"My dad acquired it from the dealer that had it, and I think all he had to do was buy the cars and the parts. I don't think there was any kind of premium involved. In those days, it just didn't command anything. But it got really good very fast, so it was almost as if my dad had some look into the future," he said.
"It was all rotary stuff, but then the GLC came out and that car was hotter than a pistol," Walser said. "It was a nonrotary product and it sold very well. And then a year later, the RX-7 came out and that was a big deal. The Mazda RX-7 was unlike anything else, both because it had a rotary engine and was a relatively economically priced sports car that had some very good performance."
The RX-7 turned out to be another well-timed hit for the brand and restored its rotary halo while the mainstream, piston engine cars were gaining accolades, and sales, on their reputation for fuel economy, build quality and fun.
Walser bought his own Mazda store in 1989 — the same year the MX-5 Miata was introduced at the Chicago Auto Show — and later merged it with his father's store. "Products like the RX-7 and the Miata, these are things that create an image to the public that transcends into the rest of the product line."
The Zoom-Zoom marketing campaign, beginning in 2000, embodied that spirit, he said.
"There's been up and down years, but generally if you look at it over the course of the last 30, 40 years, for the most part there's been a nice increase," he said. "I don't ever remember us having a year when we lost money with it, so it's been a pretty steady winner for us over the course of its history."