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The Manila Sports Car Club Mazda Miata Spec Series is finally taking place after a five-year wait

In logic, there is a common fallacy employed by less skilled debaters that attempts to persuade through the use of emotion instead of reason. Argumentum ad passiones, or appeal to emotion, becomes a fallacious or flawed tactic when a speaker makes use of an emotional feeling and ignores facts to gain agreement from another. While not all emotional appeals are illogical, it is crucial for people to identify this in order to avoid making wrong decisions and conclusions.

I mention this as many car brands employ the manipulation of emotion to talk and reason with the market. Granted that in the Philippines, a car purchase can be considered more as a choice derived from emotional considerations than logical ones, it is still worth knowing what you are getting into before taking that leap of faith.

One such car brand that recognizes this purchasing behavior is Mazda.

For a marque that is attempting to break the glass ceiling of luxury with its premium messaging, pricing, and arguably, superb-driving cars, it has yet to create a mass demand that equals its contemporaries. And perhaps it never will.

Mazda, you see, has evolved into a niche brand. One that caters primarily to the passion of driving. As it is now, those who will truly appreciate the brand are drivers who want to experience confidence, peace of mind, and comfort behind the wheel. Not that normal, casual drivers will not want to drive a Mazda. They probably will after testing one out. But the price of admission has just gone up not only in pesos, but also in the justifications, emotional or otherwise, in choosing one make over another.

So it is hardly surprising then that when Mazda Philippines chose to “market” its lightweight, open-top sports car, the MX-5, it focused on the motorsports route as its main medium of communication. Under the stewardship of Mazda Philippines president and CEO, Steven Tan, this small Japanese brand is about to score a potential marketing home run, with its bullish persistence to run its one-make racing series. Never mind if the sales figures do not add up for now, Mazda Philippines has decided it will make this racing event happen.

The Manila Sports Car Club Mazda Miata Spec Series is a homegrown effort that is at least five years in the making. Tan would argue that this idea has been in the back of his mind ever since he took over running the Mazda brand in the country. And the way he has supported the Miata Club Philippines and its Miata Cup since 2014 is proof of that.

Indeed the seeds were planted when the brand made its presence felt among the local MX-5 owners club. From supporting the Miata Club races, to stirring the passion for racing by flying in the MX-5 ND’s original project manager, Nobuhiro Yamamoto, to the country to run with the boys on the track. And even bringing in Mazda Japan’s motorsports supervisor, Takahiro Kabayakawa to race and develop the prototype race cars for this series in 2017 and again in 2019. Mazda Philippines knows how to pander to the emotions of its clientele.

Full disclosure late in the piece, but I was part of the team that worked on the Spec Miata project from 2017 to 2019. Back then, the dream was to run the MX-5 Global Cup series in the Philippines. These are full-race MX-5s built in the US and all are made to the same performance and safety specifications to ensure a level playing field. But with these cars all built and sourced from the US, the landed cost would have been prohibitive to say the least.

So, upon consultation with Mazda Japan, the next logical move was to create the Philippines’ own series from scratch. Guided by the principles of commonality and performance parity honed from another all-Miata racing event, the US Miata Spec Series, Mazda Philippines decided to make use of its allocation and supply parts that will not only make the MX-5 perform well on track, but also remain driveable on the road.

It must have taken at least three trips to Japan and countless emails to discuss, evaluate options, and decide on the direction of the series. This included a test-run of an MX-5 Global Cup car at the Fuji International Speedway by Filipino race car drivers in 2018. And the running of an MX-5 test mule with the parts supplied by Cusco, a well-known Japanese racing parts company, by Yamamoto-san himself during the final Miata Cup race that same year.

In 2019, with one prototype built using the intended parts for the series, Koby-san and Cusco engineer, Emi-san, would proceed to set up the basic race tune for the suspension of the car. They used the finale of that year’s Miata Cup to test their recommended settings.

Since it was introduced to the motoring press in November of 2019, the Spec Series program had to take a pause because of the Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. But now, after further streamlining its choice of suppliers, partners, and sponsors, Mazda Philippines has successfully reintroduced the program to the elite MSCC as its official racing event for the year.

Finally getting it off the ground, Tan scored a marketing coup with the MSCC. Not only has he connected with the brand’s target clientele, he has also provided an avenue for sports car owners and lovers to race a model that they acknowledge as one of their own. And to do so with the peace of mind of modern day reliability, heightened performance, and an extra measure of safety, that was just a practical no-brainer.

For MSCC members, this has been the opportunity they have been waiting for. The chance to fuel their passion for speed without the worries of breaking down due to their machinery’s age. And to race safely with the backing of a manufacturer that understands their desires.

Marketing is an exact science. But it is also a work of art. Sometimes, decisions are made based on hard data, logic even. There are times however that persistence, listening to your clientele, and catering to their wants and needs works wonders. At least 20 MX-5s have been built and sold to MSCC members who will race in this event. That is 20 cars that would have otherwise taken longer to find buyers under normal circumstances. For Mazda Philippines and the MSCC, it is like having their cake and eating it too.

Only time will tell whether this exercise in direct, emotion-based marketing will prove to be worth emulating. But at least in Mazda Philippines’ books, and its premium branding efforts, it is already a win-win scenario.

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