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Old 11-18-2014, 12:53 AM   #1
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Default Why does good suspension cost so much?

Title may sound stupid but I am genuinely curious as to why something like Xidas cost a couple grand while Bilsteins cost $400. Are the internals that much different? Or is it the R&D that costs the most. Are they actually a different technology, like monotube vs others, or is it just more precise internals and tuning to match the car exactly?

To be clear I am not trying to insult anyone and I completely understand the level of research and design that goes into a product like Xidas, I am just curious about suspension internals and what makes a better shock. I have no issue with a product like Xidas having a crazy markup because of the design that goes into them but I've just been wondering what makes a good shock "good".
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Old 11-18-2014, 01:03 AM   #2
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There's several things that make certain shocks better. Some include:
-low hysteresis
-consistent valving
-heat dissipation
-weight
-adjustability

Take a good quality damper (aka AST's), put in lots of development time in adapting the body and valving to a Miata (Xida's), and you're at $2000 of awesome damping.
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Old 11-18-2014, 01:28 AM   #3
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Take a ride in Lazarus and then ride in your car again, you'll see the difference between a bilstein and an MCS shock and you'll understand what you're paying for.
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Old 11-18-2014, 01:29 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by greddygalant View Post
Take a ride in Lazarus and then ride in your car again, you'll see the difference between a bilstein and an MCS shock and you'll understand what you're paying for.
I'd love to, but I do get that they are better, I'm asking more about the technical reason why. More precise parts? Different parts? Just something that was on my mind recently and thought I would ask around.
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Old 11-18-2014, 01:52 AM   #5
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Things that comes to mind in no particular order :

More complex piston/compression valving design.
R&D costs
Tighter tolerances
Often more exotic materials and coatings
Higher production tooling costs, and assembly labor
Higher quality shock oil (which also has it's own r&d, material costs, production costs, and scale of production costs as well)
MUCH smaller production runs (economy of scale)

Bicycle Suspension is a similar market, and I am quite familiar with it as well. Very small production runs of VERY intricate and highly adjustable suspension pieces with many different bicycle-specific valving. A quality bicycle shock is $500+ per shock ($1000+ for a fork) and multiply that by 4 for fit all the corners of a car and the cost of Xidas, MCS, Ohlins, Penske all begin to look reasonable in cost as they have at least the same performance, fit and finish, and technology.
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Old 11-18-2014, 03:08 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by aidandj View Post
.. I have no issue with a product like Xidas having a crazy markup because of the design that goes into them but I've just been wondering what makes a good shock "good".
Your assumption that Xidas have a higher markup (retail vs cost) than entry level options would be false. Generally, the lower cost stuff has much higher profit margins. If I was OK putting cheap, barely functional stuff on my personal cars, I'd sell it too. Good profit in selling cheap stuff.

Xidas cost more to make, plain and simple. Beyond that, the $2250 that currently gets you a set of Xidas with helpers and NB mounts would cost about $1300 more for just about any other platform. So Xidas are actually $3500 coilovers. You can't buy motorsport level DDP alloy monotube coilovers for anything for less than $3500.

We are able to offer them for $2250 for a few reasons. We only offer the one application, optimize everything in the supply chain, bill of materials and are able to amortize over many of the same kits sold at retail. The R&D, tooling expenses are spread out over 2 years of serial production.
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Old 11-18-2014, 03:15 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by emilio700 View Post
Your assumption that Xidas have a higher markup (retail vs cost) than entry level options would be false. Generally, the lower cost stuff has much higher profit margins. If I was OK putting cheap, barely functional stuff on my personal cars, I'd sell it too. Good profit in selling cheap stuff.

Xidas cost more to make, plain and simple. Beyond that, the $2250 that currently gets you a set of Xidas with helpers and NB mounts would cost about $1300 more for just about any other platform. So Xidas are actually $3500 coilovers. You can't buy motorsport level DDP alloy monotube coilovers for anything for less than $3500.

We are able to offer them for $2250 for a few reasons. We only offer the one application, optimize everything in the supply chain, bill of materials and are able to amortize over many of the same kits sold at retail. The R&D, tooling expenses are spread out over 2 years of serial production.
Thanks for the response, is it because of the low volume? Or different parts. Like what if Mazda had built a shock like the Xidas as OE for the Miata. By producing them at that volume would they be a lot cheaper? Or is it just that the materials and tooling is just more expensive.

Also thank you for being a quality component supplier. Its nice to be able to purchase things and not worry about how you will make it actually work (ebay, etc).
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Old 11-18-2014, 04:11 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by aidandj View Post
... I am just curious about suspension internals and what makes a better shock. ...
On the low end of the scale you have construction that consists of a stack of washers in a tube of foamy oil, squishing it around fairly randomly. The resultant PVP curves are linear or even progressive, have massive hysteresis, poor thermal control, and leak quickly. The butt-dyno notices a chassis that handles sloppy and rides harsh. They're inexpensive because they use sloppy construction, cheap parts, and not matched amongst sets. Think Megan, BC, almost anything <$1k for a whole set, including springs and hats. Cheap, and you pay for it.

On the high end of passive dampers you have fairly proprietary flow control valves that are engineered to have specific dynamics depending on damper velocity. The oil is pressurized, usually via a bladder with separated nitrogen so the synthetic oil doesn't foam. The heat dissipation is at least quantified. The resultant curves are digressive, consistent, low stiction, and low hysteresis. They are expensive to build because they're high tolerance and require professional technicians. A great example of how expensive it is to do great passives is to take a look at Penske's regressive valve. Just the valve is $360. You still have to buy the bodies, adjusters, shaft, and fittings before even thinking about adding springs. Stuff like that can easily cost you $2k per corner. The butt-dyno will easily demonstrate luscious ride quality yet incredibly confident directional chassis control. They ride better and handle better than almost all other passives, and you pay for it.

