Auto123 puts the 2021 Mazda MX-5 through its paces in a long-term review. Today, part 4: We say hello to Henri, Mr. Miata.
In my first three reviews of the Mazda Miata/MX-5, I gave you my impressions of the model. Now, how about we get the impressions of someone who has made the little Japanese roadster his passion and his livelihood?
Meet Henri Perron, 59 years young, the current sales manager of Montmagny Mazda. He has been working for eight years in the dealership that’s part of the Fréchette Thibault group in Quebec. Before that, he worked for 12 years at Lévis Mazda near Quebec City, and also for a year in the same region at Premier Mazda, where he started out as a sales consultant. Henri has been selling Mazda cars for 21 years. Needless to say, he knows a little bit about them. Maybe more than a little.
To date, he has sold a total of... 161 Miatas! That's almost eight per year over the course of his career! Of course, he owns one. In 2009-2010, Henri was also the president of the Quebec City area Miata Club. There are many such clubs in La Belle Province, Canada and North America. We’ll revisit that level of passion in the next chapter.
Why so popular?
The first thing I wanted to know when I reached Henri on the phone was why the popularity of this convertible has stayed so consistently strong since 1989.
“Firstly, because of the value it offers. There's no other vehicle that comes close to the Miata in that regard (note to readers: without consulting each other, Henri and I instinctively chose to use the name Miata in our conversation... which of course betrays our age – see our chapter devoted to that). Then, if you take decent care of it, it doesn't break down. At the dealership, we just changed the clutch on a customer's 1999 Miata with 500,000 km on it!”
“Other than that, you can ask colleague Jacques Bienvenue (another “veteran” auto journalist in the province). He'll tell you how with his own Miata, on the Mont-Tremblant track, he outpaced a Porsche 944 Turbo. Not because of the brute performance but because it's a magnet on the road. It hugs the curves like there’s no tomorrow!
Who is the typical Miata customer, Henri?
“I would say 70 percent of my customers are former motorcyclists. Typically, the buyer is over 50 and he wants to buy a Miata because he's sick of riding around on a motorcycle, wrapped in thick leather even when it's hot. He still wants to experience the sense of escape that motorcycles gave him, but in a different way.
“When I meet a new client, I always remind them of three truths about motorcycles. One, when you take a corner on your bike, your wife taps you on the back like it's a drum to get you to take it easier.”
“Two, when you start your ride in the beautiful Charlevoix region and it starts pouring, you find your ride less fun.”
“Three, when you come back to Quebec City, and the weather’s turned nice again, and you spot an excellent restaurant, and you suggest to your wife to stop there, she replies: “Are you nuts! Did you see what the helmet did to my hair!?””
“In a Miata, even when it starts to rain with the top down, you don't really get wet (note: it's true, I've checked, it's almost like magic, as if raindrops fear the cabin), except for your shoulder near the window. Anyway, you can just stop under an overpass and close the top, and off you go.”
The budget too
Insatiable and unstoppable on the subject, Henri continues: “The Miata doesn't cost more than a Harley. But when you buy it, it's because you're more comfortable financially in your life. Because, chances are the Miata won't be your only vehicle.”
“Take my daughter, for example. She'd love to have her own Miata but she doesn’t have the means. Plus she doesn’t have the time for it, what with work, family, etc. So she borrows mine..."
“In winter, we come across some exceptional cases. I have a friend, Luc Bertrand, who drove his Miata in the snow during the three years of his lease. He told me that he had a lot of fun with controlled skidding. Still, I can tell you that most people are going to drive around in their second vehicle in the winter while the Miata sits somewhere nice and warm. Generally that’s a garage of course, but I think if some people could, they'd put it in their living room!”
So for all the love Miata owners have for their cars, do we still hear negative comments?
“To be honest, in our Miata club, we complain about the fact that the car has had no glove compartment since 2016 (note: according to Henri, this is to make more room for electronics in the dashboard; there's a small storage compartment behind you, between the two seats, but it's not very user-friendly). Also, we don't like the dent in the passenger side floorboard, and some purists don't really appreciate the RF (the targa model we talked about in the previous column). But aesthetically, I personally think the RF is one of the most beautiful cars in the world!"
Are you surprised, Henri, at the popularity of the automatic transmission?
“Until 2005, 99 percent of buyers chose the manual because the 4-speed automatic used more gas and didn't pull. But since 2006, it has gained two gears, is more economical at the pump and has a good feel. I find it funny when car writers swear by the manual. On a track, I'm going to do better times than them with my automatic because I have both hands on the wheel. Every time you shift manually, I gain feet on you. There's a reason why paddle shifters have become so common in F1.”