Racer X: What is it that your company, Faction MX, does?
Bill Weppner: We mainly produce valve-train components for four-strokes – things like valves, springs, retainers, and eventually we’ll get into the different cam profiles and things like that. But right now, we’re doing the essential hard parts for four-strokes, and then doing a few other products like silicone hose kits, billet accessories, and more. But primarily we develop the engine components.
And you guys are located in Utah, right?
Yup, in Salt Lake City. We’re a little bit out of the loop of the center of the industry and stuff, but it’s good business here, and we do business all over the country.
With the race coming up this weekend, you must be pretty excited about the supercross being back in town.
Yeah, definitely. I never actually thought it would come back here, but it was definitely a good surprise when I heard it was going to be on the schedule this year. It’s good. It will get the people from the industry in town and we’ll be able to talk more one-on-one.
I hear you have some involvement with the governor there, Jon Huntsman, who is a big-time motocross fan.
It’s cool that the governor of this state is definitely an off-road enthusiast. I know he rides a bit, and he’s into off-road stuff in general. So that was a cool contact to make considering his interest in things like that. So I was able to get in touch with the governor’s office, and we’re basically looking at bringing back some manufacturing to the U.S., especially to the Salt Lake Valley, where we can manufacture engine valves, valve springs and a lot of this kind of stuff. A lot of this isn’t currently made in the U.S. any longer, and the current economy could actually be good for us because it will allow things to come full circle where a few years ago things were outsourced overseas more and stuff. There are a lot of benefits coming around for small businesses to grow, and that’s what we’re trying to take advantage of, with working with the governor to get some grants or some good loans and stuff like that to allow us to really expand and start bringing some of this manufacturing back to the U.S., and back to the Salt Lake Valley.
That sounds a bit like stimulus money.
Yeah, exactly. That’s hopefully what we’re looking to get a little bit of, because the government is supposed to be helping small businesses now, and there’s definitely a lot of money out there coming out of the stimulus package and stuff like that. You just have to kind of push to get it, I guess, and be looking for it.
Have you gotten really involved in the whole bureaucracy of it yet?
Right now, it’s definitely early on. Like I said, the governor, I know, has a unique interest in motorcycles specifically, and my dad has worked with him through some stuff that he was involved in, so he’s got that kind of personal connection, and everybody in the state kind of knows the governor’s hobbies and interests. So, combine those things, and we’ve just kicked off trying to make that work for Faction MX specifically. So hopefully in the next few months we’ll have made some good headway on the way to bringing some of the manufacturing back to the U.S.
What other projects do you guys have going on there?
We’re doing really well with things like our stainless-steel valves because I think people are hanging onto their bikes longer now, which is way positive for us, because they’re looking at what they can do to put a little bit of money into their bike and get an immediate performance and reliability benefit, and that’s what you get with our products. So we’re doing well with maintaining sales with our core components, and we’re looking at some new things, for example, to address the EFI. We’re working on a system that will allow you to pre-load it with maps and ride it without having to go the route everyone’s going right now, where they plug the laptop into the bike, and then plug a battery in, and all that kind of stuff. I think we’ve got some unique ideas with that.
So it’s kind of like the early days of the four-strokes, when people were coming up with decompression levers and hot-start levers, and things like that. EFI brings a new set of issues the aftermarket can address.
Yeah, exactly. Right now, you’ve got to put your laptop on the seat and plug in a battery and all that kind of stuff, or you’ve got to remove the ECU completely and put on an aftermarket one, and we’re working on a different scenario for that where you can do it all from the convenience of your desktop, or your desk with your laptop. You’ll take it off, make the changes, then plug it back into your bike ready to go with a different map loaded.
It’s interesting that the aftermarket benefits a little bit when bike sales slump, and it makes sense since aftermarket parts are generally less expensive than OEM parts.
A lot of people look at the cost of riding four-strokes as an added cost, and if you go to the aftermarket, you’re going to find better performance as well as better prices. The valves we offer definitely cost less than the OEM valves, and it’s the same with kits we have to replace OEM titanium valves with stainless steel – they’ve got valves, springs, retainers, all that – and at an economical pricepoint. And it adds to reliability, adds performance... I think we’re doing something to bring down those costs the people seem to associate with four-strokes, as well as increase performance and value.
What are your plans for the actual Salt Lake City supercross weekend coming up?
Basically, just to go out and watch and have fun, and maybe meet some contacts in the industry. We were actually doing a little work with Yamaha of Troy when Jason Lawrence was on a 250F – we did some custom ti valves for his motor – but unfortunately he didn’t really race the 250F much this year, so far. But we’re also looking at doing some additional stuff for their 450, and it would be good to meet with those guys face-to-face again. We usually only get out to a couple of the California rounds, and then we just have to talk to people over the phone and stuff like that. Basically, I’m just going to go out and get some face time with people and see what we can put together for the year.