Very few companies make "supercars" that can rocket you from zero to 60 mph in a blink and then propel you to nearly 200 mph.
Porsche, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Bugatti — and of course, Honda.
Yes. In Marysville, Ohio, where Honda cranks out safe, family-friendly Accords, workers are building a new supercar under the brand name of Acura NSX. The company designed a first-generation NSX in the late 1980s, but that model, built in Japan, didn't generate much enthusiasm. Honda killed it off in 2005.
Now, the next-generation, American-made NSX will be released in late April. With a base price of roughly $160,000, the hybrid sports car — with two seats and three electric motors and a V-6 engine — will be the most expensive car built in the United States by a major manufacturer.
"You have instant acceleration from the time you hit the gas pedal," says Clement D'Souza, chief engineer of the NSX project at the Honda Performance Manufacturing Center. "The engine kicks in and the turbo backs it up, so you're thrown in the back of your seat."
D'Souza's team is building the NSX in a new, 184,000-square-foot plant in Marysville, 45 miles northwest of Columbus. Honda has been manufacturing Accords in other facilities in that area since 1982.
Honda's goal with the new NSX is to build a "halo" car — one that shines so brightly it creates a glow around all Acura models.
"It will definitely help the brand," D'Souza said. "The technology in the supercar can be cascaded down to the rest of the Acura brand."
Eric Lyman, an automotive analyst with TrueCar.com, agrees that Honda needs to build a superfast car to generate buzz. "The luxury market has gone more towards performance in the last decade or so," he said. "Acura has missed out on that."
James Gillette, an independent automotive analyst in Michigan, agrees that Honda had to do something fairly dramatic to attract big spenders in a globalized market.
"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," Gillette said.
With Ferrari, Porsche and McLaren building high-performance hybrids too, Honda will face fierce competition, he said. But because of its extensive use of robotics and other advanced technologies, Honda will have a huge price advantage for its Acura supercar.
High-performance supercars can have insane sticker prices. A Ferrari LaFerrari may start at $1.4 million. A Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse could be twice that price.
So with its relatively low cost, Acura won't have to rely only upon the richest of the rich for sales. It will be able to attract customers who are mere multimillionaires.
"You're going to see a lot of people in the marketplace at the lower prices that may dream about a [Porsche] 918 or a LaFerrari but are going to be just as happy, if not happier, with the NSX," Gillette said.