By on August 26, 2010

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’ 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 a Prius!”

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

“It doesn’t have a PC approved emblem at the front of it!”

“It’s subsidized by the taxpayers.” (Note: ALL automakers throughout the world are subsidized and given funds and 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.

Even new models within a brand can get spat on with an unworthy nostalgia treatment. “The CR-Z isn’t sporty or economical like a CR-X or a 1st gen Insight. It’s gonna fail.” Never mind that 98% of car buyers never really gave a flip about those two older vehicles which is why Honda canned them in the first place.  The CR-Z isn’t even widely available. Yet the pundits of uninformed opinions already want to give it the ‘holier-than-thou’ redneck tar and feather treatment to it.

It 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 18k AWD vehicle that would have 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 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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33 Comments on “Hammer Time: The Piper Principle...”

  • avatar

    Ah, the G8. Too bad we can’t get Holden’s here.

    Or the Ford Falcon, for that matter.

  • avatar

    With cars being so expensive these days, being an “enthusiast” isn’t enough. Do you buy a great driving SX4 or even a Kizashi, knowing that the car is going to depreciate like a stone, just because it’s fun to drive? Are you going to buy a Juke for the fun to drive factor even though you will get laughed out of it by your friends?

    Many times automakers design enthusiast cars based on the idyllic notion of people taking a Sunday drive on a twisty road. In reality, that rarely happens and the cars end up being too compromised for peoples daily life.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, you really should buy the car that your ‘friends’ find acceptable. While you’re at it, ask them what you should wear and who you should date.

    • 0 avatar

      Dwford’s highlights the difference between a car enthusiast and a car buyer.

    • 0 avatar

      What you’re suggesting is that car enthusiasts are illogical and buy on emotion, ignoring the realities of their choice. Automakers go through periods of designing cars for enthusiasts, and are regularly disappointed by the sales. Either sales suck entirely, or the car is bought by a totally different demographic than the marketers dreamed up.

      There are a few buyers out there that want something different (former Contour SVT driver here), but even most enthusiasts stick with the herd, and the herd is currently buying Mazda3s, GTIs and Civic Sis, not oddball Jukes and Kizashis.

      As for friends, most people whether they admit it or not, want a car that will impress their friends, and don’t want to have to “defend” an unusual choice – which is why so many people blindly buy Toyotas and Hondas.

    • 0 avatar

      Do you buy a great driving SX4 or even a Kizashi, knowing that the car is going to depreciate like a stone, just because it’s fun to drive?

      No, you buy that same car when it’s 1-2 years old and has already depreciated like mad.

      I really like it when a car I want is a rapidly-depreciating dud with the population at large; as it makes for a fine opportunity to let some sucker take the depreciation hit and then pick up a good car in near-new shape for peanuts.

    • 0 avatar

      If you’re a buyer that intends to keep his vehicle for an extended period, depreciation becomes less of a factor.

      So buy what you enjoy driving (and of course this includes something that you’re not embarrassed to be seen in – but question why you should be embarrassed) and keep it as long as it takes to get your money’s worth out of it.

      The “money’s worth” part is different for every buyer. People pay a premium for SUVs, performance/image cars and green cars. Some folks like funky and controversial vehicles. I suppose that we’ll all continue to consider different minded buyers as mindless idiots. My personal bias is that I like (but don’t own) high performance sports cars (that are inefficient) but detest big goonie SUVS (that are also inefficient). This is my prejudice and I recognize it.

    • 0 avatar

      I bought and own a Saturn ION so obviously your comments are meaningless to me.
      Kizashi-sure, looks good
      SX4- best rear visibility of any car I’ve been in recently

  • avatar

    If “Arrested Development” wasn’t on Fox would it have more viewers, and not been cancelled?

    Great article, I see a lot of truth in it. I like to root for beaten under dogs like Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Suzuki and Saab. Although I wouldn’t buy or recommend many of their products. I rather drive a unique car, than a car everybody has. For instance I love the new Ford Mustang especially with a glass roof, but the problem is everybody and their cousin has one, so it just makes it less appealing to me.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Amen, Lang. Car enthusiasts are like sports fans. I remember growing up in the Midwest (Ford’s Lima Engine Plant nearby along with GM Powertrain Defiance Foundry) the rivalry between the Ford and Chevy camps was almost as bad as Cowboys vs. Redskins or Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers.

