By on October 29, 2012

Wrestling fans and auto enthusiasts have a lot in common.

They can be sickeningly loyal to their favorites. Even when it’s obvious their one and only favorite is well past their prime.

They also have a bit of a dopamine problem.

Adrenalin, excitement, the thrill of seeing ‘their guy’ win the battles. It’s all there. Even for the boring ones.

Whether it’s a Camry climbing up the sales chart. Or a 1988 Toyota MR2 carving up a modern day competitor over a mountain overpass. It’s a rush to see ‘your choice’ of past and present be the best choice.

But then there’s the Piper Principle.

What about the brand that can’t sell cars to save their ass from first base? What about the company that goes bankrupt or leaves a market? Heck, what about Rowdy Roddy Piper?. For those who don’t know the guy, Piper is a funny and arrogant wise-ass whose verbal slights and coconut endorsements put him at the top of the wrestling business when roids were all the rage.

He was funnier than hell, quirky, and probably drugged out of his mind. But the essence of Piper  was that the more of a heel he became, the more you rooted for the guy. Piper was the guy you loved to hate… and once you got sick of the ‘good guys’, you rooted for him.

I look at certain models the same way I looked at Piper. The Chevy Volt seems to get a lot of haters these days. Why? Well…

“It’s not as good as a real hybrid like the Toyota Prius!”

“It’s not REALLY that economical if you drive it 200+ miles every day!”

“It’s subsidized by the taxpayers.” (Note: ALL automakers throughout the world are subsidized and given resources by their respective governments.)

“It’s American, and American cars are crap! By the way, Steve? Can you help me find a car? I’m open to any suggestions you have as long as it’s a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord.”

Of course certain folks have bitched and moaned about the Big 3 offering gas guzzling SUV’s and pickups for decades. While subtly ignoring Toyota’s and Honda’s desire to move into the same markets.

Hell I’ll even go out and say it.  Most car enthusiasts have prejudices against car brands that are based on media and myth.

There are a lot of vehicles enthusiasts tend to despise because of nothing more than this guilt by association. The Corvette is a fantastic sports car. But a lot of car buyers can’t get past paying $50k for a Chevrolet.

The Hyundai Genesis? Needs a prestigious brand name like Lexus. The IS-F does not have a Bavarian acronym in front of it. BMW equals Y-U-P-P-I-E… and so forth.

Best car? Doesn’t matter.

This line of thinking bothers me. I like to see the best car win… and I like to see people buy the best cars for them without blinders.

A Suzuki SX4 is a great under $18,000 all-wheel-drive vehicle that would have received 20 times the volume if it had a popular emblem on the front of it. I would argue the same for the 1st gen Ford Fusion, the current Mazda 5, and even the Pontiac G8 when it was out and about.

Am I wrong? Perhaps. But I see writing off certain brands and models as the equivalent of writing off certain forms of music, food… and wrestlers. You can never get the full enjoyment of being an ‘enthusiast’ unless you’re willing to change your mind.

To paraphrase the Piper, “If you think you always have all the right answers, you need to start changing the questions.”

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44 Comments on “Hammer Time Remix: The Piper Principle...”


  • avatar
    danio3834

    They Live, We Sleep. Cinematic genius.

  • avatar
    redav

    I think a better comparison is car enthusiasts & hipsters.

    • 0 avatar
      rwb

      What’s a hipster?

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Hipster = poser, phony, thinks-he’s-cool-but-he’s-only-fooling-himself, making a public fool of himself, disillusioned.

        No, not just an old guy ranting, for I felt the same way 45 years ago about the hippies and freaks. Non-conformists conforming to one another!

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      They can be combined. See: Magnus Walker Urban Outlaw.

    • 0 avatar
      Beerboy12

      I disagree. While most hipsters “over try” to find the next big thing, lose interest as soon as something becomes popular and therefore are a bit fickle, Motoring enthusiasts, generally, are weary of newcomers and typically follow the main players.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        The flaw I see in your assessment is that ‘enthusiasts’ hate anything that’s popular/mainstream (see: Toyota/Honda/etc.); they require a product to meet their arbitrary and often nonsensical requirements, e.g., “I liked Our Lady Peace before they made their music approachable. After that they stopped being real.” (see: a V6 Mustang isn’t a Mustang, fail wheel drive, save the manuals). They don’t follow the main players–they like the boutique & exotic. (See customization market–even if they all get the same mods, they have to have mods so they’re different from the mainstream.) They pick some obscure, discontinued product as their favorite–one most people probably never have heard of or don’t like (see panther love).

