It's been a couple years now, and I think it's safe to have the conversation with all my readers about the unfortunate APR story. Seems like for a while now, not a day would go by without someone, whether it be a customer or just someone in the industry saying: "What happened to APR?" Well, here is the un-sugar coated and un-spun story about what did happen.
Without going too far back, as most know, some years ago APR almost was no more; a bit too much spending in the wrong places and a frat house-style management crew drove the company to the brink of collapse. But this was a good thing! APR had a good business model and laid out tuning and packages like no one else, making Stage tuning almost a household name around the world, Never before had stage 1 stage 2 stage 3 possess such a uniform, solid meaning and ..APR... yea! They did that. They may not have had pioneer stages, but in the world of euro car tuning they made it mainstream. The management crew also created the greatest network of dealers than any other company of its kind...... EVER! Never before in the history of hotrodding could a customer pick up a new car at his local VW dealer, start building it with an APR dealer in California, move two years later, finish that same build nearly seamlessly with another APR dealer in New York, all with the same parts and same tuning--not to mention being able to get regular software updates in just about every state along the way! It was amazing and the quality was the best in the industry.
So why was it that they almost went under? Well because, solid, well-managed investment firms saw the value in APR and swooped in to buy them out; this meant more stable money for development and manufacturing--some painfully weak points of the old APR. For years as APR grew and the products got better and better, the management eventually ditched relationships with some outside vendors like B&B and Corsa! Manufacturing was brought in-house and the quality and design was never better. New management also cleaned out the "frat house" and freed the core nerdy guys that had been pigeonholed! This action resulted in an even more robust and innovate company with efficiency higher on the priority list. It did not happen overnight, it actually happened over several subsequent owners, but it did happen, and APR was becoming the the pinnacle of euro performance tuning!
For every rise, comes a fall!
It seems inevitable that when things become too good, something always happens, and in APR's case, a well known Goliath called Holley happened. While the details are not clear, most APR dealers that once had good transparency on what was happening, found the flow of information come to a trickle--and a murky trickle at that. Once Holley took over APR, most loyal dealers were shut out from any real information. Inevitably, APR assimilated into part of the Holley machine. The home brew enthusiast company that rose like a star had been engulfed in a corporate pigeonhole. Almost immediately, creativity, ingenuity and over all common performance-world business sense was nearly snuffed out. APR was stripped of its most popular parts and left to hobble along on its once-good name. The first things to get the chopping block were parts (we guess) that Holley's lawyers thought may raise eyebrows at the good old EPA. Practically overnight all Stage 2 and anything associated to it was ... gone! This included the recently redesigned down pipes that were arguably the best quality products for the money in the industry. Then later, while the official policy was if it had a larger turbo, as in stage 3 and stage 4, kits that were deemed ok for racing, were eventually also black listed and got the axe! APR even had developed their own impressively large and efficient turbo for the new MQB platform capable of 500-600hp. But by the time it was ready for release, Holley policy dictated that the software to run it had to use a stock down pipe or have a check engine light, making a car with installation of that turbo even slower and more "laggy" than a stock car. APR was falling hard and every one knew it, and it was creating a tuning vacuum in the industry.
How to stop the bleeding!?
APR had to do something! They were losing market share at an unbelievable rate, all the while reassuring their APR dealers that it was going to be OK; bigger and better things were on the way. Now, I don't think that the APR employees were speaking untruths deliberately, I think they really did want to believe the ship was not taking on water but it was, and a plan was hatched to stop the bleeding or well... at least slow it down! The plan was to fire sale everything all the time. Prices on the products that were still available (which was less than half of the pre-Holley catalog) were not just reduced but slashed--over 70+% in some cases--not a temporary sale like APR was known for back in the old days but a permanent undercutting of the market. One of the best examples was the price of the RS7 stage 1 software. It previously retailed for $2999.00 "pre-Holley takeover", Now the current retail price at the time of this article is an EPIC level undercut of only $719.00!
So lets break this down.
On one hand this is a really good thing for a very small segment of the consumer base that might be looking for this limited level of tuning. The APR files that still remain are just as fantastic as they
ever were, making these legacy files an unreal bargain! And while they are not the industry leader with new platforms like they used to be, the limited new model files that are released here and there are first quality. So for a consumer that predicts he will never want more performance than a basic stage1 tune, its perfect and a very good deal. And if you are a new car owner with a concern for warranty the APR+ program is a attractive option.
On the other hand lets be real! Most people get a taste of the good stuff and they are going to want more. It's not ideal to be forced to repurchase tuning software with a another company because APR has no place to go beyond stage 1, or just can't support tuning for any further modifications with there new business model. That can be a hard pill to swallow later if you go the APR route. An even bigger disappointment is now that APR has fallen so far behind in the market, they don't have a robust catalogue of new box codes like they did in the old days. Let me explain: while the stage 1 file for your 2022 Q8 from APR is by far the best bargain of any of the mainstream tuning competitors, the chance that they will actually have your car's particular ecu is slim to none. We have seen file requests take over a year and some never filled. We suspect that this is either due to just not having access to the massive amount of cars they once did or it may just be cutbacks by the parent company. Either way it is a bit disappointing both for APR dealers and for APR customers.
It does need to be said that APR has stayed loyal to its legacy customers through all of this madness the best they can. Any customers that had stage 2 ,3 ,4 tuning can always have access to that software as they are grandfathered in, so just because all those files are no longer for sale they are available in case a file is lost or needs to be reloaded or updated. And that's a good thing!
The happy endings...at least APR is still around and making some good products, and who knows, while its almost unheard of that a company gets away from Holley, it is possible. And who knows maybe the EPA will become honest and start recognizing that the tuning community are not the bad guys to go after and snuff out. And just maybe some day APR will restore its place at the top of the euro tuning hill.