Going even further, there are highly specialized damper designs, like Multimatic DSSV dynamic spool valve, HVT's active controlled damper, Tenneco Kinetic hydraulic linking, and even kinda old stuff like Delphi's magnetorheological fluid dampers used on Corvette, Cadillac, and Ferrari, et al. Obviously none of these are cheap, nor inexpensive, yet they bring the chassis control game to the next level, being virtually instantly reactive, or even proactive. Want to increase outboard compression strength as you turn-in, while reducing inboard compression strength to absorb those nasty rough curbs while you clip the apex? No problem, just a few keystrokes away.

I hope that helps.
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Old 11-18-2014, 04:13 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aidandj View Post
Thanks for the response, is it because of the low volume? Or different parts. Like what if Mazda had built a shock like the Xidas as OE for the Miata. By producing them at that volume would they be a lot cheaper? Or is it just that the materials and tooling is just more expensive.
[snip]
Both. Lower quantity, AND to a greater extent, better quality components and materials and more advanced finishing techniques.

Yes. They likely would be less expensive to manufacture as all the numerous factors listed above are amortized over a higher production number.

BUT by how much? is another question. Likely not by large amount. My guess is maybe 5% over what Emilio has been able to gloriously provide. Downside they would likely market it as a "super baller sport package" and charge you hand over fist more.
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Old 11-18-2014, 04:14 PM   #10
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Love the info, thanks a bunch guys.
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Old 11-18-2014, 04:39 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Ryephile View Post
They're inexpensive because they use sloppy construction, cheap parts, and not matched amongst sets.
This is another great point. Think about flow matching injectors. If you have a single cylinder engine, and your injector is off by 1% what do you do? Adjust your req_fuel by 1%. Not so easy when you have 4 of them that have to work well together.

A well trained driver can notice a 1% difference between damper dynamics left to right. Tight tolerances on damper curves cause tight tolerances on all the parts within the damper, and drive up cost. I'm sure that the more high end damper companies test their dampers more and more, if not several times per damper in different conditions to confirm quality. A Bilstein or Koni likely has a standard valve code they crank out, and check maybe 1 out of 1000 or so.
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Old 11-18-2014, 08:10 PM   #12
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As I look back to the aftermarket rear shock on my Suzuki TL1000S ($800) or the Fox DRCV rear shock off my mountain bike ($600+) currently sitting on my desk awaiting a proprietary air seal, I wonder at how cheap good Miata suspension is.
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Old 11-24-2014, 03:27 AM   #13
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A cheap shock will have a steel tube, welded top cap and an outer for a spring perch. This makes it unserviceable and heavy. Typically also the piston will be peened onto the damper rod and there is probably only a simple shim stack, if any. And the whole lot will be unpressurised.

As you spend more money, first the shim stack starts getting more complex, and the piston larger diameter, allowing for a more detailed damper curve, then its line ball whether people start moving to aluminium construction or holding gas pressure, then after that you're looking at monotube construction which is better for cooling as well as allowing a bigger piston.

Finally shocks generally get a remote reservoir.

The larger piston means that you get less pressure drop across the piston for a given damping force, which reduces the oil heating generally and decreases the risk of cooking oil in the orifice,

The more detailed piston and shim stack allows the shims to be designed to open more progressively at low speeds and still open in such a way as to reduce flow restriction at high damping speeds,

The gas pressurisation increases the boiling point of the oil, and also effectively increases the surface tension preventing foaming. A remote reservoir helps this even more and the shock can then be oriented in any direction because the gas is not in the same cavity as the piston.

Obviously, not welding on the top cap or piston means that you can replace both allowing for adjustability and rebuildability.

And finally, moving to machined aluminium monotube construction means that you both get more effective cooling, because air is flowing over the tube containing the oil and also get to have a lighter overall shock because you just machine the threads for the spring seat into the outer of the shock body when you machine it.

The really expensive steps are usually things like going to a machined body and making the system rebuildable, because they require far more machine time and more assembly than just peening the piston on or welding the top cap on.

I think thats everything...
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Old 11-24-2014, 08:56 AM   #14
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Darn fine noob post!
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Old 11-24-2014, 10:06 AM   #15
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The price of raw material/parts (stuff not machined in-house) for my kit was about 50% of the retail cost, for dampers of the $2.5k range for 1way adjustable with sales of about 2 kits per year.

Low volume plays a big part in the cost, and if development is very specific to your needs you often buy into very specialized support (where invoices seldom get sent, even for hour upon hour of phone calls).

Once you have experienced personalized development/support, getting general kits in bright colors from "Asia" seems less attractive, even if the cost looks like 1/3.
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Old 11-24-2014, 12:56 PM   #16
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Just buy Xidas and don't look back. A year later you'll be much happier.
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Old 11-25-2014, 11:26 AM   #17
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I think the Techna would be a good example of a high profit margin percentage. Just throwing random BS numbers out there. Emilio might have spent 20k developing the coilovers between Hanchey, testing, labor, etc. the whole setup might only cost him $400, so the profit potential is very high. A customer could replicate the setup for 20,400 or pay 949 $750. Win win for everyone. You're paying the markup for his valving, lengths, spring rates, testing. Seems like a good bargain to me.
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Old 11-26-2014, 09:16 PM   #18
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Just buy Xidas and don't look back. A year later you'll be much happier.
+1
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Old 11-29-2014, 01:35 PM   #19
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I'm guessing that Bilstein sells more tons shocks a year than HVT. They can spread their costs over a larger base.
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Old 11-29-2014, 10:29 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hornetball View Post
Just buy Xidas and don't look back. A year later you'll be much happier.
just took this advice and finally bit the bullet. now the anxious waiting came shall commence.
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