        And one more must for good measure: They buy everything used/second-hand.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    ” ALL automakers throughout the world are subsidized and given resources by their respective governments.”

    Last time I checked, Uncle Sam did not put $7,000 borrowed from China on the hood of a Corvette, the way he puts it on the hood of a Volt. And, in my state (and probably many others), hybrid and EV buyers don’t pay any sales tax, which amounts to another $1500 or so on the hood. Ya think that money comes from the moon?

    And, of course, we won’t talk about how GM was involuntarily “subsidized” by the secured debt holders in the bail-out who were sent away empty-handed.

    I think the source of the anger at the Volt is that government policies and subsidies encourage folks like GM to do economically stupid things . . . and then the taxpayers bear the financial consequences of the inevitable failure.

    A $40,000 tarted up Chevy Cruze that gets worse fuel economy than a Prius? GMAFB!

    • 0 avatar
      caltemus

      This is first generation technology, you can’t compare it directly to the 3rd generation Prius. The first generation echo-prius was’t half the car that the volt is now. There’s nothing wrong with the price, you should expect to pay more for innovative technologies that are brand new in their implementation. The goal is not to be better than the Prius, it’s about developing the infrastructure internally at GM so than future generations of this powertrain can be better, and put into a wider range of vehicles. Toyota did the same thing with vehicles like the Highlander hybrid, camry hybrid, and even the Prius V and C.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        The fact that the Volt is the G1 OF THE VOLT, does not mean you compare it to the G1 OF THE PRIUS.

        All the lessons learned (technology, marketing, consumer preference, everything) since 1997, lessons which were not available to the G1 Prius, are available to the G1 Volt. And considering that it costs $40K and gets a $7500 tax credit, this car should be a far better car than it is.

        Engineered from the top down, with predictable consequences.

    • 0 avatar
      thelaine

      Totally agree DC. Great article, but this point is way off. We give a tax break to oil producers. We shouldn’t. This does not justify billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money thrown away to subsidize uneconomic “alternative” sources of energy. Most of these companies have either already failed or are headed there rapidly. The money is gone but the debt remains.

      The same logic applies here. Volt subsides are a result of government “experts” borrowing and spending billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money to intervene in a market they know nothing about. We are now subsidizing the purchase of Fiskers to rich people and Volts to the middle and upper middle classes. The argument that we already waste money and therefore it is OK to waste lots more of it is really unconvincing.

      GM should have gone through a normal bankruptcy reorganization. They would have emerged stronger, with little or no taxpayer bailout. Investors and employees would have taken the hit. As it is, taxpayers bailed out the union as payback for political suppport and investors, dealers and suppliers got hammered.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        We should give oil producers tax breaks. We should just extend those breaks to everyone else equally.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Lower tax rates for all businesses? Sounds good to me. That is not a targeted tax break designed to favor one business over another. These subsidies are provided by politicians who are clueless or are corrupted by their friends,benefactors, or ideology.

      • 0 avatar
        car_guy2010

        If the “free market” is so great, how come GM went bankrupt a few years ago?

        Without any government involvement, they’d either be:

        A. Dead and buried
        B. Hurtling down the path of destruction with gas-guzzling SUVs, etc.

        If the market won’t invest in cleaner technologies, then unfortunately (for you government haters), someone has to take it up.

        The failure of these companies will only point out that it’s better to have corporations themselves take up the slack rather than depend on the government.

        BUT WILL THEY DO IT?

        My answer is “NO” and only because they’re forever beholden to the internal combustion engine.

        Toyota took many risks and it continues to pay off for them.

        The General and its’ devotees piss and moan over progress.

        No wonder Toyota passed GM years ago.

