Honda is making an investment in design by splitting its U.S. design studio in Torrance into three groups: Honda, Acura and an advanced design center in Pasadena.
On Thursday, Honda will open a third Southern California design facility, this one dedicated to the Acura brand, under the direction of 41-year-old designer John Ikeda. He had been running the Acura side of the former Honda-Acura center that was part of the company’s Torrance campus for 32 years.
Separating the studios and sticking the advanced design work in a downtown Pasadena building 30 miles from the others may not sound like such an important move, but [chief U.S. designer Dave] Marek and Ikeda say it has significant consequences.
“We’re an engineering-driven company and our executives need to understand design,” Marek said. “They aren’t used to forward-looking design; they want to be safe. This will help” change things.
When Honda executives come to the Pasadena studio now, “they see only the advanced stuff, and we can look at it in isolation and start asking whether we’re going far enough,” Marek said. “This opens their eyes to more aggressive, advanced styling.”
That’s something Honda needs as it matures, said analyst Wes Brown of Iceology, a consumer and market research firm in Los Angeles.
“Honda is still selling like crazy,” he said, “but the median age of its buyers is getting older and they need to bring back the younger buyers who built the company. You can’t do that with bland design.”