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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #101: Nobody likes enthusiasts | Hagerty Media

Last week, in the context of explaining my discount purchase of a brand-new, jewel-like 1140cc Honda motorcycle for a price below that of my last mountain bike, I noted that automakers should never build a vehicle for the enthusiasts. In retrospect, this statement seems both far too pessimistic and far too certain of itself.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/avoidable-contact/avoidable-contact-101-nobody-likes-enthusias...
59 REPLIES 59
iamwho2k
Pit Crew

I think the real problem isn't with the manufacturers but the dealers. I'm not into Challengers but I am into Mazdas. Every time I spec out a 6, CX-30 or CX-5 exactly the way --esp. color*-- I want it then click on "Check Inventory" button the "two" local Mazda dealers (belonging to the same chain, but different locations) have exactly Nothing that matches. I'm in Hawaii, so it's not like I can drive over the state line if there was a match. I could special order, I suppose, but it's not like Mazda offers a ton of variations, but the dealers never seem to bring in what I want.

Maybe Tesla has it right, skipping the middleman, but they had the advantage of starting from scratch.

*Mazda, why do you hate Color, by which I don't mean three shades of gray.
Djarum
Pit Crew

As a family who's owned 5 Mazdas in the last 12 years, I know exactly how you feel. I'm in the deep south, though. Two mazdas were on the lot, the other 3 were dealer transfers, mainly for color/spec.
DaveA
Detailer

Maybe, maybe not. The thing is dealers are aware of what they can sell, and what will sit on the lot forever. At a dealership I used to work at I was amazed that we never seemed to have the top of the line version of a certain model. I asked the sales manager why and found out that most people who want that model, want the cheap one. The few loaded models we had took forever to sell. So, we stopped ordering them. In my experience, the buying public is to blame for your lack of options.

iamwho2k
Pit Crew

I guess it is true that the dealers are just following the money, but except for the 6 I spec'd out the middle range of the CX-30 and CX-5. They'll offer it in black, white or the many grays Mazda likes --if they had any with the turbo engine-- but not the eternal blue. I could settle for the red, which is a nice color, but I *like* blue.
Germanicus
Intermediate Driver

I think what got enthusiasts hopping mad about the Mk5 Supra wasn't just that Toyota, an automaker as large as General Motors and Volkswagen, decided to outsource the development of their most iconic sports car. It was who Toyota outsourced that work to: BMW. I can't think of two traditional automakers whose core values are more diametrically opposed than BMW and Toyota.

If the Mk5 Supra had been based on say, Mazda's new RWD platform and inline-6 that Toyota is likely throwing some money behind, enthusiasts would have been far more accepting of the new Supra like they are of the 86.
Punk
Detailer

My brother is a Supra guy. He currently has two - one of the last as well as one of the middle series that he is restoring. He doesn't much like the early Celica-based models. Anyway, he was so thrilled he couldn't wait when he heard a 'new' Supra was on the way. He liked the looks. Then the saw two things: engine from BMW (whom he hates for making ugly sedans at huge prices and not Japanese), and no manual transmission. No sale. He never even went to look at them. What a marketing blunder. Who was this thing targeted at?
MATTMERICA
Instructor

If by "core values" you mean "make as much money as quickly as possible" I think they are more closely aligned than you might think lol
Gary_Bechtold
Instructor

"If the Mk5 Supra had been based on say, Mazda's new RWD platform and inline-6 that Toyota is likely throwing some money behind, enthusiasts would have been far more accepting of the new Supra like they are of the 86."

