"No one cares what we think!" is a refrain I hear all the time on Jalopnik. I have said it and so have you. "We enthusiasts are a drop in the bucket compared to the Camry and MDX buyers. Our opinions don't matter!"
This year's Detroit Auto Show convinced me that maybe, just maybe, we've been wrong about this. I was genuinely surprised this year by the sheer volume of not just performance cars, but performance cars I would be interested in buying. Maybe they do listen to us after all.
Actually, I'll tell you what they really listen to. It's not your Internet comments, it's how you spend your money.
Last year in the U.S., Subaru and Scion together sold more than 26,000 BRZs and FR-Ses. The Toyobaru twins have been far more in demand than original sales targets predicted. Clearly, the public's appetite for small, affordable rear-wheel drive sports cars is bigger than everyone realized. (I don't wanna say I told you so, but...)
So what did we see out of Detroit this year? Two small, affordable rear-wheel drive cars that seem very squarely aimed at the BRZ and FR-S: the Kia GT-4 Stinger and Nissan IDx, the latter of which dropped in Tokyo but made its American debut in the Motor City.
Yes, both are just concepts at the moment, but the IDx — clearly a kind of neo-Datsun 510 — has been confirmed for production. The Kia seems extremely feasible too, given the strong reaction to it, the fact that Kia is interested in rear-drive platforms with the K900 sedan, and the existence of the Genesis Coupe platform. (I would like to see the GT4 Stinger differentiate itself from the Genesis Coupe in some way if it becomes a reality, though.)
Ever had a Kia as your desktop wallpaper? Me either, until I met this guy. I'm really hoping both of these cars will become a reality and stay as close to their concept designs as possible. I'm feeling a little burned after the WRX Concept debacle last year, but I'm not going to lose faith.
Speaking of the WRX, that and its hotter WRX STI brother were just some of the great performance cars on display — many of them for the first time in the U.S. or anywhere else — in Detroit. They include the new Audi S3 (which I wrongfully called boring; it looks awesome in person), the Corvette Z06, the ATS Coupe, the new Mustang with both a V8 and a four-cylinder turbo, the the Lexus RC-F, the new BMW M235i and M3 and M4, and even a new Golf R.
You know, the Golf R. The hottest Golf that Volkswagen makes. The one nobody in America bought, so they're bringing it back with way more power AND the choice of a manual or a DSG for the first time ever in the U.S. They could have just as well kept it in Europe, but now it's back and probably better than it's ever been.
I don't know. As I strolled Cobo Hall on Monday, this thought kept bouncing around in my brain: "They're listening to us."
Perhaps there's no bigger example of this than the big surprise Toyota brought to Detroit, and that was the FT-1 Concept. Again, just a concept. But Toyota themselves admit that the point of it is to show the world that they don't have to be as boring as they've become, that they can still cook up cars like the Supra.
The proof will be in the pudding, of course. Toyota still has to make one, or something similar to it. But such an extreme, unapologetic sports car concept from Toyota would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Now it's generating all sorts of hype and showing that the people who work at the company still have some fire in their hearts.
So maybe we, the enthusiasts, aren't as forgotten or kicked to the curb as we think we are. Maybe our protests don't fall on deaf ears as much as we think they do. We matter, especially when we let our dollars do the talking.
And if even some of these cars turn real and land on dealer lots in the next few years, we have a lot to look forward to.
Photos credit Jalopnik, AP, Patrick George