The MX-5 Mazda Miata Turns 25

I’ll start off this post by admitting a bit of bias. I think the Mazda Miata is a truly fantastic car, but then so does the American car market it seems. The Miata in many ways carved its own market when it was introduced in 1990. Unlike the small convertible sports cars of the past like the Triumph TR-6, its electronics wouldn’t fail every 5,000 miles and it wouldn’t leak oil in the driveway. One could say, despite its small stature, it provided a measure of practicality, and surely reliability. Furthermore, the Miata is a thrill to drive. Because of its weight, only 2,100 lbs. in 1990, it handled corners beautifully and needed little power to make it a thrill to drive.

Several automakers have tried to mimic the Miata’s success. Honda introduced the S2000 in the early 2000s and GM produced the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice, none of which quite matched the Miata’s success. Mazda still produces the Miata, but its sales are beginning to wane. In 1990 Mazda sold 35,000 units, but that number has declined to 5,000 today. In large part this can be attributed to the novelty factor wearing off, and furthermore, the car is so durable that the Miata used market is awash with good options.

The Miata is an example of what can happen when a car company finds and exploits a niche. With few to little competitors in the 1990s, Mazda saw runaway success with its Miata. The car even changed the entire nature of the brand. Today, Mazda is viewed as a reliable, but sporty car. Unlike the “appliances,” as Bill Cosgrove termed them, that Toyota turns out, Mazda’s cars are seen as fun to drive and unique. Before the Miata, the brand had little attention to sportiness. They were seen exclusively as an economy brand, but that changed rapidly after the introduction of the MX-5. While the Miata has faltered of late, its benefits to the Mazda brand are certainly worth something and will help to propel the brand into the future.

The 2014 Mazda Miata Source: Mazda USA

The 2014 Mazda Miata
Source: Mazda USA

1990 Mazda Miata Source: Hemmings.com

 

5 comments to The MX-5 Mazda Miata Turns 25

  • mayolj16

    Mazda is planning to relaunch the Miata after working in a joint venture with Alfa Romeo. Although the Italian brand decided to commercialize it under the Fiat name, the Japanese firm will be building both of the models. When planning the 2015 model they had in mind the history of the model and they tried to replicate the excitement in the public as when it first came out.

  • Kade Kenlon

    What could be done to raise the sales of Mazda Miatas? Perhaps Mazda would be better off releasing a new Miata model every 2 or 3 years to increase the level of excitement when it comes out. When you look at the photos above, you’ll notice that the style of the car has not changed much from 1990-2014. If Madza wanted to keep that style that’s fine, but minor changes on the interior or minor changes in the engine aren’t like to lure a customer into buying a new model after one year. It seems their best option at this point, if they want to save the car, is to offer it less frequently with dramatic changes in the new models. This way, consumers will actually have a legitimate reason to upgrade.

  • Alexander Dawejko

    It’s true that they found a niche. They were able to take a remarkably bad looking car and create almost a cult following out of it… Good for Mazda.

  • Peter Wittwer

    The Miata is so appealing because it’s a very cheap sports car, The 2014 Miata starts around $23,000. On top of the fact it’s affordable for the average car consumer, it’s as Zach said, very reliable in comparison to other sports car. I personally like the Miata a lot, I think it has a very good design and definitely has a strong hold on the niche market of cheap sports cars. Going forward, the Miata should be heavily marketed in emerging markets with a growing middle class. As more people begin to step out of poverty they may be looking to buy a somewhat of a status symbol car. The Miata represents a vehicle that could be in their price range, but also has the look of a cool hot rod.

  • Zachary Durkin

    As the in-house Mazda specialist, I can appreciate the Miata. Like every Mazda car I’ve known, it’s very reliable. I think a Miata reboot could be due in America. The Millennials are graduating from college, and they’re looking for a nice sporty starter car. No, it’s not the sportscar of the millionaire, but I think if it updated its appearance, it could do very well again.

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