Group Buys - A Double Standard?
How would you feel if the group buy you are involved with gets cancelled because of a company that is not even involved in the group buy?
Yes, it happened to me a couple years ago with a group buy that Steven Long (TwinTurbo.net screen name - SteamyZ) organized with Ultimate Z to purchase the HKS GT2530 BB turbo kit. Way back then, I think Bernie on TwinTurbo.net was the only person in the US who had these installed on his Z. They were rare and quite pricey. Well, Steven got a great group buy going with Ultimate Z. I was really happy to be a part of this buy, until I heard that it had been cancelled.
We were told that Stillen, being one the larger HKS retailers, complained to HKS about the pricing that Ultimate Z was offering, and threatened to stop retailing HKS products if the group buy went through. Whether this is what actually happened, I cannot confirm, but the group buy did get cancelled and I have no reason to discount the reason for it being cancelled.
I can sort of see a part of Stillen's side, as I am sure there are agreements on retail pricing, but with the internet and the slew of group buys going on, I just think that there should be free competition for the retail dollars out there.
Ok, so I lose out on a great group buy and eventually get over it until something really ironic happens with our local Z club.
Way back a couple of years ago, there were no membership fees and such and anyone could join our email list. We had people all over the world on our list. Well, apparently we also had at least one Stillen employee or friend on our list as well.
A prominent member of our club organized an AP big brake group buy. This was quite unique as they were offering multiple rotor sizes and even different color rotor hats. These were not even options that Stillen offered on their AP kits at the time or even today. The group buy was set up to protect the supplier, such that only those people who were actually a part of the group buy got the nitty gritty details of the group buy.
The group buy went through and eventually everyone got their brakes and for the most part was happy - everyone that is except for Stillen. The organizer of the group buy, who is a good friend of mine, informed me that he received a telephone call out of the blue from Steve Millen himself. Imagine the shock of my friend to receive such an unexpected call. Steve said that he was disappointed that our club had not given Stillen a chance to compete on the group buy and tried to explain the advantages of the Stillen brake kits over any possible competing AP kits. I have done a lot of research on this and there are some differences due to some of the exclusive rights that Stillen has with AP products in the US. Anyways, my friend tried to explain some of the reasons for going with the other supplier and said that Steve seemed really annoyed to be hearing those things and so the call eventually ended with no real conclusions.
So does it seem to you that there is a double standard here?
One final aside on this AP brake kit issue. From my research it seems that Stillen has exclusive rights in the US to distribute and sell the AP big brake kits for high performance street applications. I am not completely sure on this fact, but that is my understanding as explained to me from another AP supplier. Some of their kits have unique configurations such as the Z32 kit, that has the 31 mm thick rotors. The rest of the world gets a 26 mm rotor for this particular application. You can only buy the genuine AP 31 mm thick rotor through Stillen.
I have helped installed an original non-US AP kit from England onto a friend's Z32. This non-US kit uses the 26 mm thick rotors. What I found so funny was that there was actually a label on the box stating that sales of this kit in the US was prohibited and that to contact Stillen for sales in the US.
What I have also found out that I mentioned before is that although Stillen supposedly has the exclusive rights for high performance street applications, you can still buy certain key components of the kits through other distributors who have the rights for racing applications. I have bought the exact same calipers and other replacement parts at much lower cost through one of these other racing distributors. I was sort of forced to do this as no one at Stillen was able to help me order these particular parts.
Finally for those looking for other options for replacement rotors, I highly recommend contacting Coleman Racing Products - www.colemanracing.com. I have been able to purchase custom slotted, balanced and cyro-treated rotors for a fraction of the Stillen price. And don't forget that Stillen only sells the cross-drilled rotors with slots - at least they did as of early 2002. If you are in a real bind and need your rotors quickly, Coleman can custom machine them and have them at your front door the very next morning. Overnight shipping costs will kill you, but it is possible. Just don't ask how I know about this.