This editorial is written to the guys who have been doing this for a while now.
First of all – I gotta say that I (we at S3) love this industry just as much as even the most passionate of you guys . . . that’s genuine. But I’m not just going to sit here and talk about random half-ass motivating BS for issue after issue . . . and pretend everything is all-good. It’s time to take a step back – and look at where we are, and where we came from. In my opinion – we came from one of the proudest and toughest cultures out there. But where are we at now? Is it where we want to be? I mean for real – the cars we’re doing these days are turning out sicker than they’ve ever been . . . yet the scene is falling off. A lot of companies that make products for our culture are quietly suffering. And we’ve got to help these guys out.
Look at it like this with me: 10 years ago, someone would go out and buy a brand new ’99 Civic Si. Before they even got the dealer tags off . . .
They had it slammed – so suspension companies were making money.
They had an intake – so Injen, AEM, DC Sports, Iceman were banking.
They had catback exhaust – Greddy, HKS, Apexi, Tenabe got paid.
They had new wheels and tires – Tenzo, Konig, Falken, Nitto. You get the point.
Money was getting thrown around the industry like crazy . . . and since these companies were turning profits, they could afford to inject money back into the culture. They bought vender space at events – which allowed the events like NOPI Nationals and HIN to grow beyond any expectation. They bought ads in magazines – which made it possible for publications like Super Street, Turbo, and Sport Compact Car to make mags that specifically fed to the new, emerging import scene. They had money to put into research and development . . . so they were always coming out with new products that topped even themselves.
But then the scene began to change. Tuners became more savvy and educated. Some started throwing around the word “rice” so they would seem more grown up – making others hesitant to go spend money on obnoxious parts . . . or parts that “serve no purpose other than looks”. Manufacturers like Mitsubishi and Subaru introduced cars that were essentially modded out of the box. We thought this was awesome at first – but then it seemed like if you did anything aesthetically . . . you were ricing it out. Hell – you couldn’t even put seats in the damn thing because it came with Recaros. Can’t put brakes on it – cause it’s already got Brembos. Stereos added weight. So pretty much – you lowered it, put gunmetal wheels on it . . . and the rest of your money went under the hood. And it kind of got to be the generic 5-liter Mustang of the new decade. The guys that we used to make fun of in Import Tuner comics – for their jock personalities and lack of creativity.
Except now – we were calling it “clean”.
That began to hurt some of the style-type companies, and some of the audio companies . . . at least within the sport compact segment. At the same time, half of the Honda guys had begun to realize the glory of motorswaps. The other half realized the glory of drift . . . sold their Hondas . . . and went and bought Nissan 240s. Whether it was a Honda or Nissan – what they still had in common was the desire for a motorswap. The Honda guys went for B-series motors, and then K-Series motors. And the Nissan guys went for SR20s, and LS1s.
What all of these motors have in common – is that they were taking money away from the companies that supported the scene. When you’re spending 3-grand on a motorswap, that’s “3-grand longer” any aftermarket companies have to wait . . . before they can sell you parts. Don’t get me wrong – it opened the door for a lot of serious, expensive, future purchases . . . but that quick, steady, smaller profit was gone, and intakes for a D-series motor sat on the self.
On top of that – if you were driving a Honda or a Nissan, the trend became JDM.
The American style-based and audio-based companies were now getting screwed whether you had an Evo, STI, Honda, or Nissan. And the straight-up performance companies had to wait longer to make more complicated sales.
Right – so during the same time period, all the different tuner mags (which most used to have their own style and appeal) got bought up by one giant fat corporation parent-company. Super Street, Import Tuner, Modified, Sport Compact Car, Turbo, Honda Tuning, Euro Tuner are all currently owned by the same company . . . and are made out of the same office (Turbo and Sport Compact Car just went under). They’re all the same magazine . . . and not in a good way either. The staffs of these magazines are all cool people, but their corporate bosses see to it that the magazines stay sold-out . . . and keep turning high-profits. They make under-the-table deals with tuning companies who advertise, and that’s why you never see anything but sponsored cars on their covers. Unfortunately, a lot of those advertisers and ad agencies can’t see through the bullshit and buy into all the presentations and promises. But the bottom line is – when a mag is sold-out, it’s f**king boring . . . and people tend to stop reading it, because it never really says anything of substance.
So if we back it up – these companies that support our scene are hurting, because trends have changed. People have changed their buying habits (what they purchase and in what order), and sales are not as easy as they were 10 years ago. They look to advertise in those other tuner mags (above) to reach people in the culture and get sales back . . . but those mags are sold out, so no one really connects with them except for a 14-year-old in a grocery store and the staffs’ mothers. So now the companies are spending money that they really don’t have (these days) in magazines that no one cares about. Their sales don’t increase, so they don’t have money to develop new products and keep up with the trends. The trends leave ‘em in the dust. They can’t go blow money on vender space at events when nobody is buying their products. It doesn’t take long before shows like NOPI Nationals implode (July 16th 2008) . . . and companies like GReddy/Trust have to file bankruptcy (Sept 10th 2008).
So what’s the State Of The Union? It’s quickly getting f**ked if we don’t do anything about it. That’s just how I feel. As enthusiasts – we need to wake up and take our scene to the next point. And maybe in order to do that – we actually need to take a few steps back and look at where we came from. Look at our roots . . . and why we originally got sucked into this lifestyle.
To the companies in our industry – the ball is in your court. Make products that keep up with the trends. Better yet – make products that set trends. And then advertise them in our magazine, cause we are the balls. Heh. No seriously – advertise them wherever you feel is best . . . because as long as the scene is healthy . . . then S3 should be healthy enough too. The companies and manufacturers who have real leaders behind them, and who truly understand the culture . . . and are willing to push through the hard times and read the trends . . . these are the guys who are going to come out making an impact as the sport compact culture reshuffles itself.