    I try to fight that mentality and I know that’s why with the exceptions of a few real “turds” I have trouble choosing a car, I can see the positive points of all the respective makers. One thing about being blindly brand loyal, it does make it easy to chose a car. My father for example will still only by GM. But I can say the same for his father before him.

  • avatar

    Trying to find something unique can be a blessing and/or a curse. I owned a 1968 Jeep C-101 Commando for a very brief time in the mid-70’s. Try to find one, now! That was a unique vehicle, but it never sold in the quantities to make it viable. Sure do wish Jeep would make one today that does justice to the 60’s version by adding a new tub and cobbling a few more parts around. Could be a nice in-house factory project!

    Great observation, Steve!

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Look at the bright side. Depreciation is the used car buyer’s very best friend! I look for a car with a superior price to value ratio, a decent car the public is shunning for no good reason putting its resale value in the toilet.

    Car condition is more important for the used car buyer than brand cachet. Well cared for second and third tier brands are as good as the favorites at much less cost. Most buyers will not pay high prices for American cars so I seek out a reliable, humdrum domestic. The best deals are on midsized cars and minivans including the Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Grand Caravan and orphans like Pontiac.

    • 0 avatar

      In the case of some cars (Sebring), there’s a very good reason they depreciate at a high rate.

    • 0 avatar

      Average asking price on Autotrader near me for a 2008
      Dodge Avenger $13662
      Chrysler Sebring $13560
      Chevy Malibu $16045
      Toyota Camry $15597
      Honda Accord $19539
      Ford Fusion $15168
      Hyundai Sonata $13794
      Kia Optima $13494

  • avatar

    That is why I over paid for a BMW 5 series (sarcasim)

  • avatar
    Sammy Hagar

    ~1980, I witnessed Rowdy Roddy Piper pull down Playboy Buddy Rose’s pants (bare butt!) and then smack him w/a folding chair. This event took place in either Portland, OR or Yakima, Wa…I saw it on one of the three network channels we had (as did we all). Strange what you can remember when correctly prompted…

    • 0 avatar

      I think most studio wresting fans are heterosexual but it’s odd how most seem completely oblivious (at last consciously) to the homoerotic content of staged wrestling.

      You’d think that male wrestling fans would rather spend their dollars and time watching attractive females but that’s not the case.

      Except for a precious few moments when there’s a female character, wrestling is about sweaty strong men in skimpy outfits grappling with each other. No thanks.

    • 0 avatar
      Sammy Hagar

      I’m pretty sure this was the popularity hierarchy for male wrestling fans in the 70’s:

      1) Midgets;
      2) Women;
      3) Dudes.

      Unfortunately, midget- and female wrestlers were a rare thing in those days…which explains why someone like Ric Flair (& his feather boa) had a huge following. Of course, what was your entertainment alternative in 1979? Atari 2600? B.O.C concert? Matinee screening of “Every Which Way But Loose”?

  • avatar

    I too am guilty of irrationally favoring one car brand (Ford) whilst openly berating several others (GM, BMW, Toyota, etc). I am aware of my irrationality, and it does annoy me at times that even when I see a car made by one of ‘the others’ which ticks all the right boxes and looks good, there is almost a knee-jerk reaction in my brain which shouts “NO WAY! IT’S A CHEVY/BIMMER!”
    The same goes for my choice of football (sorry, soccer) team back in the UK. I support Leicester City – therefore I must hate Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Coventry City.
    Again, I understand these are irrational thoughts… but after 20+ years of thinking that way it’s hard to break the cycle!

  • avatar

    How ironic. “They live” is coming on AMC right now

  • avatar

    Even new models within a brand can get spat on with an unworthy nostalgia treatment.…Yet the pundits of uninformed opinions already want to give it the ‘holier-than-thou’ redneck tar and feather treatment to it.

    I get that you like the CR-Z, but I so disagree with this.