    • 0 avatar

      The person who said you can’t compare a 1st-gen Volt to a 3rd-gen Prius is correct. And it does take trial and effort to make a truly great product. And as more people buy into cars like the Volt and the Model-S and the Leaf and the Fusion Energi, the technology becomes cheaper. But really, did you think the first (or even the second, considering the EV1) electric car GM spat out would be the end-all solution to everything?

      • 0 avatar
        ranwhenparked

        @car_guy2010

        GM going bankrupt in 2009 is proof that the free markets do work. The company foisted irredeemable garbage on the public for 30 years straight, and the public walked away and left them to die.

        The government interfering turned them into a failure-proof zombie that now roams the earth sucking profits and market share away from properly managed companies that were never in trouble in the first place and that would be doing even better now with one less competitor to worry about.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Amen. Either that, or they would have emerged as a reorganized company with a chance to compete. It can be done. Ford is doing it. Either way, the taxpayers would not be bleeding.

      • 0 avatar

        GM is most definitely competitive in today’s U.S. market, as are Ford and Chrysler. Really all three of them have improved vastly since 2009. They’re all getting there. It may not be as quickly as you want, but progress is being made, believe me.

        The European market, however, is a different story…

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Great Kyree. Glad to hear GM is doing so well here. Now maybe they can pay back the 25 billion or so the taxpayers have lost in this corrupt mess. I will not hold my breath.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    People buy what works for them and based on their ownership experience, whether their ride was reliable or not.

    Others like variety – a buddy just turned 40, but has owned 63 cars so far! I believe I have owned only 27 so far in my 61 years.

    He’s owned and driven some very cool rides and I fall at his feet in awe…

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I disagree with it being similar to writing off a certain type of food or music. To me, the brand is more like the restaurant. I like pizza, but I don’t like pizza from every restaurant. It is based on the quality of the ingredients, value, and workers. If a restaurant makes terrible pizza and then starts making hamburgers, why would I choose that restaurant, which I have past experience for terrible pizza, when I want hamburgers. The opposite works, too, though. A place that makes good pizza might not have the slightest idea of how to make a good hamburger. But, if their good pizza was based on quality ingredients and a watchful eye, they’ll eventually nail the hamburgers as well.

    I agree with the overall jist of the article. We all have our biases and it is generally based on past experience.

    We (the car guy community) generally don’t understand why everyone might not love OUR choice because we, especially car guys, often fail at looking at vehicles from the eyes of someone else. We can’t fathom how the Camry outsells the Mazda 6… but we neglect to see that maybe the Camry has higher resale value, more rear legroom, better visibility, better ergonomics, or a slew of other things that are more important to people who buy midsize sedans rather than vehicle dynamics that appeal to car guys. I’m of the opinion that a midsize, FWD sedan is a midsize FWD sedan and nothing short of making it a poor midsize sedan (smaller, stiffer, lighter, RWD) will make it truly fun to drive. At that point, just buy an NA or NB Miata as a weekend car and stop compromising your car that needs to carry kids to soccer practice. Early reviews of the new Fusion seem to drive this point home. It gives up a few things (small trunk opening, small rear seat space despite long wheelbase, hard to get in and out of) to have the style of an Aston, and no matter how much it looks like an Aston, it won’t be an Aston… but it still has to get the kids to soccer practice. Is putting the R&D dollars in the styling worth the packaging compromises? We’ll see when the sales figures come out. Betting on image is always a solid bet in the US.

  • avatar
    Stephen82

    This post really got me thinking. I think if I were able to purchase new vehicles then I would be more willing to stray outside of my comfort zone when it comes to purchasing vehicles. I’m currently in a position, however, where I buy a vehicles about 10 years old. Long term reliability is the key thing I look at when making a purchase. When looking at the reliability factor, I generally tend to end up with just a few choices depending on the type of vehicle I want. If you sit on the side of the road enough times waiting for a tow truck, and you annually max out the towing allowance on your AAA Gold membership, you’re eventually gonna stop pursuing your desire for variety, and stick with what works.

    If I bought new vehicles, well then I could just try out all kinds of new makes and models because most of the big problems don’t usually show up until you reach the higher mileage anyway. Then I would just sell and buy another new one before I had to deal with problems.

