A few years ago, a weird thing happened in the aftermarket coilover suspension market: People stopped caring about functional performance and instead focused on ride height adjustability.
There are more low cars driving around (or should I say scraping) than ever before, and that trend has brought a need for coilovers that can adjust ride height to standards that render them practically useless.
Introduce the ease of overseas manufacturing into the mix, and you quickly realize why there are an overwhelming number of coilover suspension systems on the market. With no need for actual performance-based results, one can manufacture a system with little or no R&D and sell it for a bargain price. Unfortunately, for companies like Tein that have built their brand on proven performance results both on and off the track, the cheap coilover market has an ill effect on its business.
So if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right? Or that's what I heard on the Internet. Rumors of Tein coilovers not being made in Japan, rather in Thailand and China, were mentioned when opinions on the best coilovers were solicited. "They're all made in the same factory, so why should I pay more for just a name?"
When I went to Tokyo Auto Salon earlier this year, I wasn't planning on taking a trip over to Tein HQ, but when the opportunity arose, I couldn't pass it up, as I, too, was curious whether Tein had started outsourcing its coilovers. Finally, I could provide solid evidence and validate the Internet claims.
What I saw was what I thought all along: Tein still manufactures its coilovers in-house, in Japan. From raw metal to the finished product, it's all done on location in Yokohama, so as usual, what is often taken as fact online is in reality fiction.
Actually seeing the process has reaffirmed to me that Tein is still as committed as ever to building quality, performance-driven coilovers. That's not to say the company has ignored emerging trends. To stay competitive, Tein is aware that it must meet the demands of all types of customers. So, it now has developed a line of coilovers called Street Basis that are valved properly and designed for low ride height while being affordable (around $700).
However, Tein also has a very innovative and new EDFC system for the serious performance-minded enthusiast. I had a firsthand look at the EDFC Active system, and it looks to be an innovative system for suspension tuning.
Upon initial inspection, the EDFC Active looks like the old EDFC system that allows easy damping force adjustments through a cockpit-mounted controller. While the Active is capable of this function, it also has the ability to automatically adjust the damping through the use of a G-sensor. It can control the front and back coilovers separately, according to acceleration and deceleration, resulting in better overall vehicle stability. The EDFC Active has a ton of cool features I won't get into here (we'll test the system in a proper tech article in the future), but it illustrates just one of the new technologies Tein is working on.
If you didn't already know, Tein stands for TEchnical INnovation, and having gotten an all-access pass to its facility has reassured me that it is very much the same company that I remember from many years past. Instead of taking the easier, more profitable path, Tein has stood behind its principles of designing, manufacturing, and testing quality suspension systems that are proven to perform on the street and at the track, and I can't help but admire that.