I deem it fitting that, as I depart for a brief trip to the Left Coast where I will visit my friend, Ben, of Bulletproof Automotive, who faithfully promotes the upright code of Represent the Real, this topic be confronted once again.
If you support knock-off and replica companies, it is likely that you will not enjoy this post. (Although, I tend to doubt that you would be perusing JDMphasis to begin with if you are a fan of fake…) I have published quite a few posts conveying my disapproval of and aversion to these parts, many echoing what I am about to write. That said, please understand I have friends who buy replica parts. As much as I would like to sometimes, I cannot tell anyone how to spend his or her money. This is not a personal attack against those who fake the funk. Nonetheless, the following post will certainly not be my last expression of denunciation, disgust, and disdain of these sordid products…
I have been browsing the vendor sections of a few select forums lately and it is truly disconcerting to ponder the state of the industry when the vast majority of classified threads are advertising fake parts. I understand the notion that people want to save money and spend as little as possible. Especially in difficult economic times… To some, particularly when it comes to aero components, it is an easy decision to purchase the replica version of a certain part because the exact desired look can be achieved at a percentage of the cost of the authentic. It does not occur to people, however, that, with every replica/knock-off purchase, they are hurting the mastermind behind those original designs. People choose not to believe this truth and indifferently shrug it off as a “part of doing business.” The reality, however, is that the consumer, down the line, will be hurting, as well.
I suppose the thing I have trouble wrapping my head around most is why. Why choose replicas? Why cut corners? Is it for the instant e-praise? So a stranger on the internet can tell you your ride is “dope”? Is it so you can sooner land a “feature” on one of the many websites or publications that, frankly, do not care much about quality or, sadly (and ironically), the aftermarket industry? (On top of which, it must be acknowledged that many of these, like the parts on the vehicles they showcase, dicey and indiscriminate stance/trend/hipster sites, in reality, probably know next to nothing about the actual parts on your particular automotive platform.) Their main objectives and concerns are far from in line with supporting and promoting quality or innovation in the aftermarket industry. It is more about volume, how many people ‘LIKE’ their fan page or their corner-cutting features. Please do not get me wrong... I do not have a problem, at all, with growing, promoting, and building a name and reputation – but not at the expense of the real talent and ingenuity in the industry; not if it means perpetuating the notion that it is okay to rock fake parts or cut corners with builds.
I often urge enthusiasts to save money for “a bit longer” to buy authentic not solely because, in doing so, they are supporting the skilled company that actually did the legwork and, thus, deserves the credit, but also because, in buying authentic, one will be taking a stance against the perpetuation of that notion that cutting corners is accepted and permissible. A prevailing tendency towards quantity over quality, the definition of “feature” has evolved to become hollow and remiss, to say the least. Let’s face it – how difficult is it to dial down one’s coilovers to the lowest possible setting, mount a set of wheels with offsets that could be confused for Arctic Basin temperatures, stretch a set of 225/25 Nankangs on an 11” wheel, and slap on a replica lip? If that is all it takes to land myself a “feature,” I will kindly dismiss myself (and my car) from candidacy.
Perhaps I am a bit too cynical, but I have trouble believing that people modify for themselves these days. With the boom of social media and online publication, everyone seems to be in a rush to get a cyber thumbs-up or pat-on-the-back from the obscure, disillusioned masses sitting behind their laptop monitors. To me, the “I want it now and I don’t want to work for it” mentality falls right in line with the trending ascent of replica parts. If people were, in fact, modifying their rides for themselves would they, so hastily, cut corners? Who knows? But, even if we put the adverse effects that buying replica and knock-off parts has on the real innovators of the aftermarket world (and the industry as a whole) aside for a moment, I suppose I am naïve enough to believe that “enthusiasts” would actually want their so-called pride and joy, their projects, to feature the BEST parts from the BEST companies in the world. Am I wrong?
By definition, an enthusiast is a person who is filled with zeal, devotion, and passion for some principle, pursuit, etc… A devotee, or fan. The word principle jumps off the page at me as I re-read the definition of “enthusiast.” Integrity, ethicality, honor, and morality are all synonyms for principle. Ironically, to me, the companies that steal designs and cash in on someone else’s ingenuity for the sake of a monetary profit are far from principled. Where is the morality and integrity? Where is the devotion? Where is the love and enthusiasm for a hobby and a culture? It's quite simple. There is very little. There is an overwhelming dose of hypocrisy, but there is no passion, dedication, or respect to the true pioneers of the industry when a design is stolen for the sole purpose of turning a profit. There is no risk; no originality, on the part of these knock-off companies.
Many pro-fake personalities audaciously attempt to argue that these companies actually help the consumer and enhance the aftermarket because they are offering in-demand products at affordable prices. My question is, if they truly care about the consumer and the modifying culture, why do they not create their own designs and provide more options for enthusiasts? If they are truly the saviors to the budget-conscious enthusiast in providing a copied product at a reduced rate, why not make a killer design of their own at an affordable price? Why steal someone else’s proven design? Would these diffident and recreant replica companies have a place in this industry if they were not cashing in on the work of the real talent, the skilled Japanese tuning companies? If replica companies do, in fact, have the well-being of the consumer at heart, as they would love us to believe, why won't they provide the community with more options by producing some of their own original designs? Would that not expand and improve the industry? Would it not enhance the culture they claim to love, respect, and represent with pride?
