An Inconvenient Truth…about JDM – AKA The Death of Innovation

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Let me preface this post by mentioning that what I’m going to say here is something you’re probably not used to reading in magazines or other professional media. Unlike media which requires advertising money to survive (the same advertisers I’m about to talk about), I don’t have those biases and conflicts of interest which limit my ability to speak the truth. The cover-up of the damage being done is massive. Everyone (from magazine editors and website forum owners who happily accept their advertising money,  to the very retail companies which sell these problematic parts and happily reap the profits) will admit behind closed doors that this is an industry crushing problem and yet everyone says they cant change it or do anything about it. The fact is nobody wants to stick their neck on the line to do anything about it and for that reason they are right…nothing can be done. On to the post.

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I half jokingly can say that I’m the Al Gore of this particular topic. Much like how Al Gore made it his duty to explain to the world the disastrous consequences of global warming, I’ve been over the years trying to educate people about the disastrous effects of these companies making knockoffs and what our future will look like if everyone keeps supporting them by buying their parts.

I’m at the point these days where I’m tired of talking about it because the fact is that I always end up being the “bad guy” for just bringing it up. So rather than talk about how these US companies are stealing designs and putting companies in Japan out of business…and rather than talk about the horrific future of this industry that will exist when the only new product designs coming out will be original designs from the same knockoff companies that got rich stealing other peoples work and eventually have nothing left to steal (have you ever seen how awful their work is when they’re forced to make an original design?).

I’m just not going to go deep into talking about it this time. Instead I’m going to show you a concrete new example of exactly what I’ve been warning people about for the past few years. Nobody cares when I say it…so here are the facts and not my words:

FACTS:

(posted with permission of Driveline and Bulletproof, Voltex’s two distributors in North America)

Voltex just recently announced on their website that they are stopping all production of their wet carbon CT9A Lancer Evolution 8/9 hoods. Why? Because they learned that Seibon made a knockoff of their hood and that people were actually buying the knockoff. Out of concern that people could accidentally mistake the Seibon quality for Voltex quality if they saw it on a car at a race/street/show, Voltex made a statement on their website that they will no longer make that hood in wet carbon.

Here is a picture of the Voltex hood which they wind tunnel tested and did extensive R&D with the Cyber Evo over the years, at their expense of course…with the hope that they’d be able to sell enough to recoup their expenses so they could continue on making more innovative original parts:

Voltex CT9A Evo 8 hood knocked off by Seibon

And here’s Seibon’s version, which simply came from buying one authentic Voltex hood and then making a cheaper replica (which of course they can sell cheaper since they saved all of the R&D, molding and tooling costs):

http://www.seiboncarbon.com/Images_U/23200835730PMHD0305MITEVO8-CWII.jpg

So there you have it. Another product is now dead. Do people care yet? Probably not…Will people care the next time Voltex needs to look at the costs to decide if they want to produce an Aero hood for their next car and conclude that its not worth it? Probably still not. Will people care when there are almost no new products coming out with proper R&D because no company can find a way to make their money back? Yeah…probably then people will care…but it wont matter because by that point it’ll be too late to say we’re sorry and turn back the clock.

I hope everyone with their Seibon hoods out there are happy. And Seibon isnt the only company, there are many. I can name hundreds of examples of the same story, just swap Seibon for another brand and swap Voltex for another industry innovator. An interesting point is that if you pick up any US magazine you can find most of the companies that are making the copy parts with full page advertisements, yet you wont find nearly as many of the true innovating companies (the ones getting knocked off) because they cant afford the advertising rates to publish their own ads. This is because the knockoff brands are making far more profit than the companies who actually design the parts, and as such the innovating companies often cant afford the costs of full page advertisements whereas the knockoff brands are increasingly more rich and can afford the ads. As a result, the knockoff brands have the magazines and major media support despite the lack of ethics in the whole thing…like they say, money talks.

In a time when the Japanese tuning companies rely on overseas sales more than ever for their survival, they look over here and see cars on the covers of almost all US magazines with knockoffs of their products proudly sporting Seibon stickers and other like minded brands.  Maybe you can tell me how to convince these companies in Japan to keep making new parts when their own fans who claim to represent JDM will drive around at the same time with a Seibon hood on their car. I honestly dont know how to convince them anymore…and quite literally I am the guy they often consult with when deciding what new parts to produce.

Sometimes I’m ashamed of elements of this industry that I’ve dedicated my life to. It saddens me that there is such little incentive and motivation for the innovators that are the ones who actually make the parts we love. Unfortunately nobody will care until its too late and the scene is dead. Or thats what it seems at least. I sure hope I’m wrong.

PS: People have often said to me that my no knockoff stance of how I handle my cars, my promotion, who I decide to affiliate myself and my company with, and which cars we sponsor would classify me as a “JDM purist”. I take no offense to the word “purist”, but I am not a purist simply because of my belief that I wont condone knockoffs. Being a purist implies some uncommonly strong belief in something. I would instead prefer to think that my belief of not wanting JDM to die is a fairly logical and common belief amongst anyone who loves this culture and loves the innovative cars coming out worldwide.

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