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Ever dream of owning a supercar like a Honda? The company's trying to change its image by rolling out the new Acura NSX, the most expensive car being built by a major manufacturer in the U.S. From member station WOSU in Columbus, Mandie Trimble checks it out.
MANDIE TRIMBLE, BYLINE: The Honda Performance Manufacturing Center is a new 184,000 square foot plant built in Marysville, Ohio, 45 miles northwest of Columbus. Honda already has a huge presence here, mass-producing safe, family-friendly Accords. But this is something different. Here, mechanics are using electric wrenches to help install an engine into a low, sleek body of a two-seat sports car. The hybrid will be marketed as the Acura NSX and it'll make its public debut in late April. Clement D'Souza is the project's chief engineer.
CLEMENT D'SOUZA: You have three motors, a V6 six engine and a 9DCT transmission.
(SOUNDBITE OF ENGINE REVVING)
TRIMBLE: In other words, a whole lot of power. The Acura NSX can go from zero to 60 in three seconds.
D'SOUZA: You have instant acceleration from the time you hit the gas pedal. The engine kicks in and the turbo backs it up so you're thrown in the back of your seat.
TRIMBLE: That's the thrill of a supercar, which can leave a Tesla in the dust. Wealthy customers pay hundreds of thousands of dollars - millions even, for an exotic ride few others own. But at about $160,000, the Acura NSX is cheap compared with the supercars made in other countries.
D'SOUZA: It's all this technology that you're adding to the car that brings it in that range, the same technology you'll see in a LaFerrari or a 918.
JIM GILLETTE: The only downside that I would say that's potential is the proliferation of competing vehicles in the marketplace right now.
TRIMBLE: Jim Gillette is an independent automotive analyst in Michigan. With names like Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren building hybrids too, Honda will face fierce competition. But, then again, it's got that big price advantage.
GILLETTE: You're going to see a lot of people in the marketplace at the lower prices that may dream about a 918 or a LaFerrari but are going to be just as happy if not happier with the NSX.
TRIMBLE: The biggest problem may be Honda's image. Gillette says Japanese cars are known for dependability, not high-performance. The first-generation NSX designed in the late 1980s didn't create much enthusiasm and Honda killed it off in 2005.
GILLETTE: People have migrated to the German cars more in terms of excitement so I think that there clearly needs to be a move now on the part of Honda.
TRIMBLE: Analyst Eric Lyman with truecar.com agrees.
ERIC LYMAN: As the luxury market has gone more towards performance in the last decade or so, Acura's missed out on that.
TRIMBLE: Honda's D'Souza says NSX's goal is to become a superstar, shining so brightly it acts like a halo.
D'SOUZA: It will definitely help the brand. The technology in the supercar can be cascaded down to the rest of the Acura brand.
TRIMBLE: Honda is hoping the hype will get people talking about Acura and then visiting dealerships. For NPR News, I'm Mandie Trimble in Columbus.
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