The Transition – Discussion Shift From Vintage JDM To Eco JDM

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I came across this picture from our archives and it made me think about the transition…The transition from our last blog post (the flawless old school Z) to what I want to write about next (Eco tuning) is what this picture represents…but also it represents the old and the new of JDM tuning which are both celebrating new heights of popularity at the very same moment in time. Granted the two cars are totally incomparable, but if i had to isolate two prominent themes of Tokyo Auto Salon 2010 it would be nostalgic car tuning and eco tuning. These two massively contrasting mediums of JDM tuning are what made TAS 2010 most different from previous shows.

So what about Eco Tuning? Well, there is one point in particular that I wanted to share. Often I learn profoundly interesting things in meetings with my friends and suppliers over in Japan. Although I wont say the particular company or the person in this case, there was an interesting perspective mentioned in private that I feel is worth mentioning publicly with my source being anonymous.

I asked my friend quite honestly what he felt about Eco tuning. His booth happened to feature a newly tuned Eco (hybrid) car so I felt he would have some perspective on where that trend is headed. This particular guy’s company, much like many other Eco tuning firms has its roots in sports car tuning. I suspect his perspective is comparable to those like ASI, Top Secret and the countless other well respected tuners who after years of tuning sports cars are now playing with the Prius and the Insight.

So I started off by asking what he thought about Eco tuning because of his new demo car. His response was not terribly enthusiastic about the demo car, but his response led to the overall impression that he feels that Eco tuning is an important part of the future of the industry. I said that I understood and agreed that it was a smart decision to produce something that would be a part of the next wave of tuning. But then I asked him how Eco car tuning is doing right now in Japan. His response was that he did not see many tuned Eco cars on the roads, almost none actually.

Then the “ah ha” moment of the conversation was revealed…

I asked him…if you don’t see tuned Eco cars on the road then why is it that Auto Salon was filled with tuned hybrids everywhere I looked? How could it be that the most popular trend at TAS of tuned hybrids is so far off from the current demand (or lack thereof for hybrid tuning). I was honestly shocked that he had a tuned hybrid car in his booth AND that everyone else seemed to have one as well, and here he was telling me that at the moment that very few people are buying parts like this at the very moment that people like myself are led to believe that they are becoming massively popular in Japan!

He then went on to explain that this is how trends are started. Essentially the situation is that collectively all of the tuners in Japan are betting on the Prius and Insight to be an important part of their future (based primarily on car sales data). If the industry feels that those are the popular cars, then the consensus is that if the entire tuning industry gets behind those cars that they’ll be able to influence the habits of the owners to modify the cars and a new segment of the industry will be launched.

Essentially I look at it as the entire Japanese aftermarket trying to jump start an industry from scratch. They are trying to build enough cool demo cars, and enough awesome parts that they will convince a new market to form based on the sheer collective effort of the aftermarket.

This concept goes against my traditional understanding of a business’s duties being to fulfill demand and instead shows the aftermarket’s optimism and brute force of creating demand rather than fulfilling it. I can’t lie though, it does work when it comes to JDM tuning.

Think about it another way.

Did you want to buy a 370Z even more than before after Amuse came out with that Vestito aero kit? I sure did…

And the first time I saw the Ericsson kit and exhaust for the M3, at that moment I lusted after an M3. Before that I admired the M3, but after that all I could think about was buying one! And the examples go on and on, hell I want a S30 Fairlady after Rocky Auto convinced me!  I don’t think that any of us can deny that actual desire (demand in business terms) can be jumpstarted by the industry if amazing parts and complete cars are created.

It is for this same reason that the FT-86 was revealed at TAS already heavily modified. Intelligent car companies are embracing the aftermarket to make their cars more lusted after and cooler! So here, the story of TAS to me is seeing the entire collective aftermarket giving a big push forward to the sexiness and appeal of the Insight and Prius in hopes for successfully launching a new category of tuning which the industry desperately needs to stay healthy long term (keep in mind, the industry cant survive on out of production Supras, Silvias, etc forever).

So wrapping up…it was a fascinating lesson on what happens when the entire Japanese aftermarket seems to rally around a concept and to create a new style of tuning and a new demand out of essentially thin air. It might sound crazy, but based on what I’ve seen in the past I think it may just work. I know I’ve had thoughts about cruising daily in a Tommy Kaira Prius after seeing that car at TAS…So at least I can say that its working on me!

PS: I’ll feature more Eco cars that I felt were cool later on. I wanted this post to be more conceptual about this important discussion on the power of persuasion and the unity of the aftermarket in Japan to rally around the singular goal of launching a new style of tuning.

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