Maybe. The 86 has some Toyota in it. It is mostly a Subaru but there is some Toyota DNA in it. The biggest thing is the "86" isn't the next generation of any previous Toyota. Despite the throwback in name to the AE86 Corolla it is a car with really little past "heritage" or "baggage" so it gets a pass. If the "Zupra" was called something else and not "Supra" you would have less disgust by Toyota or "Supra" enthusiasts like myself. But since it is a Z4 Coupe with some "tuning by Toyota" many of us can't accept it is a real Supra because we see no Toyota DNA in it. A real Supra is all Japanese and first and foremost a Toyota. Toyota actually asked Supra owners what they wanted and they completely ignored us. So we will ignore this car.

bradfa
Intermediate Driver

Please more dealership stories! It's fascinating to me to hear about how the dealerships work, both new car and used car dealerships.
Tinkerah
Technician

Ditto! The only time I was in a showroom was to ask how to get to the parts window so it's an alien world to me.
Djarum
Pit Crew

I think this is correct. I've been following Mazda for years now. I remember the enthusiasts back in the mid 00's who loved the 3, but complained about how small and loud the 6 was. As mazda progressed, their cars became more and more quiet but also heavier and more refined. Now all the commenters complain how how they are too heavy and don't handle well.

And don't even get me started on the engines. For years most everyone complained about the engines from Mazda to Honda to Toyota how they had to be revved to 9000 rpm to get anything out of them. Now all these DI turbo fours put down power low and run out at 5000rpm. Now everyone complains that they don't have any top end power. FFS. Manufacturers can't chase these sales and make money. No freaking way.
DaveA
Detailer

I agree that enthusiasts can be problematic buyers. Just reading the comments on this site you’ll see variations of “If only (insert just about any car manufacturer here) would build a XYZ with ABC and DEF and GHI and this and that and this........then I’d buy one.”
Or my favorite: “This manufacturer must hate true car fans, otherwise they’d make ABC.”

Car manufacturers are smart. They see what sells, and what does not. The next time you see a car that does not have every tiny little detail that you would like, realize that a car like that would probably have a tiny sales potential. That’s why the manufacturer doesn’t make it. People vote with their wallets, which is one of the reasons the manual transmission is a dying breed. The vast majority of buyers (not dreamers) don’t want them.

Rick2
Detailer

Car manufacturers are not as smart as they think they are. Especially when an entire segment is completely ignored by every single manufacturer. I still say that if anyone would sell a small regular cab truck they could have the market to themselves thus selling all they could build.
DaveA
Detailer

So you’re saying that “every single manufacturer” has decided that a small regular cab truck is not worth building, but you disagree. Perhaps there’s something they know that you don’t? Re-read my post. You’re the tiny segment of people that they choose to ignore because what you want would be a poor seller, despite what you think. Manufacturers won’t waste time on stuff they don’t think will sell.

DC
Intermediate Driver

Title should read,
“Car Salesmen Don’t Like Enthusiasts Or Anyone Else Who Can’t Be Convinced To Buy NOW Out Of Stock”
limoguy
Intermediate Driver

Yes, we saw what happened when the car was ordered...right?
Studenorton
Advanced Driver

You ought to hear a postal clerk go on about stamp collectors. Cancel culture!
Who CARES if the darn biplane is upside down?
markvii1
Intermediate Driver

I don't know for certain but if I had to guess I would add that enthusiast cars are not as profitable to manufacture. The main reason Porsche made the original Cayenne and Panamera were to build cars that made larger profit margins to support the ones that don't like the 911 GT2 RS4 3.8 Turbo Cabriolet Speedster Classic Edition. If I remember correctly when Lexus launched the LFA after more than a decade of R&D it sold for more than $350,000 MSRP, however it cost twice that just to make one. That was Lexus' ultimate enthusiast car, and they lost money even when they sold one. If it wasn't for the RX350 and GX470 I doubt Lexus would make profits at all.

I think that many people see cars as more hassle than joy. They own it to get from A to B and occasionally see the extended family on a vacation. That person will buy what makes them comfortable, has a good warranty, and fits their budget. Which is why the crossover remains supreme on the car lot.
SFM5
Pit Crew

Good point. The 911 GT2 and LFA were/are both halo cars, that are sure to lose tons of money for the car maker, but are more brand ambassadors with no expectation of profit. Those cars often become the highly prized collector cars trading on the auction circuit. It's the high production "soccer mom" cars that generate the profit.

