Honda, Acura unit separation won't affect comms

Although Honda Motor Co.'s move to set up separate Honda and Acura units in the US will create dedicated sales and marketing teams for each brand, there will be no changes to the company's communications structure.

NEW YORK: Although Honda Motor Co.’s move to set up separate Honda and Acura units in the US will create dedicated sales and marketing teams for each brand, there will be no changes to the company’s communications structure.

The company is trying to revamp its Acura brand through the split. Its in-house PR team is handling all communications for the change, according to Steve Kinkade, manager of national media relations at Honda North America.

"Previously, we had a national marketing team that worked on both Acura and Honda, and the regional marketing was done through our sales team," he said. "Before this change, Honda Motor already had dedicated Acura PR staff and dedicated Honda PR staff."

Post-reorganization, Michael Accavitti, who previously led national marketing for the Honda and Acura brands, will become SVP and GM of the Acura division. Jeff Conrad will serve as SVP and GM of the Honda division, while John Mendel, EVP of American Honda Motor Co., will oversee both brands.

External communications efforts to announce the changes included embargoed media briefings on Monday morning with statements from Accavitti, Conrad, and Mendel. News outlets including Bloomberg News, USA Today, the Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News, and the Los Angeles Times were given an embargoed briefing in advance, which enabled Honda to inform internal associates and dealers first. The embargo lifted an hour after stakeholders were told about the changes, Kinkade explained.

Internal communications with staffers took place on Friday, and affected employees were notified verbally.

"Our main message is that we are putting top-level senior leaders on the Acura brand – our best and brightest," said Kinkade. "We have been taking steps to improve Acura’s sedan lineup."

To set the global direction for Acura products, Honda also created the Acura Business Planning Office. Erik Berkman, president of Honda R&D Americas, will become EVP of Honda North America, gaining responsibility over the new unit.

In December, Honda said it would discontinue its TL and TSX sedans, replacing them with the new TLX model this summer. Last year, Acura sold 165,000 vehicles in the US, with the MDX and RDX accounting for almost 60% of sales.

Honda is not working with any PR agencies, but in the past it has partnered with firms including FleishmanHillard, said Kinkade.

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