Why Is The MX-5 Called ‘Miata’ In North America?

Here’s a fun bit of trivia – cars aren’t always called the same thing in different countries/regions.

Sometimes this can be due to differences in language.

For example, the Mitsubishi Pajero (as it was sold in many countries) was actually called the ‘Montero’ in Spanish speaking countries – this is because Pajero in some Spanish speaking locales means “wanker”.

In this case, it’s easy to understand why the manufacturer may use a different name.

But why is the MX-5 called a Miata?

In this article, we cover the points you need to know to understand why the Miata is called different names in different locations.

One Car, Three Names

Let’s start by taking a look at the original “NA” MX-5/Miata (the one that everybody seems to love the most).

It was originally sold under three different names.

In Japan, it was actually the ‘Eunos Roadster’. The name ‘Miata’ being too similar to that of a bicycle company (based off the research we were able to find) which risked legal issues for copyright infringement.

‘Eunos’ was part of Mazda’s attempt to experiment with the creation of a separate-but-closely-related “upscale” brand (similar to Toyota’s Lexus or Honda’s Acura) which was a popular trend at the time.

In the UK, it was sold as the “Mazda MX-5“.

In New Zealand (where we are based) we know it as the MX-5, but due to our strange obsession with used Japanese imports there are plenty of examples that are badged ‘Roadster’.

In North America, it was sold as the “Mazda MX-5 Miata”, which is where the “Miata” part of the name comes from.

Why The Different Naming Conventions?

Understanding why Mazda called the MX-5/Miata the ‘Eunos Roadster’ in Japan is relatively simple (see above).

But why the addition of “Miata” in North America?

One theory is that at the time, European/UK buyers were more accustomed to seeing vehicles named on an alphanumeric basis. For example, BMW has had the 3/5/7 (etc) series naming convention for decades. Peugeot have used 10x/20x/30x and so on, Fiats & Alfa Romeos have often had alphanumeric names, as have Volvos, Mercedes and other European brands.

This was in keeping with Mazda’s own approach to vehicle naming, which has historically (and continues to be) alphanumeric in nature, e.g. RX-7, CX-5, 626, 929 and so on.

However, at the time the Miata/MX-5 launched, American consumers were generally more accustomed to cars with a “proper name”, and it is for this reason that the Miata moniker was added.

Over time, Mazda made attempts to drop the Miata name from the MX-5 in North America.

It is theorised that part of the reason for this was to combat the stigma of the MX-5 being a “girl’s car” or “hairdresser’s car”. The MX-5 nameplate sounded more masculine, and so Mazda was keen to drop Miata.

Despite Mazda’s best efforts, Miata has stuck in the United States and Canada where it remains the same today.

Conclusion

Why is the MX-5 called Miata by people in North America?

Basically, because that’s what Mazda called the car when they launched it, and the name has stuck ever since.

Despite Mazda’s attempts to clarify the naming convention, it remains the “Miata” in the hearts and minds of Americans and Canadians.

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  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

5 thoughts on “Why Is The MX-5 Called ‘Miata’ In North America?”

  1. The word “Miata” lends itself to many cute variations in custom number plates in North America. MX5 can be equally easily incorporated or adapted to such plates. Overall, a fun thing for enthusiasts to do.

    Reply
  2. Nope. If you do your research, Bob Hall, the creator of the Miata, wanted to invent an American version of the British roadster, which was economic during high gas prices. At the time he was hired by the Mazda company to design the Mazda pickup truck (which ultimately failed). The company denied his request, but his manager said he could use company equipment to make the MX-5 on his own time. Bob Hall spent his mornings before work, lunch breaks, and time after work creating his American version of a roadster, which would be sporty, fun, good on gas, yet affordable. His creation was unveiled at a Chicago auto show and the Mazda VP’s took one look and said “Yes! Make this one!”. After all of Bob’s hard work, he was allowed to give the only Mazda a name…the Miata, which means REWARD. It was in dedication for all his hard work and accomplishment (aka reward) in making this wonderful, and affordable car.

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