ROCHESTER, MI – Acura is betting more standard content on the ’14 entry-level ILX will boost U.S. sales of the floundering sedan.

Honda’s near-luxury brand says it is raising the car’s base price $1,000 but adding $2,000 worth of interior improvements.

“One of the issues we had with consumers was that they weren't seeing the (ILX’s) value and what they usually get with an Acura product,” Mike Accavitti, senior vice president-automobile operations for American Honda, tells WardsAuto in an interview here.

Buyers of the base ’14 ILX will get upgraded leather seating, heated front seats, active noise cancellation and an 8-way power driver’s seat for $26,900, increasing the car’s price “a little (but) adding a lot more value,” Accavitti says.

From May 2012, when the ILX went on sale, through April of this year, Acura sold 19,759 units, WardsAuto data shows. The brand is targeting 30,000 ILXs annually.

American Honda Executive Vice President John Mendel has said one of the key reasons ILX deliveries are falling short of expectation is the auto maker’s decision to pair the optional 201-hp 2.4L 4-cyl. engine with a 6-speed manual transmission only. Buyers of the base ILX get a 150-hp 2.0L with a 5-speed automatic.

Accavitti says Acura is considering mating the 2.4L to an automatic gearbox, but he does not provide a timeframe. “We're always looking at how we can improve the product, and to improve the powertrain is certainly something we could do on a future model.”

Acura research has found buyers of both variants have few complaints about lack of engine power, he says. “What we find, surprisingly enough, is the folks that are buying the car are quite satisfied with both of the powertrain offerings. The challenge for us is how do we get more folks to buy (the ILX), and that's where a powertrain change or improvement might assist us.”

The brand offers four car models and two cross/utility vehicles in the U.S., a slimmer lineup than many of its competitors. However, Accavitti says expansion isn’t in the cards, particularly with the CUV range.

Acura offered three CUVs until late last year, when it announced the midsize ZDX’s cancellation. As the B-segment CUVs increases in popularity, the brand is considering an entry in the segment. The BMW X1 and Buick Encore now are available in the U.S, and rumors suggest an Audi Q1 will arrive here soon.

At the recent Shanghai auto show, Acura showed a subcompact CUV concept for the Chinese market, with a production vehicle expected to follow. A similar model might be a fit for the U.S., “but right now we feel with the (midsize) RDX and the (large) MDX that we have this one-two punch,” Accavitti says, claiming no other luxury brand has the “strength of the lineup that we have.

BMW has (the X3 and X5), but neither of those vehicles are very strong. Lexus just has the one (CUV), RX, and we kind of surround it.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com