In the latest of our occasional series, we hand this page over to a leading figure in our industry to give his views and perspective. This month we hear from Ed Sheets from New German Performance.
I get the same question all the time, "What does it take to start out in this business?" I just smile and think back a bit...
The VW addiction started for me in the late '80s. I was first attracted by the price and practicality, later by the enormous performance potential proven by pioneers such as Techtonics and Neuspeed. It's an attraction that's stronger today than ever before.
Once I started attending the shows and club events, the draw of the European car culture was inescapable. Even as VAG slumped dangerously in the early '90s, the scene continued to grow and mature with the introduction of the Corrado and Mk3. After all, who else offered Recaro seats and BBS wheels on their hot hatch in '92?
One of the people I met at the shows was my future partner, Dave Graf. He was already an avid enthusiast and was managing a car audio store at the time. He was known for supplying aftermarket VW and Audi parts that created the beginnings of a strong customer base, as well as the need for installation services.
I was working in the marine industry at that time, and used to install parts out of my folk's garage. Dave and I wasted no time combining our business experience and personal resources to create a steady flow of customers. We rented some shop space, and went into official "part time" business. Word spread fast and within six months the decision had to be made: take less work or quit our day jobs and join the ranks of poor, stressed business owners. Of course, the latter appealed to us the most!
New German Performance officially opened for business in January '97. We immediately realized the scope of competing and surviving in such a fickle environment. We knew that going into business would not be the easiest thing to accomplish, but it pales in comparison to surviving in business for yourself. Many customers make decisions based on price alone, resulting in the difficult task of maintaining profit margins while providing a high level of customer service. We knew what we had to provide this to the industry, and nothing short of our very best would suffice. So we did the only logical thing, we diversified.
We were able to maintain attention to detail and customer service standards by expanding into wholesaling, web sales, importing and exporting. This also provided us the depth and security to expand our service facility into custom fabrication, dyno tuning, and powdercoating.
As the years have passed, we've seen many of our competitors fade away. I think VW/Audi enthusiasts have realized service does have a value when pricing their parts. A small amount of additional cost can result in an enormous amount of useful information and aftersales service. I'd like to think that by not falling victim to the pricing wars, we've made a stand to the betterment of our industry.
I often speak to enthusiasts who've crossed to European cars from the Asian scene. They're amazed at how many quality manufacturers there are for VW and Audi parts. They tell me of their bad experiences, and how they could never find a reputable tuner. I know this might be a generalization, but I do believe we're different.
In the past few years, we've enjoyed a lot of exposure on our project cars. The various Primedia publications have showcased our first Mk4 1.8T GTI Stage 3, our TT Roadster Stage 3, our beastly Mk2 1.8T challenge car and many more. Working with quality manufacturers such as APR, Techtonics, and Forge Motorsport have allowed us to make great strides in this industry, and having the support of enthusiast publications like eurotuner will assure the good vibes continue to get out!
The views of our guest speaker are not necessarily shared by eurotuner magazine.