As I have done in past posts, I will use the example of the aero of my personal project… Zele Performance. Amuse, INGS+1, Impul, Nismo, C-West, Chargespeed, VeilSide, Vertex, etc… are but just a few of the legitimate, well-respected Japanese tuning companies that BAUS Auto ripped off before they decided to steal the V36 aero designs of Zele. But BAUS is far from the only stale, money-hungry, uninspired pillager of pioneering. One need not go much further than any forum classified section to heed the state of the industry we all love. I see twenty threads advertising brands such as Seibon, Extreme Dimensions, Autokits-X, AMS, BlackTop Aero, 180Custom, VIS, Rexpeed, CarbonSignal, JDP Engineering, Shine Auto, AIT, Aero Jacket, Data Systems, UAM, ABS Dynamics, Chaser Aerodynamics, and countless others for each single thread advertising authentic products from legitimate companies.
It is not a difficult concept to grasp. If it weren't for the real, bona fide innovators and pioneers with the passion, talent, ingenuity, expertise, and moxie to create the original designs, these knock-off companies that feign superiority would not be saturating the market. Can a valid, sensible argument be made that these companies are made up of passionate enthusiasts of modifying automotive culture?
Sadly, I don’t think so…
Furthermore, I was recently called out on a forum for being “butt-hurt” with people praising a certain replica/knock-off company. The message board moderators must be indifferent (to say the least) to the marauding of the industry by replica companies, as well, because my retort post was deleted. Shocker! The thread was not created by a forum sponsor or vendor. My response to the accusation of being "butt-hurt" was not rude. I did not personally attack the grizzled veteran forum member of 6 whole months. I did not curse. I was simply trying to educate those people who, frankly, know no better. The result? A deletion of my post. And, thus, the perpetuation of this ugly trend. And we wonder why the industry is in dire straits.
I am not "butt-hurt.” Consider the irony in the fact that you are the new guy on the forum wondering where all the parts are for your car... Why do you think companies are not making as many parts as you'd like? The answer? Because out-to-make-a-buck-off-a-proven-design replica companies rip off the real talent of the industry by copying their designs and selling them at a fraction of the price. Amuse, Access Evolution, Mines, and Varis, all companies that this CarbonSignal company has undermined by stealing their designs, are not huge corporations. They are small, for lack of a better term, "mom and pop" boutique shops in Japan that are very good at what they do. Why do you think more parts are not coming out for your car? Why do you think, when they do, the prices are high? Part of that is an essential aspect of being a successful company in this day and age: branding. The other part is that they are forced to think twice when, within weeks of creating a great design, they are ripped off by these fly-by-night companies that are out looking to make a dollar under the flawed and deceptive pretense that they are actually "helping the budget-conscious consumer."
Before you go calling someone out for being “butt-hurt,” think about it. The facts are right in front of you. Parts coming out of Japan over the last five to ten years have drastically diminished. Why? Partly, the bad economy, yes. But to suggest that replicas and knock-offs have nothing to do with that fact is absolutely absurd. The people who are actually getting "butt-hurt" are the ones who do not want to listen to the truth about replicas and knock-offs. People take offense when someone suggests that they are "cutting corners" with their builds by purchasing fake parts, but, bluntly, that is exactly what it is. I'm sorry if you do not like to hear that. The editor of Modified Magazine, Peter Tarach, put it nicely in Speedhunters' The State of Tuning, 2011:
"No matter which side you take, the truth is knock offs and counterfeits have hurt this industry in a big way. Less and less companies want to innovate in this market because of fear of having their products being copied and if you look at the track record of consumers these days, they are willing to buy whatever is cheapest despite the lackluster quality or fitment issues associated with knock off parts. Sadly, I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon. The best way to fight the problem is with awareness. As a consumer, think long and hard before buying a knock off product. What you may be saving initially will more than likely cost you in the future. It’s no secret that cheap parts don’t last as long, or that they need to be modified to work or fit (which costs money). Plus, think of the company that spent the time and money to actually design the product. That should count for something."
I am not making this stuff up. I do not come into threads looking to stir the pot with people who support replicas and knock-offs or to engage in foolish e-arguments. I am attempting to educate people as to the real damage these parts do to the industry, whether you want to hear it or not. As a JDM enthusiast, I truly hope some of my fellow “enthusiasts” on this site really consider the consequences of the decision to support a company like CarbonSignal by purchasing their parts.
I began writing this post (not expecting it to be this lengthy) in response to a few things I have been witness to as of late… As mentioned above, browsing the sorry vendor forum classifieds and engaging in the debate on message boards, but also a video I came across a few months back that I never found opportunity to post. Frankly, it is, in many ways, comical. Chalk-full of bold, haughty, and headstrong hubris and irony, a name highly synonymous with replica body kits, Extreme Dimensions, attempts to warn potential customers of fake parts. Just a hint of irony here.
What?!? Is this real life?
“Knock off knocking off the knock-offs!”
And a sorry picture borrowed from my good friends at Bulletproof Automotive, illustrating, via a forum vendor section, the ongoing marauding of the industry at the hands of replicas.
In closing, quite simply, please think twice before you decide to put your money in the hands of a company that has ripped off the real assets to the modifying community and tuning culture. They have not earned it. And worse, they are harming the companies that have. As my friends at Bulletproof urge, Represent the Real... With pride.
JDMphasis... Innovation over Imitation