness. So, instead of investing everything in EVs, we’re seeing Japanese manufacturers adopt a more diverse approach.

But in recent months, we’re starting to see things turn around. Honda (and its flagship brand Acura) are making some decent EV moves, even if it means it is partnering with GM instead of rolling their own.

In April 2021, global Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe discussed the company’s plans for sales of electrified vehicles as part of its strategy to have carbon-neutral products and operations by 2050. The vision entails that 100% of North American sales will be battery-electric and fuel cell electric vehicles by 2040. Curious readers can find out more about that announcement by clicking here.

In one past story from July, I covered a sneak peek the company gave us of its design studio working on the Prologue EV. Not only did it seem like the company was doing innovative things to design its EV, but it is apparently working on basically building its own version of the upcoming budget-friendly Equinox EV.

A month later, we got word of the company’s Acura Precision EV concept. It was clearly intended by the Acura Design Studio in Los Angeles to push the boundaries of Acura design and technology, showcasing Acura’s future vision for electrified vehicles with unique manual and full driving automation experiences.

The Acura ZDX

Now, Honda is giving us a peek at what it intends to do with its design work and partnership with GM: Build and sell a new EV crossover called the Acura ZDX. The Acura ZDX will be the brand’s first all-new full-electric SUV to go on sale in 2024, and it will be named after the Acura ZDX. Acura’s focus on performance in the electric era shows with a ZDX Type S variant being introduced, continuing to prioritize putting the driver experience first. The new Acura design direction shown at Monterey Car Week as part of the Acura Precision EV Concept would make many of the styling motifs seen in today’s models available via production vehicle for the first time.

Sadly, Acura hasn’t released any design drawings, renderings, or photos of a production-intent prototype. But, because it gave that hint that it’ll follow the design language of the Precision EV Concept, we know that it will likely be a more tame and conventional take on what we saw with that concept.

Image of Precision EV Concept provided by Acura.

Like the Honda Prologue EV, the ZDX is being co-developed with GM, which will use the incredibly versatile worldwide EV platform powered by Ultium batteries. Acura will then release additional electric cars beginning in 2026, based on the firm’s own global e:Architecture.

“The Acura ZDX represents the start to what will be an accelerated path toward electrification by the end of the decade and the key role the Acura brand will play in our company’s global goal to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050,” said Emile Korkor, assistant vice president of Acura National Sales. “Acura will remain focused on performance in the electrified era and Type S will continue to represent the pinnacle of this direction.” 

The new ZDX SUV will be Acura’s first zero-emissions vehicle and is a callback to the original model of the same name. The very first car styled from the ground up in Acura Design Studio (which opened in Los Angeles 2007) was also named ZDX. Similarly, the new version is being designed in that selfsame studio.

These Developments Indicate That Honda Might Catch Back Up With EVs

As we’ve pointed out before, and again in this story, we’ve been disappointed with the company’s decisions. But it is making some very good decisions that give it a real shot of catching back up and being a competitive player in the EV market.

While partnering with GM, another player that’s pretty far behind Tesla, may not seem like the best way to get there, appearances are deceiving. GM hasn’t been making many bold moves in the last couple of years, but it was preparing to focus on an underserved market segment, specifically the $30,000-$35,000 price range. Price drops for the Bolt EV and its crossover sibling the Bolt EUV, followed by the announcement of a very capable Equinox EV starting at $30,000 shows that GM is dead serious about using that market segment to catch up to Tesla.

Honda’s decision to partner with GM puts it in a position to also serve that critical market segment, and do it quickly instead of having to start up its EV effort from scratch (and be seriously behind). Plans for at least one Honda-branded EV and one Acura-branded ZDX EV help fill the EV gap, and fast.

That buys the company time to develop its own platforms (and learn from GM) to become a long-term serious player in the EV market. Future higher-end Acura and Honda vehicles will be 100% Honda and not a partnership vehicle with GM, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t still share at least some parts and supply chains with GM as the company transitions to building out its own EV effort.

All of this adds up to some real potential for Honda to get back in the game and succeed with electric vehicles.

 
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Written By

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to explore the Southwest US with her partner, kids, and animals. Follow her on Twitter for her latest articles and other random things: https://twitter.com/JenniferSensiba

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