Talkin’ With Lou: Chris Kaufman, Motorsports Public Relations Manager, BORLA Performance Industries

Dec 2, 2009

L.J.: Chris, thanks for taking some time to catch up with me and bring us up to speed on what’s happening at BORLA Performance. But, before we do that, I want to hear more about your “Yo Dawg” voice mail message!

Chris: I think there is a misconception that professional racers as well as businessmen are somber and super-serious about everything. I think it is the opposite. The humor and wit within the automotive racing community is second to none. I admit I am a fan of American Idol. I can’t sing a lick, but I love music and appreciate talent in any form. I am amazed and impressed that America has tuned in and turned on to this old fashioned talent show. I am also impressed with today’s commentators or color men be that racing, golf or in this case the judges of American Idol. Their critiques are impressive and, in my honest opinion, exceptionally accurate.

L.J.: BORLA got its start nearly 20 years ago doing exhausts for cars like the Ferrari 355 (one of my favorites). Can you tell me more about how the company’s roots and how it evolved into such a broad and well-respected company with such a broad product mix?

Chris: Actually Borla started 30 years ago this year. So this is somewhat of a milestone. Borla’s prominence in the aftermarket exhaust evolved primarily from an incredible product, the T-304 aircraft-grade stainless steel exhaust combined with race-inspired technology immediately placed them as a premier component. The first lifetime warranty assured consumers and retailers that Borla had significant confidence in their own product. Today there is tremendous competition in this arena. Borla spends incredible effort to stay ahead in technology, leading edge design and construction.

L.J.: How does racing play a role in this effort?

Chris: Racing has always been the cauldron used to forge Borla’s components, be that a header or a complete Off-Road Exhaust system. The incredible endurance and performance requirements of professional racing forces Borla to bring their best game to every event, every vehicle. In serious racing, professional racing, if your parts don’t perform superior to the competition you are gone in a heartbeat. We transfer that technology so painstakingly earned on the race tracks of the world to our street products. We know if a muffler can win the Baja 1000, then we know it will hold together on a daily driver towing a ski boat on the weekends. Just for the record Borla has won more Trophy Truck and Class 1 Baja races then all the other muffler companies combined, times 10.

L.J.:  Tell us more about BORLA’s rich racing history? Seems you’re underneath winning cars in the NHRA, Grand Am, Baja and off-road, Trans Am, Diesel Drags, and even Bonneville Land Speed Records?

Chris: Borla has a rich history of racing from LeMans to Baja, from Indy to Pomona and everything in between. From Land Speed Record cars to 24-hour Endurance vehicles. From the Open Road races of Nevada’s Silver State Classic to the Hooter’s Series Stock Cars. Racing is a passion at Borla. I have always maintained, everyone is at a place in their lives they choose to be at. My entire adult life I have raced cars. My first National Event win was in 1972 and just last week I was piloting the Hot Rod Magazine Raybestos FR500 Miller Cup Mustang at full song. The Borla staff from Alex Borla all they way down into our R&D staff understand racing. Alex was a long time endurance racer in Europe even before he raced in America. It is true, our background is extremely diverse. Borla makes headers, mufflers and exhausts for the entire spectrum of race vehicles including boats.

L.J.: Without divulging any obvious proprietary information can you tell our readers, tell me, what is unique about Borla mufflers?

Chris: Alex Borla has four patents regarding attenuation of sound emitted from internal combustion engines. The fact that Borla is one of the only manufactures to use high-end stainless steel throughout the entire exhaust system and muffler including the hangers and internal muffler components is significant. Our proprietary designs are a combination of genius, sophisticated engineering, incredible support from our race teams – which we call our field engineers – and a lot of good old-fashioned hard work. The patented multi core XR-1 race mufflers that are now being transitioned into today’s street driven super cars (like the Z06 or Ford GT) are the same mufflers the RocketSports Trans Am teams used to capture six World Championships and the Terrible Herbst have used to dominate Baja for the last decade plus. Borla’s clever utilization of sound cancelling straight through mufflers that can survive and kill both high frequency and intermediate sound waves is unique in the industry. It isn’t hard to be loud. It is very hard to be loud when you want it and still be able to sneak out of your prestigious gated community with your 600 hp Lamborghini super car on a Sunday morning for a 6:30 tee time. That takes sophisticated acoustics.

L.J.: I’ll say. I wish I had that problem! So, what kinds of changes are you seeing in the performance aftermarket for exhaust products?

