Sunday, February 2, 2014
I rarely second guess myself when it comes to writing for this blog, though there have been a few instances over the years when I've written something and ultimately wound up sending it to the bit bucket prior to publication. Such was the case with this blog entry. I wrote this followup a couple weeks ago but ultimately deleted it, as I concluded I'd largely said what I wanted to say about Stromung already. I had enough people email me about this issue, however, that I decided to resurrect it from one of my backups and publish it to wrap up my experience and point out that the unit is happily sold.
After I installed the M3 rear section and put the Stromung back in the box I decided to email Stromung one last time to see if they would take the unit back and refund the transaction. The answer was a resounding no, for several reasons:
1) There is no fitment problem with the product.
Apparently I'm the first person to report a fitment problem among "thousands" of sales so the problem must be with my (completely stock) car. Yet in an earlier email, despite the fact that their website indicated the part would fit the M3, 325, and 328 vehicles, they admitted that they don't sell many for the 328. In the same breath they suggested they were probably going to stop selling it for the 328. Think about this for a second: if it's the same product for the M3 application and there are no fitment problems on the 328, why stop selling it?
Although I previously reported that the clearance between the tips and diffuser was adequate, during several cold mornings I started the car only to hear the entire rear valance vibrating because the diffuser was in contact with the top of the tips. I thought this may have been due to the modification I had to make to the attachment point in order to allow the muffler body to fit, but pushing the far side of the diffuser up into its normal resting location didn't fix the problem. The cold weather had caused the gap to close.
I found this particularly blasphemous considering the fact that the size of the pipes exiting the muffler body are significantly smaller and not in any way directly attached to the tips. The tips are welded directly to the rear face of the muffler body, applied almost as an afterthought. Translated: the tips could have been made smaller to improve the fit but Stromung instead chose the "taster's choice" look because that's what sells.
2) They consider sound quality subjective and therefore not a valid justification for a return.
An unmodified snippet of their response:
As a manufacture creating a static product in pluralistic market we need to target a sound decibel that seems to be the most requested. To some the sound is to quiet, to others it will be to loud, to most it is exactly what they are looking for and that has been the consensus.
While I'll wholeheartedly agree that sound quality is subjective (I build audio power amplifiers as a hobby so I can certainly relate to this) the reality is there's no practical way for a prospective customer to evaluate the product unless they know someone with the unit already installed or they do what I did -- gather whatever information they can (videos, online opinion, etc.) and then risk the money to buy it and try it.
My experience is proof positive that online videos cannot be trusted as a means to differentiate the sound quality of exhausts. The reason, as it turns out, is the roll off in low frequency response typical of consumer-grade camcorder microphones, which are primarily designed for the voice frequency range. And I should know better than to trust online opinions, but I did anyway. The message to take home here is that if you buy a Stromung, you better know up front you like the exhaust note because you'll be stuck with it. And if this is the way it works with other aftermarket exhaust companies, good luck getting something you like without spending a small fortune trying everything on the market.
3) It's been on the car too long.
Stromung apparently defines "too long" as a couple weeks and 200 miles. Granted, I wouldn't describe it as "new in box" but at the end of the day this comes down to customer satisfaction. They should have taken the unit back to keep me happy. That small gesture would have gone a long way with me and in that case I would have offered to pay shipping back to California ($85). But that was never an option.
The End of That
For what it's worth, I intentionally avoided telling Stromung about this blog until the very end of our discussions as I wanted to see how they would treat an average customer. I also didn't want to come across as threatening in any way, as if to imply I would write a hit-piece if they didn't do what I asked.
When it became clear that they would not allow me to return the unit, however, I mentioned what I do here and cited my recent experience with Fluidyne as an example of how this transaction should have played out. I explained how Turner refunded the entire purchase price to keep me happy and how my feedback helped Fluidyne rework their jigs and QA process to ensure the parts now fit as advertised. Everyone, including future customers, benefited from my experience. Stromung responded by saying they "don't take kindly to threats". So product feedback is a threat now? So be it.
With no other options I decided put the unit up for sale on bimmerforums for a reasonable price and it sold in less than an hour. So that is the end of that.