MrKnowItAll
Detailer

Sales techniques at dealerships are designed to evoke emotions to a buyer and “guide” them into a sale. Gullible rubes and poor credit prospects are the gravy- and more is extracted by the “finance” guy foisting paint protection and extended warranties.
I would expect the enthusiast buyer would be an easy mark- if the car is ordered right.
A smart person knows that new cars are a complete waste of money.
wdb
Intermediate Driver

"A smart person knows that new cars are a complete waste of money." Tell that to GT40 or Enzo buyers! I know, I know -- exceptions that prove the rule. 😉

I personally love people who buy new cars. They make the job of buying used cars that much easier.
espo70
Intermediate Driver

Jack, I have lived your life. I was a Pontiac/GMC car salesman in the nadir nineties of my career path. Just substitute a Firebird Formula for the Mustang GTS, and a GMC Jimmy for the Explorer. Yes, Tuesdays were unbearable, not unlike Fridays nights around 8:45 PM. This is when a young couple, affectionately referred to as "the cheap date", would arrive with the most earnest of desires to make a purchase. Nothing beats dessert or impresses the ladies more after a satisfying meal at Chilis like a sojourn at the local dealership. I'd usually lock the door and slide a Grand Am brochure under the door with somebody else's business card on it. Always kept it professional.
BMD4800
Instructor

That’s very similar to a date the wife and I experienced. We dropped off the kids at the in-laws, ate dinner at Chili’s, then went and looked at SUVs. It was a Friday evening, almost no one would talk to us. We had researched and stuff, knew what we wanted, just wanted to test drive the one we bought. Guy didn’t think we were going to buy until she pulled out the check book. She’s a Millennial, I’m a Gen X, negotiated and wrote them a check. Dude was floored. Actually one of the best buying experiences because he left us alone. 🙂
Numberscruncher
Detailer

MMM... I'm a Mustang enthusiast. That generally means I know what I want, and if I can't get it today, I will find it elsewhere, or order it. I take umbrage to your claim that enthusiasts make bad customers. The kid in your story was NO enthusiast. He was a kid, swayed by the "influencers" out there, who demonstrated his impulsiveness and fickleness by buying a different color and transmission, after ordering what he thought he wanted.
imavettin
Pit Crew

and thats why i am on my second hellcat, both with M6 manual trans, and before my hellcat, i had a SRT8 also with M6.....awesome cars, fun to drive!!
wdb
Intermediate Driver

I'm curious about how the author would feel about working at that enthusiast dealership on a Tuesday afternoon.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

I'll give it a shot!
Punk
Detailer

Well the issue here is that enthusiasts really are not big money makers to a mass market, huge numbers of cars company. Enthusiasts are by definition a niche. If a company plans carefully, and studies the markets, money can be made there. Not as much as selling refrigerators such as a Ford Explorer or a Honda Accord with an automatic. As the author points out, those sell themselves to people who see a car as an expensive appliance. There are small companies that have been making a living selling to enthusiasts. Just not enough for Ford and company. SO they will stick with refrigerators. Of course, this completely ignores the halo effect of making a cool car in smaller numbers like a Viper...
deckerbilt
Intermediate Driver

But I want a Challenger convertible; they don't offer that (do they?).

I realize the automakers got away from offering every little option separately. Now they're bundling them in packages but some of the restrictions they impose on combining one thing with another seem totally ridiculous. I leased a 2018 F150 with the intention of buying at the end of the lease. I went on the Ford website just to see what a 2021 could option out like and found I could not get the same combination of options that I did on my 2018. The options were still there but there were new restrictions that didn't allow combining them. I'm buying my truck at lease end.
bloodnok
Pit Crew

excellent that the challenger is the enthusiast's choice: we've a neighbour who's hardcore. he changes his challengers every few months. each a different gaudy colour (the only way i can tell them apart). dunno how that's affordable but that's what he does.

he changes his car almost as frequently as his underwear.
OldBryan
Intermediate Driver

bloodnok,
Was that you I almost caught rummaging through my dirty laundry the other night?
I mean, how else could you know how often I change my tighty-whities?
Bless your heart, you really need to get a life.
😂
MoparMarq
Detailer

The article should more accurately be titled "Manufacturers, Dealers, and Salesmen Don't Like Enthusiasts", but that doesn't really roll off the tongue.