Chris:  First of all, the states are becoming more involved in sound issues. Local municipalities have attempted to curtail sound for many years. Borla with significant help from SEMA has tried to encourage the states to adopt a standard (SAE J1169) that can give everyone a fair playing field. Regarding race tracks across the land we are working as we have for decades to allow racing to continue as population centers shift. The hardest part is convincing racers that louder isn’t faster, just like a bigger cam or bigger tire may not give you better performance. Again education.

The second big issue is the elephant in the room. The proliferation of overseas manufactured products is a challenge to the entire industry. Not only the inability for American labor to compete financially, but the fact so many patents and blatant copies are being introduced to the market. In many cases copied components look excellent until they are used or raced. In some cases, these components fail with disastrous results. Companies like Borla are doing all they can to protect their hard-earned good name and make sure when you get a Borla it is genuine Borla. In most cases the price tag is the best clue. It is impossible to manufacture high-end quality race-proven fully austenitic stainless steel exhaust without significant expense.

L.J.:  As you know, my goal with this column is to find one good idea; something a retailer can implement today to generate more sales. If you were a performance retailer, what would you be doing to differentiate yourself and grow your business?

Chris:  I feel many retailers have little to differentiate themselves these days. I ran my company, Kaufmann Products, for 30 years. Our success was based on niche packages like V8 swap kits and product knowledge. If a company is selling the exact same part as across the street or a click of the mouse away (which is most everything these days) price become the major factor. I would encourage these companies to build packages (stage 1, stage 2, stage 3, etc). Merge three or four of their key vendors into a package that works. An induction and air cleaner, an exhaust and ECU upgrade. Often the combination of these items properly tuned can be dramatic. You do the homework for them and it is a homerun right out of the box.

Second is to educate their employees of the difference in the products they sell. At the end of the day, service will become a solid decision-making attribute that is hard to beat. This is all part of value. Invest in your staff and encourage them to learn. Over the years the quick sale for a perceived profit or spiff may be the last time you see of that customer, if he is not satisfied with the part. If you are in this for the long run, customer satisfaction will win more friends than saving them a couple bucks with an inferior product. Many of the bigger companies like Borla have training programs where we will go to a company and train the staff for free. If the company is small, we are starting Borla U in our new Tennessee facility where companies can send a staff member or several to the Borla campus for a day and learn the real difference. How we do it and why we do what we do from race cars to pickup trucks. With 120 acres, 350,000 square feet and 3,500 paved parking spots we have more than enough room and will be hosting some nice events here in 2009.

L.J.: Chris, thanks again for chatting with me today. I look forward to catching up with you at SEMA this year.

Chris: Thanks Lou, we look forward to seeing you at SEMA as well and hope you get a chance, in your travels, to visit our new plant in Tennessee. It is an exciting time at Borla and we appreciate what your periodical does to educate your subscribers. Like I always say, the more you learn, the more you will earn.

CHRIS KAUFMAN, Motorsports Public Relations Manager, BORLA Performance

What’s on your iPOD?
I’m pretty “lite rock” Beach Boys, Beatles, Bread, We Five, John Gary, most John Williams arrangements (Superman, Out of Africa, Star Wars) mixed in with some Willie Nelson.

Last book read: 
I’m pretty much a books-on-tape person these days due to work level and time on the road. Nothing like a good murder mystery CD to keep you awake on a long road trip going across the country. Last CD Book: “Devil Bones” by Kathy Reichs  Last book read cover to cover: “Hollywood Crows” by Joeseph Wambaugh.

Favorite place to drive: 
There is nothing like a well-prepared Trans Am car at full song on Road America in Wisconsin as the four-mile circuit meanders through the beautiful countryside. The grand old trees grow overhead like a canopy as you drive down the back straight into Canada corner. Ahh the racers they have witnessed over the decades. Those trees have seen it all. Incredible. So far as road trips go, we are blessed in America with so many scenic highways and roads. As a racer you get to see them often and I am constantly in awe of this beautiful land. The drive along Highway 1 bordered by the Pacific Coast of California is always awesome. Most any open road suits my liking from my college days of fishing weekends in the Northern Arizona Sedona area to the rainforest and farmlands of the Brisbane Valley that leads to Surfers Paradise area in Australia.

Person you’d most like to have lunch with
Teddy Roosevelt. He was a great outdoorsman, soldier and conservationist with an incredible sense of humor. Or Ronald Reagan, I really miss him with his wit and ability to communicate.