Research Is Key

Exhausts, they’re one of the most replicated aftermarket parts. I’m constantly seeing new brands emerging from seemingly nothing. All of them have flashy names that allude to racing pedigree or technological innovation. A lot of these brands have fancy websites that showcase research data and performance analysis. They speak of high quality manufacturing processes and the use of only the finest materials.

Tonight I came across liteSPEC whose exhaust systems are made exclusively with aerospace grade titanium alloy. Now I could’ve just left the website and moved on, but I decided to stick around and have a closer look.

This is liteSPEC’s Ti.One exhaust for the GDB Impreza. Looks pretty fancy right? Those welds allude to Amuse-style craftsmanship. The funny thing is, the Ti.One is under $1000. Now it’s been a while since I’ve shopped for exhausts, but I’ve never known a decent titanium exhaust to cost under a grand. The website quotes an MSRP of $970, but continues on to offer an “internet discount” of $870. I’ve never known a manufacturer of high-quality racing products to offer an internet discount. This is all sounding a little fishy.

liteSPEC was created by motorsports enthusiasts with the simple idea of developing a superior class of exhaust systems using advanced materials at an affordable price.

Motorsports enthusiasts? Hardly seems like the qualifications necessary to produce an exhaust. I don’t know anything further about liteSPEC, than what I’ve read on their website. If any of you work for liteSPEC or know the owners, by all means speak up. I have my doubts that anyone works there or knows the owners, because they’re most likely based in China.

It’s a funny game that Chinese knockoff brands play. They create a website that hints to the business being based in North America or Japan. It gives the consumer a false sense of quality. Somehow when we hear a product is designed and produced in Japan, it automatically makes it better because it’s JDM.  The reality is that although they do a good job of moonlighting, these companies are really based out of Taiwan or Mainland China. One of the easiest ways to spot an impostor is to look at the company’s contact information.

Any legitimate brand would be more than happy to list their addresses and phone numbers. That way customers and dealers know exactly where the products are produced and staff are located. With knockoff brands, 90% of the time, you get nothing more than an e-mail address.

The same holds true for liteSPEC who provide info and sales e-mail addresses. The addresses above are placed next to a picture of a modern office building, further emphasizing the false image of a quality product. Nowhere on liteSPEC’s website does it state where the company is located.

Some of you may think that I’m picking on this brand and I am. Any legitimate brand would be proud of the products they produce. But part of being proud, is being honest. I can visit the website of any major Japanese, North American or European manufacturer and get their phone numbers and directions to their headquarters. In this case it’s a secret because liteSPEC is trying to hide something; whether it’s where they’re actually located, their manufacturing processes, who really knows.

The point that I’m trying to prove here is to educate yourself on what’s out there. Don’t be fooled by fancy websites and slick product photos. In this down economy people buy based on price alone. Usually little else is a consideration and that’s why brands like liteSPEC, are allowed to stay in business. Building a car is about research and learning. If you’re too lazy to know what products are on your car, who made them and where they’re from, then maybe you should’ve chosen a different hobby.

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5 comments

  1. On top of that, I’m so sick of the “burnt” finish. Ask any fabricator, it’s indication of poor craftsmanship and should’ve been cleaned off. But it looks “cool” so people buy into the bling factor.

  2. The sad thing is that the average enthusiast these days tend to have a “let’s do more with less” train of thought. Even this cheapo Ti exhaust is too much cash in the eyes of some and they’ll go for cheaper Ebay stuff that also looks the part. It makes me sick, it is all about faking the funk these days… …and it is accepted…

  3. I agree with you. People need to do research before investing their money into a purchase. But nowadays, cost undermines everything. These knock-off goods are taking over because people want to build their car on an unrealistic budget. They also don’t recognize or understand about product quality. “It’s just metal piping” or since they “won’t be tracking their car, what’s the point of spending more money?” are the most common excuses I hear. They just want it cheap and fast, so they can see their car on some blog/site feature. Very few people understand the real costs involved in this scene, are not well informed, and will just buy from whoever as long the price is right.

  4. if it is a quality product, it is a quality product. let’s get it straight: an exhaust IS just metal piping. however, a quality exhausts will show their worth in the SOUND (think OEM Z/G sound from the VQ) the resonator, glass packs in the muffler, the muffler itself will work in harmony to produce a nice sound.

    lucky for this company, “race” exhausts, sound quality doesn’t matter. they don’t have to do any r+d put into sound/frequency tuning, plus it’s too far back to noticeably affect performance. so less need to pay attention to that. all that matters in this case is the quality of the welds (which is added “bling” since a nice mandrel bend will be smoother, making it more efficient) and how well it lines up and clears various parts (like the diff in the case of a subaru) when installed. an exhaust failure is not catastrophic, you just end up with a leak or a terrible sound. it is not something like a wheel, suspension component, engine component, turbo, etc. which will leave your car dead or undriveable, so in my opinion, it is worth investigating a product like this and potentially purchasing.

    there could be a million reasons why they’re selling it cheap, nor is the online discount a downer for me. they’re a new company, trying to enter a highly competitive market, and until they become a reputable company (whether that reputation will be good or bad remains to be seen), they have to do things like this. in this industry, the vendors are sharks, the buyers are sheep, so you can’t just shout “hey i have a great quality product, you buy now at this price!” you’ll never make it. they have no distributorship, etc, making it even harder to sell. on the opposite end of the spectrum, you have someone like rays wheels, who are just pricing themselves out of the market. looking at their msrp, you’d assume their wheels are made of unobtanium. the only reason i would hesitate on buying a product like this is because the contact information. if something goes wrong, product is never delivered, you have no way to contact them, and recouping your money. your purchase is unprotected. like i said, customer service should be a HUGE factor when purchasing products. until they are proven to be a legit company (even if they are selling knock-off, cheaply produced products) i would NOT purchase it.

    fast, cheap, reliable, you have to pick two. the only thing i would never compromise is safety

    1. What are your thoughts on Helix? I’ve always sort of been on the fence with them, mainly cause I’ve used their parts before.

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