I have not quibbles at all with Jack's article. All the above parties are simply trying to make a living. Those of us not in the car business like to complain about the cost of cars these days, when we have no idea of the costs involved and the hoops that have to be leapt through, just to keep the lights on.

Same is true for most industries. People love to whine about the cost of their airline ticket. Then they overlook the fact that the airline has to keep making the payments on the $50 million 737 they're sitting in, or the 15 gallons of Jet-A being consumed in flight for each minute it's airborne.
DaveA
Detailer

People do love to whine about the airlines, don’t they? What you mentioned I’d just a fraction of the cost. There’s insurance, maintenance, crew, landing fees, etc, etc. People forget that the US has the BEST aviation system in the world. 

Jpdelpozo
Pit Crew

This was fun reading! Considering that I may be way older than the majority here, I may be getting older but I refuse to grow up! Anyway, after many--many years of buying vehicles, I chanced upon a book that showed dealers prices, wholesale, cost of options, etc. Seeing as how I was in the market for a basic new pick-up, I wandered around hitting the various marques of the automotive world. No one wanted to deal with me when they quoted a price and I'd whip out my little blue book, where upon seeing that book, the salesman would say that he couldn't deal with me. After a bit, I wandered into a GMC dealer and seen a pretty basic pickup. A saleswoman came up, seen the book and said, "Oh now, this will be fun!" After a bit of haggling, I got my truck, at my price!
A couple of years ago I decided upon a late model Corvette, after studying up on them, I realized that the dealers around me kept a pretty cool head on ordering only the favorite things that buyers like. Hence, I got my Corvette with the options I was looking for. It seems to me that GM and Corvette keeps their enthusiastic buyers in mind when setting up their various models and what sells well in the marketplace. Yup, they offer many colors but there are several very popular ones also, Torch Red comes to mind, like mine! Every so often they will offer up a limited optioned car, like the Z06 or the Indy Pace car. The 1979 model comes to mind. Anyway, great article and it opened discussions to banter about. Peace brother! 🙂
TonyT
Instructor

So, if the glorious State of Ohio won't allow businesses to take a non-refundable deposit, do they allow a restocking fee? Seems to me that that would solve the problem. Call it an "order cancellation fee" which would be protected by the FTC.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

Fat chance of that. Auto dealers are in a constant wrestling match with the attorney general of their home state...
JSievers
Advanced Driver

True dat!
BMD4800
Instructor

I’m not sure which is worse, the enthusiast or the person that wants very minor, incremental changes over decades?

My folks haven’t bought a Buick since the LeSabre was replaced by LaCrosse and they didn’t like the 3.6 V6.

I won’t buy another HD GM truck because the 4x4 front suspension and steering components just don’t last (for me and what I do) like the competition, or even my old solid axle Suburban.

Sell to the majority, let someone else get the niche.
ed
Detailer

I wonder how many "if only" buyers would still walk away if their dream car materialized. Sometimes it's the fun of the hunt more than the thrill of the kill.
DT12
Pit Crew

More background as to why more and more buyers are avoiding the sales floor and buying online.
TG
Instructor

Every time I park one of my older cars in a parking lot, and can see it from 200 feet away amidst a sea of roundy looking grey and blue sedan/suv/minivan looking things - I realize that taste isn't what sells 90% of cars. Even if someone comes in looking at the red 5.0 mustang... they are still going to leave with the latest greatest Blandomatic Boringmobile
Rider79
Instructor

Original Passport? Actually, maybe the original Honda Passport was the 1981 C70 step-thru (they were just C70 before 1981). ;<)
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

This is very true!
Rider79
Instructor

As one of only two real car enthusiasts in my wife's large family, I am (happily) charitably tolerated.
iseemtolikered
Pit Crew

