Do movies, TV and videogames really affect a car's popularity?
Ever wondered why certain cars are more popular than others despite not always being better? The best example of this is the Mazda 787B. The early 90's Group C racer has an immense fan base, especially those interested in more JDM machinery. Truth is however that the 787B was slow compared to its contemporary rivals like the Porsche 962 or Jaguar XJR-12. It only won the 24H of Le Mans thanks to its de-tuned engine that ran more reliably and thanks to a healthy dose of luck.
So is its historic win at Le Mans the only reason for its popularity or is there more to it? How come an early 90's endurance racer is still so popular among the younger audience? And what about other immensely popular cars like the Nissan Skyline or Bugatti Veyron. We know there's a big hype train for these cars but the question is: Where did it set off from?
Thanks to Google Trends, we can find out. It's a website where you can see all kinds of stats and figures of the Google search engine. Its main feature is a popularity graph that tracks search terms since 2004. The higher the number, the more popular the search term.
If we look at the graph we can see that the Skyline is slowly losing its popularity. But, since 2004 there have been some sudden spikes of interest. Where does this interest come from? Simple, the Fast and Furious movie franchise. Every spike in the graph correlates to a new movie.
The graph starts high which can indicate the popularity of the first two Fast and Furious movies in 2001 and 2003. The first movie to show up on the graph is Tokyo Drift which ironically doesn't feature a Skyline in a major role. The next four movies all make a noticeable impact on the graph.
The Fate of the Furious and the recent Hobbs and Shaw spin-off barely show up however proving that the franchise has moved away from its automotive roots. The blue arrow shows a rather depressing peak in Skyline popularity as that's the date when Paul Walker passed away.
Compared to the Skyline, the 787B graph is a rollercoaster with dozens of high and low points. It seems that the 787B has always been popular with an almost constant amount of interest on average.
There are two very noticeable peaks in late November 2010 and early June 2011. The latter, highlighted by the blue arrow, is easily explainable as that was the 20th anniversary of their 1991 Le Mans victory which is bound to spark some interest.
The 2010 peak correlates to the launch of the highly anticipated release of Gran Turismo 5 on November 24 2010. The Mazda was one of the few "premium" classic race cars of the game featuring a full HD interior and quickly became a fan favorite.
The Veyron was first revealed in late October 2005 at the Tokyo Motor Show. Popularity started increasing from that point on but it skyrocketed in early December of the same year. Who or what caused this sudden peak? It was Jeremy Clarkson in the Veyron racing James May and Richard Hammond in a Cessna across Europe in the 5th episode of series 7 of Topgear.
A few months later another big peak in popularity can be seen. Again a link with Topgear can be found as James May's 407 km/h top speed run aired on the 4th of February 2007. The 3rd peak happens when Richard Hammond raced a Eurofighter Typhoon in Episode 3 of the 2007 season which aired on 28 October.
Solid proof then that Topgear is partly responsible for the Veyron's now legendary status.
It's safe to say that movies, TV and videogames do affect a cars reputation. Quite a bit even. What we also learned is that if your car appeared in a Topgear episode it got more attention compared to when it got featured in a Fast and Furious movie. How's that for ending on a bombshell?