    I’m looking forward to a few years from now when I may be willing to venture into GM again (my willingness to try a Ford is probably coming even sooner since I think, based on reviews, their quality has improved). Until then Toyota, Honda, etc. are the ones that I can count on most of all. I give them the maintenance and service they need, and they take me where I need to go. I spent too many years with the “high maintenance girlfriend cars.” The good looking American beauties that make you pay through the nose to stay with them. For now I’ll stick with my “ugly girls who can cook.” They’re reliable, and never let me go hungry. :)

  • avatar

    So true, so true. I for one have falled into that trap, more than once. Logan is just so much better than the Siena in a few big ways and many, many small ways. Now, I try to keep my mind open. Just recently I had one of those moments that drove the point home. Again.

    I’ve never liked Chevy. I thought the cars were boring, inside and out. Dynamically, I always thought they were barely acceptable. I always had 3 or 4 other cars I’d purchase before even thinking about Chevy.

    Then a funny happened. You Steve drove the Sonic at about the same time I drove the Brazilian Cobalt. I thought, it can’t be! Steve’s and my impressions were eerily similar. Grudgingly I came to a positive conclusion and slowly accepted the fact that I like the Cobalt. Now, in this segment in Brazil my order of preference would be Cobalt, Logan, Versa, Siena, Voyage, 207. I would not have though that possible.

    So, yes do like Steve says. Don’t take others word for it. Test it for yourself. You might be pleasently surprised.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    It seems like the question is:

    Does ideology often trump substance?

    Hell yes it does. Just look at politics (including in this thread).

  • avatar
    Pastor Glenn

    Some things never change. Agreed; the Suzuki would be selling 20x better if it said “Chevrolet” on the bow and the stern.

    Back in about 1950, Henry Kaiser (who’d done the impossible and brought out an all-new car in 1947 with Joseph Washington Frazer – great grandson of George Washington) once said “put an Oldsmobile emblem on it, and it’d sell like hotcakes.”

    And he was right.

    People get stuck in ruts, you know?

  • avatar
    Jellodyne

    GM will get the Volt right in about 1 1/2 generations. And then cancel it for lack of interest.

    JUST PUT ON THE SUNGLASSES! *garbage can to face*

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    25 years ago, a friend told me his father had met Rowdy Rodney Piper and someone else I’ve forgotten in 1st class on a plane flight. I barely knew professional wrestling existed, so he had to explain to me who he was talking about. Then he told me that off-camera RRP was nothing like his wrestling persona, and had spent his flight discussing investments with my friend’s father, who was a dean at the Darden School of Business. Piper was well spoken and lucid, according to my friend’s dad. Nothing else about this post rings true either. The SX4 would be a big seller? Like the Lexus HS250? The Fusion undersold because it was a Ford? Do you mean dealer-at-every-freeway-interchange Ford, or is there another one? The Mazda 5 isn’t being bought because it is a Mazda? I don’t remember Honda struggling to keep up with 1st generation Odyssey volume, or Mitsubishi cleaning up with the Colt van when people still knew they existed.

    • 0 avatar
      silverkris

      Well, the Geo Prizm (and its predecessor, the Chevy Nova) was under the skin, a Toyota Corolla, built at the same plant (NUMMI, Fremont, CA) and had the same attributes (economy and reliability) but just didn’t sell because of its labeling.

      Yes, it pays not to judge a book by its cover.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        The “5th generation” (1985-1988) Chevy Nova and Geo Prizm (1st and 2nd gen) were based on the Toyota Sprinter, technically. The 3rd gen Chevy Prizm was a re-badged Corolla.

        What’s funny is that when the 3rd gen came out with a Chevy badge, sales dropped by more than 60%. Chevy knew this, of course. The whole reason Geo was created was to suggest that it was imported. That was true by today’s standards where people think a car made in Kentucky is an import: some models were NUMMI (GM/Toyota, same as the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe), as silverkris said, some models were CAMI in Ontario which was GM/Isuzu, and then there were a few models made by Isuzu in Japan, and some small volume made by Suzuki in Japan.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    I believe, these days, there is no such thing as a bad car. The Volt, Camry, Accord, Fusion, Golf TDI, Genesis and the Corvette are all good cars. Much depends on personal taste and needs. If you are in the market for a Corvette you are not going to get excited about a Corolla and visa-verse.
    There are, however, bad enthusiasts. The sort of people who are bad looses and even worse winners. The mind numbingly uneducated, un-enlightend and intolerant individual who cannot accept, with grace, other people’s choices or opinions. These individuals are not limited to the motor enthusiast world. They are everywhere.