Haha I'm that guy.
I wanted a 2016 Accord Sport manual and really liked blue. He says no, how about Gray. I said okay gray it is. I'm happy. But I wasn't going out the door in a blue automatic, that's for sure.
Swamibob
Instructor

Love the Dealer Stories, Jack. Feel free to tell us more.
I can absolutely see it from the Dealers POV; why should I bring anything in that is just going to sit and take up space and money? That doesn't help anybody. The Dealer doesn't make money, the Sales people don't make money, the maintenance and parts guys don't make any money, and the manufacturer doesn't make nearly as much, because that car doesn't turn.
I do like the concept of limiting the number of colors for an Enthusiast vehicle, that would definitely increase the likelihood of a sale. Same with putting a bunch of options on the car: I would think most people would buy a car with more options than they want, rather than less. Manual transmissions aside. Since we're speaking of Enthusiasts here; I'd wager that most would want a manual tranny. If you ask an Enthusiast what car they bought; they would tell you all about it from the manufacturer to the engine, transmission, the special Mondo-Coil over suspension, the retro-groovo interior and light treatment etc. A non-enthusiast will just tell you it's a blue car. 🙂
Some of the problem can be down the the focus of the dealership. You probably wouldn't be shopping at Galpin Motors for a bare bones Ford Truck. Nor would you be looking for a fully Jazzed out Acura at your local Honda Dealer.
There's money to be made selling to enthusiasts, Chrysler is showing that in spades, but you need to have everybody, from the Manufacturer to the lot guys etc at the dealerships, involved and also enthusiastic about the product. That will create a mood and help increase the desire to be part of 'the crowd' and not be afraid to pay more for the privilege.
In the end; I say "Viva la Difference!" (missing the accent over the first 'E')
I'm still inclined to build my own car, from the ground up, but that's just me.
JRJones
Intermediate Driver

Nice Jack. as usual.Swamibob has good points. I will offer-up another influence, the OEM Marketing Department that as professionals, know everything. I question their bonus when they direct things like Lemans stripes on pick-ups and semi-gloss black bodywork. There is the concept of Halo cars, but that market niche is small; the OEM and dealer have to accept that.
I am an observer on this topic not a participant. My only new car purchases were in 1976, 1983 and 1996. Only the Saab exceeded my expectations. As a used car buyer, I accept compromise. The internet is my tool of choice.
Not all dealers are analogous. When an oak tree fell on my first series Tundra, I wanted another just like it. A suburban mega dealer advertised one recently aquired. The Saturday showroom was a frightening blend of State Fair Midway and a meat processing plant. I was assigned a salesperson and found a dealer employee bought the Tundra I came for, but "We surely have an alternative". No they didn't.
I spent two years in the Harley Davidson dealer network as an advisor and I observed that "enthusiasts" were selling the bikes, or not. In the W-DC area one dealer complained that he could only sell Sportsters. One told me he could only sell Big Twin Cruisers, one stated only Baggers sold. For good reasons OEMs have mixed allocations and dealers hate it. What they needed was actors who could at least fiehn enthusiasm for the whole product line.
You are correct Jack, enthusiasts are a PIA especially if they are clubby and wear the apparel. You can not tell them anything; like the Marketing Department, they devote their life to being an expert.
11JA
Pit Crew

As a retired U.K. car dealer I can wholeheartedly empathise with this article. Enthusiasts are often just that enthusiasts, not buyers. They get so much enjoyment out of going round looking for that absolutely perfect car that even when they find it they often don’t buy because there just may be an even better one out there. When I first started trading I dealt in all sports cars i.e. cars I liked, E type Jags etc. I soon got fed up with punters coming in and wanting to test drive one and realising that was just what they wanted - a drive - no intention to buy! I changed tack and dealt in the bread and butter end serving the people that just wanted a nice car and earned well enough to treat myself to the sporty stuff.
audiocage
Detailer

Great name for the yacht, though.