    If Honda had built the CR-Z as “a sporty alternative to the Prius” and called it something like the Honda Archon, then the amount of complaining would be minimal. Enthusiasts might even like the thing.

    Instead they choose a name that purposely invokes nostalgia. Enthusiast nostalgia at that. It is Honda’s own fault if the new car can’t live up to people’s inflated expectations because they couldn’t just let ghost nameplates stay in the graveyard.

    Same thing with Ford and the new SHO.

    To go off your wrestling comparison, it’s like if the WWE got Cena, CM Punk, The Miz, and Heath Slater together and named the group “The Nation of Dominance”.

  • avatar

    Hulk Hogan, like Toyota and Honda, was more popular than Roddy Piper and put butts in seats.

    However, Piper was the better wrestler (barely) and better on the mic. You could make the argument that there are cars better than Toyota and Honda (yes, even domestic cars) by using the Piper Principle.

  • avatar

    At some point, even if one can have preference toward a specific brand, people must realize that all brands have good and bad cars.

  • avatar

    I’ll add something else about the process, it doesn’t lend itself to ready comparison. At Best Buy I have Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, Panasonic and others side by side. The best way to buy cars would be the same, non brand-specific new car dealers, that could offer everything. Walk up test drive systems, with no sales contact until after 10 test drives.

    Instead, by the time you go to three dealers, you never want to set foot in a dealership again. If you looked at a Camry, Accord and Fusion, who can be bothered with the time needed to check out the Malibu or Altima, let alone a Kizashi or Legacy or Mazda 6? Loyalty is just a way to narrow down the process. I’ll never set foot on a Chevy lot. Yet, the new Buicks at least made me take a look, as did the new Sonata and the Genesis for Hyundai.

  • avatar

    +1 to the Chevy/Ford thing. For us, it was Holden/Ford – or more precisely, Commodore/Falcon – and I was definitely in the Holden camp growing up (even though we had a really nice Ford for part of it). A Commodore was always my ideal attainable car, I never once considered a Falcon – but the first thing I did when I was last home was rent and drive a Falcon, just to see how good they’d gotten. Great car, and a real pleasure to drive. But I’d still rather have a Commodore (and now that I live in America, I don’t have the choice, sadly).

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      You could pick up a Pontiac GTO (used) and get a Holden with this strange badge on the front that kind of looks like a “red arrowhead.”

  • avatar

    In Detroit, I run into a lot of people that think that anything not made by GM, Ford or Chrysler is junk. When I try to defend these “foreign cars” I am accused of bashing “American Cars”. They have an all or nothing attitude.

    Strangely, there is not as much of an issue with European cars. the issue seems to be with Japanese cars only.

  • avatar

    Yeah, the GTO and G8 induced a lot of “what-if” scenarios. But I decided I didn’t come all the way here to get something I could have back home (so no Mercury Capris or Mitsubishi Diamantes either, I guess – oh noes!).

  • avatar

    the power of denial over generations of consumers is how the american market produces examples like Rowdy Roddy Piper, Pro wrestling, and automobile predilections. Consumer attitudes are evidence of atrophied tax payers and borrowers who have been on the supply-side feeding tube for far too long.

    The Chevy Volt looks too much like a Honda Civic hybrid that already has market traction.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    More people would buy a SX4 if they had any idea where the Suzuki dealer was, and if that dealer wasn’t three cars and a beat-up desk in the back of the Mazda/VW dealer’s trade-in lot. Some people buy Toyonda simply because they know where three dealers apiece are, or they simply go to whatever dealer is closest to their house or work and buy whatever strikes their fancy on the lot.

  • avatar

    “If you’re a buyer that intends to keep his vehicle for an extended period, depreciation becomes less of a factor.”

    I have bought two cars since 1994. Yes, both were new off the lot. The horror! Except I kept the first one (a Suzuki Sidekick) for 9 years before picking up the second car (a Honda Element). In both instances, I could have cared less about the depreciation.

    When I buy a car, I ask three questions: Is it fun to drive? Does it suit my lifestyle (i.e., meet my needs)? Can I afford it?

    I don’t give a rat’s ass about depreciation or resale value because I am going to own (and care for it) the damn thing for at least 7 years. Anything less than means I bought a lemon.

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