5 Things Fanatec Are Taking Too Long To Do (And Allowing The Competition To Grow)
I think It’s fair to say that as competition increases, customer loyalty becomes harder to keep. Back in 2020 when I experienced my own sim racing revival after buying my first bit of Fanatec kit, they had the place kinda to themselves with few serious threats. Now the landscape looks very different. Competitors are approaching from all directions and trying all the door handles to get in and in some areas they are definitely succeeding. Even my eyes are starting to wander.
Whilst this is a critical commentary and I hope you nod your head in agreement with the things I list, I really want to see Fanatec thriving and continuing to set the trend. I’m a contented Fanatec customer but I’m not blind to the surroundings, if I’m thinking the following then others might be too.
Here are the top 5 things I think Fanatec needs to sort out.
Number 1 - Get some Podium Pedals out. For years now, the best pedals you can buy from Fanatec are the Clubsport Pedals. Fanatec basically has 3 product lines or tiers - the CSL line is the least expensive option, Clubsports are the mid range option and Podium is the premium line. There are CSL pedals and Clubsport pedals, but the baffling lack of a proper Podium pedal set has led to other brands stepping in and taking the business instead.
I myself now use the iconic Heusinkveld Sprint pedals specifically because Fanatec didn’t have anything higher for me to buy at the time, and I won’t be the only one. The Clubsport pedals are great - don’t get me wrong - but the appetite for premium boutique pedals has been high for a long time and yet Fanatec still hasn’t put a hat in the ring. The competition is probably only too happy that it’s taking them a while, and although Podium pedals are apparently in development, even if they’re released tomorrow by all accounts it’s just took too long.
Number 2 - Get the new QR2 quick release system out. The current quick release system is becoming a thorn in the side because it’s long overdue for improvement. This one can’t even be blamed on the global chip shortage either, it’s an entirely mechanical exercise.
Although the vast majority of folks likely have nothing to report and are fine, I see enough people posting online with videos and complaints about clunks and rattles caused by the current quick release system that you could reasonably point to it being one of the main reasons why someone might be put off buying Fanatec.
This may be highly anecdotal with statistical biases caused by the sheer volume of Fanatec systems out there, but every time someone posts about their wheels clunking, rattling and even snapping clean off in the case of the plastic QR lite, that is being seen by a lot of people and it perpetuates.
A new QR system, QR2, was known to be in the works over a year ago but there’s been scant news about it since, or I haven’t seen it at least. My point is that people don’t usually look elsewhere unless you give them a reason to. Currently, the proprietary Fanatec QR system is at a disadvantage in comparison to most competing QR systems employed elsewhere.
Number 3 - Release stuff in a reasonable timeframe. The Bentley wheel was introduced to the world in Jun 2021 - that’s a year ago. Fanatec made a lovely web page for it and everything, people had wallets out ready.
In the same breath, the new QR2 quick release system I just said was badly needed was also shown, breathing more hope that we might see that soon, too. Fanatec currently has the luxury of generating attention and hype when they so much as lift a finger, they have a large fanbase that includes me, the power to draw attention is fragile, you’ve got to deliver on it when you summon it or people lose interest and the crowds disperse. If you stand up in the middle of a busy restaurant and tap your glass to get everyone looking your way, you’d better have something worth saying or they’re not going to listen to you next time.
Thing is, Fanatec knows how to do it right, they pulled the mother of all blinders with the CSL DD. They initially disguised as an April fools joke, announced it for real later that same month and pre-orders opened in June 2 months later whilst it was still a red hot topic with no chance for the competition to react. THAT’s how it done - imagine if a whole year had passed and it still wasn’t on sale?
Number 4 - Boost the support helpdesk. I said earlier that folks don’t usually look elsewhere unless you give them a reason to - a portion of customers who have dealt with slow or unsatisfactory service inevitably look online to vent about it to the rest of the internet - those that do are already lost, but the problem is that they may influence the sentiment of many others.
Judging by what I see posted, the support seemingly varies in quality and speed from region to region. I’ve had one experience with Fanatec support in Europe over my shifter which was totally fine, but I’ve seen a fair share of disgruntled folk talk about very slow responses, or sending their equipment back to their Fanatec regional repair department multiple times without success and it’s still no good when they get it back.
Like I say, it doesn’t even matter if this is anecdotal evidence or skewed by frequency bias, rightly or wrongly if I can stumble upon people’s troubled tales whilst strolling through social pages and come to this conclusion then others might, too.
Number 5 - Make stuff people want to buy. This is maybe the most subjective opinion based point, but again, I’m a potential customer and I’m sharing with you what I would like to buy, just like the podium pedals example earlier.
How many people wanted a 1500 euro BMW M4 GT3 wheel that is literally the real deal and works with the actual car? Probably not that many. It’s a cool proof of concept and a great achievement but ultimately only a minority of people will actually buy it, and it must have been quite a draw on manpower.
Now think about how many people would have bought a 300 euro BMW M4 GT3 wheel that was just a replica the same way that the immensely popular Mclaren GT3 wheel was? Loads, I would bet. I would, and I don’t even like the M4 GT3, but replica wheels are desirable and the Mclaren wheel is a shining example of that.
Think about this, too - Fanatec is a title sponsor of the real life World GT Challenge. Fanatec is also one of the most prominent sponsors within Assetto Corsa Competizione, the official World GT game. Where are all the replica GT3 wheels, then? How has it come to pass that you can’t now buy a replica Porsche GT3 wheel for example? Or an up to date Mclaren wheel? Bentley wheel? Aston wheel?
I’d understand not having a Ferrari wheel because of the association with Thrustmaster but what about the rest? ACC drivers on the whole tend to specialise in one vehicle, which should be fertile ground for them to want to buy a replica steering wheel of their favourite in-game chariot. I can only conclude that licensing is the issue here.
Again, Fanatec knows how to hit the spot - they did it with the CSL DD. A low cost direct drive wheel was something lots of people wanted to buy that didn’t exist yet. The same would definitely be true for more low cost replica wheels.
With that I conclude my 'armchair board member' presentation. Tell me what you think in the comments over on Youtube. Thanks for reading! Cheers again.