Tom Matano on the concept of the Miata

Tom was gracious enough to share this internal vision document with us. He had a view of the full life cycle of the Miata beyond bringing it to market and was trying to promote this vision of how the car would grow. We think he pretty much nailed it.

He talked about this "collector's guide" in the Miata Fathers Q&A at Miata Reunion 2023. You can watch the whole thing here

Written by Tom Matano
July 1986

Planning the J58G (MX-5 Miata)

Planning the J58G does not end at start of mass production (MP). It is a process that carries all the way through to ten years after the car’s introduction.  The process up to MP involves a field of hardware, and beyond that, a field of software.

I would like to see that Mazda’s image for the 90’s, starting from the J58G, will be recognized as a quality car that has great fun to drive personality and has a cheerful character.

Long-Term Plan for the J58G

Divide the J58G’s vehicle life into five segments and create a plan.

  1. Up to the introduction                                                     
  2. Dramatic presentation at the time of introduction 1989
  3. 1~ 2 years after introduction                                 1990-1991
  4. 3~5 years after introduction   1992~1993
  5. 5~10 years after introduction 1994-1999

1) Up to the introduction

Unless all of the project members desire and are able to devote all their energies to the J58G, there is no point in building a vehicle like this.  (Emotional users are the target.)  It might be interesting to use a commercial with a glimpse of the J58G in the same way that the first Familia Van was used before.

Anyway, this is an addition of a new model that has a different personality and is in a different class from the RX-7, so there is no problem in those areas. It may give a dramatic effect to let a prototype participate in a race like the makers did in the 60’s, then introduce a MP model in about one year. Or it does not have to be a race. We expect to increase a number of fans by participating in the Sunday racers’ events of the SCCA.

We would not worry about scoops. Porsche and Mercedes-Benz introduce their new vehicles two to three years after their scoops. This is a sign of confidence, and Mazda will be able to stage it as an expression of confidence. Porsche and BMW use public road tests as a normal test method. If a scoop comes out before an introduction, it will be tied to Mazda’s name and help to build the brand image. We can also expect a pre-sale advertising effect.

2) Dramatic Presentation at the Time of the introduction (1989)

It will probably be winter time in the Northern Hemisphere for LLP, so my suggestion is to use the course where Targa Florio was held on the island of Sicily. “Romantic Engineering”.

A TV drama using the J58G in a leading role, will be broadcast in the United States at the time of the release. This will help the J58G obtain a U.S. identity and surpass the limitation of Japanese vehicle.  The introduction of Mazda brand sports wear could be made by other known brands.  Its purpose is to make Mazda’s name known by catching the opportunity rather than settling for fashion itself. 

We are the maker with 1.9% of the market share, so we should not miss any chances to utilize the uniqueness of the J58G to the max.

3) Staging 1~2 years after the introduction (1990 ~ 1991)

This period is a very important time to maintain initial devotees and to build a base for one big religion in the future. It is necessary to have an advertising strategy that creates camaraderie and satisfaction among those who purchased the J58G by focusing on new life environments which emerge from purchasing the vehicle.

A religious approach is to promote Mazda and to give people the assurance that it is a good decision that they made by purchasing a Mazda vehicle. This applies to all Mazda vehicles and not only to the J58G.

A car club should be formed at a relatively early stage with Mazda’s initiative.  Various activities such as club members’ picnics and sporting events using the J58G help form camaraderie. The United States is an individualistic country, but making friends through hobbies is very common and the bond of friendship is tight. It is a fun and affluent society.

England still has some remains of separation by class, and it is difficult to form friendships that cross class boundaries. Meeting people through hobby clubs is the only way they disregard classes and have relationships as just plain human beings.  I have a hunch that a sensation will arise just like the time when Honda started selling their moped called the “Cub.” The “Beach Boys,” a musical group, had a big hit called “Little Honda.”

4) 3~5 Years after the introduction (1991 ~ 1994)

This is the period of building myths. A religion always has some myths.

Avoid thoughtless changes, and be patient

The number of owners who customize their J58G begins to increase in town. 

The club is becoming steady, and it is growing to the level where it is able to manage itself by it’s membership fees. A Mazda factory tour will be organized. We should advertise MAZDA MOTOR CORPORATION at every occasion. A footing for future Factory Delivery System should be formed. Staging a visit to a head church is a very effective way to reinforce religion.

Causes of parting with J58G start to appear due to family reasons such as getting married and the birth of a child.

One of the important issues for strategies is controlling prices of used J58Gs.  It is necessary to have a substantial number of accessories and repair parts that the second owners are able to use to customize their vehicles.

5) 5 ~ 10 Years after the Introduction (1994 ~ 1999)

Its popularity does not weaken even at this stage. On the other hand, the rumors of the next generation model start to float. Thanks to the constant sales volume control, (The policy which always sells a little less than demand - not to oversell even if a demand exists) its sales are steady even after five years since its initial introduction. There are some people who are trading in for the second and the third time! Some others added one more J58G to their ownership!

The second generation J58G program will enter its final stage. We should concentrate our efforts to make a genuinely great product and not forget the original intentions.

There are still some models from the first generation strongly running around in town. There is a need to develop an accessory kit, called “restoration kit” which is a new concept.

For the Gathering of Historic Car s in 20 Years!

I feel that development that targets only up to MP is irresponsible. Moving from LLP to SLP, MP, and user follow-up (initial sales trend survey), then going into the next project is the Mazda’s new process. User usually own vehicles five years on an average, and longer ownership is expected for hobby vehicles such as the J58G. Makers should consider 10 years after MP as their responsible period for a project.

It is very common to see vehicles 10 ~ 20 years old in the United States. If you stand on the corner of the street for one hour, you can see Mazda’s history (successive vehicles). Instead of making vehicles change for the sake of change, such as all new or something new, the continuity of Mazda philosophy, Mazda design and Mazda engineering policy has to be seen in all of Mazda’s products.

If you can accept vehicles as an object of religion, you will be able to understand and love for sports cars.