Editor's note: This is part of an Automotive News special section looking at ways automakers are leveraging owner gatherings and other communal experiences to build loyalty and a deeper connection between brands and their customers.
SAN DIEGO — During a Mazda-organized gathering of MX-5 Miata loyalists downtown here, a group of empty nesters from the San Diego Miata club sat around a table discussing what drew them to Mazda's two-seater.
The roots of their attraction predate the Miata, going back decades to when they were in high school and college and fell in love with vintage British roadsters. They recalled memories of the aptly named 1959 Austin-Healey "bug-eye" Sprite and the 1962 Triumph TR3. They named-dropped the MG MGA and MGB from British Motor Corp.
Steve Waid, a member of the San Diego club, credits Mazda with putting roadsters back on the map to stay. Cars such as the Honda S2000, BMW Z3 and Pontiac Solstice came and went, but Mazda remained steadfast with its affordable roadster, which has crossed 1 million sales.
"I think it's fascinating how they basically created their own market" with the Miata, Waid told Automotive News. "We remembered when the British had their two-seat roadsters. That's why we got into the Miata right away."
It was a pleasant stroll down memory lane as Miata fanatics such as Waid enjoyed an evening of free food and gifts from Mazda. The automaker, which has bet on improved loyalty as a way to avoid catering to price-conscious consumers, has made owner engagement and community-building a central piece of its outreach strategy.