    • 0 avatar
      markholli

      “I believe, these days, there is no such thing as a bad car.”

      I want to agree with you here, Beerboy, because I consider myself to be a car enthusiast in the purest sense: someone who is simply enthusiastic about cars of all shapes, sizes, styles and brands. That being said, there are certain cars on the market for which I cannot muster an ounce of love.

      Case in point: I went to Hawaii a year ago and got a Jeep Compass (pre-refresh model) for a rental car. I hated everything about the thing. I don’t have any particular aversion to Chrysler products, but man…

      I don’t know…I’m probably just muddying the water here, but IMHO there are still some bad cars out there.

    • 0 avatar
      el scotto

      What worse is when their actions and speech give them away and they are clueless about it.

    • 0 avatar
      olddavid

      Amen. Anyone bitching about “soft touch materials” has never attempted to re-gap points after wear or moisture has caused no start. When I was a kid any car over 80k miles was wholesaled as worn out.Before you automatically dismiss this as old guy rant, my point is that all autos today have achieved a measure of reliability unheard of in just my generation. But, this attitude has allowed me to buy-and enjoy- some great cars for dirt cheap. Ford SHO, Cadillac Northstar X, Jaguar XJ8, Lincoln MkVIII and Buick Regal GS for 5-10% of retail at 10-15 years of age. Please, keep up the propaganda. I will continue to evaluate each on its’ own merit and relative cost/use ratio.

  • avatar
    LALoser

    Steven: One of the best, clear thinking articles posted on TTAC. And your point is proven in the comment section when arguments over crumbs cause them to miss the meal.

  • avatar
    George B

    I think that it’s possible to be a fan of certain brand characteristics while admitting that other people may like different brands with different characteristics. My dad prefers his cars to feel big and somewhat isolated from the road and GM built just what my dad liked. In contrast, I prefer more suspension damping and steering that’s more responsive.

    Yesterday I told a friend that the 2013 Accord sedan “drove like a Honda” meaning that to me it felt more like a smaller Accord from before the 2008-2012 super-sized model. I liked it better than its family car competition, recognizing that the whole category is a somewhat boring compromise.

    That friend who drives a diesel Dodge Ram pickup went off on a tirade regarding how bad a Honda crushes in a wreck. It’s possible that a Civic or Accord performs worse in real life crashes than in government and insurance crash tests, but I would be surprised if either is a rolling death trap. My best guess is unibody crumple zones that do their job leave behind a mangled totaled wreck even if the driver avoids injury and all brands crumple. Wrecked body on frame cars and trucks may look better with a different pattern of destruction.

  • avatar
    Steve65

    I’ve long thought the SX4 “Crossover” was seriously underappreciated. The good side of that is that it’s also significantly lower priced than similar more-popular offerings. If I was in the market for a new car right now, it would be very high on my list.

    I wonder if it would sell better here if it was badged as a Fiat?

  • avatar
    JohnTheDriver

    I saw a bloody Dusty Roads “beat up” Rowdy Piper when I was about 10 years old. Over the ring ropes, folding chairs crashing, the whole nine yards. Up close Roads forehead looked like a street map of LA. These guys were dedicated professionals and their profession was entertaining the hell out of this little kid ;-}

    As always your posts are on a different level than the rest of TTAC. I’m not going to say which car brand is my “Rowdy Piper” … or my “Dusty Roads” … but you have certainly given me a new way to categorize my own internal prejudice and biases. Rowdy Rodney Piper, now in verb form!

  • avatar
    jeffzekas

    Steven: Well said!

    Right now, we are trying to get rid of my son’s BMW- constant, niggling problems (not mentioned by the hipsters who own them!)– Got any good deals on a used Subaru?


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