Rivalries fan the creative fires of any industry. The arts in particular have been stuffed full of brash personalities and deeply personal competitions – who could forget Mozart vs. Salieri, or Eazy E vs. Dr. Dre? – but the world of business is no stranger to laying down the gauntlet, either. For every billionaire out there building a mega-yacht that’s just a few feet longer than the next name down on the Forbes list, there’s a car company, design team, or automotive fanbase chomping at the bit to splash mud on their least-favourite opposite number.
Come with us as we explore the often ugly but always entertaining world of automotive rivalries.
Ford Mustang vs. Chevrolet Camaro
It’s a battle that’s been waged for more than 40 years in high school parking lots, drag strips, two-lane boulevards, and occasionally, with fisticuffs. The fight between the Ford Mustang and the Chevrolet Camaro has its partisans not just in the boardroom, where the latter was conceived as a direct response to the former, but also amongst owners who have spent the GDP of Namibia on aftermarket parts designed to squeeze as much muscle as possible out of their respective V8 engines. It’s not only shadetree mechanics duking it out, either – the engineering teams at both the Blue Oval and the Bowtie have consistently punched and counter-punched with special editions bearing the names GT500, ZL1, Boss, and Z28, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Ferrari vs. Lamborghini
Have you ever based an entire business plan around an argument you had with your local service advisor? Legend has it that Ferruccio Lamborghini was fed up with what he perceived to be poor workmanship of his Ferrari 250GT and even shoddier treatment from founder Enzo Ferrari when he complained about it, and as a result in 1963 turned the might of his industrial empire towards building exotic sports cars that could compete with his countryman’s. Whether you believe that tale or not really doesn’t matter, because it’s undeniable that the over-the-top character of automobiles built by Lamborghini have served as a counterweight to Ferrari’s engine-focused, elegantly-drawn performance models ever since. You’re really either in one camp or the other – it’s rare to find someone with both a raging bull and a prancing horse parked side-by-side in the garage.
Subaru Impreza WRX STI vs. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
This particular spat has a history that predates either vehicle being sold in the North American market. Ever since the early ’90s both Subaru and Mitsubishi measured their pride not only in sales but also World Rally Championship victories, with their primary warhorses being competition versions of the Subaru Impreza and the Mitsubishi Lancer. Depending on how you look at it, it was largely a stalemate – Mitsubishi driver Tommi Mäkinen swept the latter half of the decade in series points while Subaru enjoyed three consecutive manufacturer’s championships during the same period (with a bonus win in 2001). Out on the street, the WRX STI has managed to outsell and outlast the soon-to-depart Lancer Evolution, although that has as much to do with Mitsubishi’s business acumen as anything else.
Alain Prost vs. Ayrton Senna
Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost are both Formula 1 legends, but despite nearly identical win percentages, the tragedy of Senna’s untimely death behind the wheel has elevated him to sainthood and given him the edge in any future discussion concerning his talent versus that of his most worthy rival. Vicious on-track battles that saw the drivers force each off the circuit (and in some cases, out of the race entirely) during the 1989 and 1990 seasons will forever dominate the memory of their relationship, and although four-time champion Prost had retired the year before three-time champion Senna met his fate at Imola, the Brazilian never found a better foil – or stronger motivation to rise above the rest of the pack – than the Frenchman.
Ford F-150 vs. Every Other Pickup Truck
Couch the sales numbers any way you want. Complain that General Motors splits its numbers between the Chevrolet Silverado and the GMC Sierra. Make a stink about fleet sales. It doesn’t matter. The Ford F-150 has dominated the full-size pickup segment for more than three decades, obliterating its would-be opponents from GM, Toyota, and Nissan, and creating the closest thing the automotive world has to a benevolent dictator. If you count commercial models, you’re looking at sales of close to three quarters of a million a year in North America alone. No other vehicle does as brisk a business.
Toyota Supra vs. Dodge Charger
Wait, what? Yes, the turbocharged Toyota Supra coupe and the late ’60s Dodge Charger muscle car are natural enemies, all because of a little film franchise kicked off by The Fast and the Furious. The showdown between Brian Earl Spilner’s bright orange Toyota Supra and Dominic Toretto’s jet-black supercharged Dodge Charger in the final scene of the first flick in the series represented the culmination of the import vs. domestic war that had been raging since the first four-cylinder engine dared claim victory over a V8. It also sparked a renaissance in candy-coloured paint jobs, stanced-out econoboxes, and shifting nine times per quarter mile.
Ford Falcon vs. Holden Commodore
On the island continent of Australia there was once a time when ‘petrol’ heads were asked to make a choice as soon as they were old enough to talk: Holden or Ford? The domestic performance scene down under was long dominated by the Ford Falcon and the Holden Commodore, two eight-cylinder stalwarts whose respective sides simply didn’t mix. Although the fortunes of both brands has been on the wane in recent years, the latest iterations of these two gladiators – the Falcon XR8 and the Commodore SS-V – prove that the competitive fires will keep burning until the corporate landlords shut the lights off at the factory.
Toyota Camry vs. Honda Accord
Wrapping up our list of the greatest automotive rivalries of all time is perhaps the politest spat to ever have been played out in public by a pair of stealth sales leviathans. In the beige corner we have the Toyota Camry, the mid-size sedan prized by buyers who have absolutely no interest in cars whatsoever. In the drab greenish-grey corner you’ll find the other four-door people’s appliance Honda Accord, a slightly more intriguing model aimed at exactly the same cadre of shoppers. In the battle of who could care less, it’s been Camry by a nose for the better part of two decades, but the Accord continues to move metal at a pace quick enough to keep Toyota product planners awake at night.
Chevrolet Corvette vs. Porsche 911
As far as rivalries go, this is a far more recent one. It wasn’t until the C5-generation ‘Vette hit the scene in the late 90s that global sports car makers began to sit up and take notice. Finally, here was a relatively affordable performance car that could stand toe-to-toe with the best the world had to offer – and not just in a straight line, but in the corners, too. By the time the Z06 models started rolling into showrooms, the clear dominance of the Porsche 911 was thrown into question, and the most recent C7 Corvette is every bit the equal of its German foe. Everywhere except price, that is, where it continues to dramatically cut the legs out from under Porsche at every step of the trim ladder.
BMW M versus Mercedes-AMG
The origins couldn’t have been more different: BMW’s M Division grew from its on-track motorsports efforts into a formidable street presence, while Mercedes-Benz performance arm AMG started out campaigning modified Mercedes-Benz models as an independent race team before being absorbed into the corporate structure as the brand’s in-house tuner. The end result? Decades of head-to-head competition to see who could build the most outrageous German hot rods and then sell them to an eager North American market. AMG might have the edge in horsepower, but BMW catches up in the corners, making it one of the more hotly contested rivalries in the automotive industry.
Editor’s Pick: Toyota Corolla vs Honda Civic
Sure, the Honda Civic is Canada’s best-selling car 17 years in a row but globally it is beaten in sales numbers by its mortal enemy: The Toyota Corolla. Corollas have been outselling most things for decades now and are largely responsible for Toyota’s modern reputation. The Civic fills a similar role for Honda. Both cars bare the seminal platform that leads their marques’ other models. Rav4 for Toyota, and CR-V for Honda were both originally developed off their compact sedan floor plans. And while the segment has no shortage of challengers, it’s these two that continue to define the segment.