We’re hearing complaints that Moto Guzzi USA’s entire stock of these filters was purchased by a single dealer, who is now selling them for more than the suggested retail price of $13.08. Upon investigation, this seems to be true.
What do I have to say about this? Smart going! Capitalism is, after all, based on supply and demand. And really, you’re paying far more in excess of a cost-based price for a tank of gas for your 1400 than for its oil filter right now. And what exactly does retail or list price mean anyway? Is it simply whatever is established by Moto Guzzi USA? Well, that’s not as fair as you may think. You see, there’s a pretty universal industry standard dealer margin for inexpensive parts and this filter’s price doesn’t measure up. But neither do a lot of parts through Piaggio Group Americas (PGA). I’ve pleaded with them to fix the margins and I’ve gotten them to agree to do it, but months have passed and the promise remains unfulfilled. Am I greedy? I don’t think so, and after all, you don’t see a lot of Guzzi dealers building palaces to compete with Harley-Davidson dealers, now do you?
Want an admittedly extreme – but not rare – example of a skinny dealer margin? A certain part had its price drop from $698 to $124. Really! What do you do if you’re a dealer and had one on the shelf at the old price?!?! And not only did the retail price drop 82% but the dealer margin percent shrank by 80%! So now a dealer is supposed to invest $112 and pay people to stock and sell it, all in the hopes of making $12.45. Why would anyone make such a poor investment and who the heck is PGA to dictate prices like these? If they want parts sold cheap they should cut their price, not the price of others. Sure, you can say as they have that dealers don’t have to sell for PGA’s suggested retail price (amazing hypocrisy!). But when their suggested price is ridiculous, dealers are left to suffer, or make up their own prices, and if the latter happens, there are sure to be variations and we all wind up looking like a bunch of cheaters. On the other hand, if PGA establishes fair prices, there’s a better chance we’ll all stick to them and customers will therefore experience more consistent pricing. I just gotta give you one more example to drive the point home: a 35mm fork seal for various Guzzis from the ‘70s & ‘80s used to sell for $15.86 each. We would chase all the way to Europe to buy them so we could offer them for $8.95 each. Now PGA suggests a retail price of $1.26 with a skinny dealer margin. Is it any wonder you hear customers complain that their local dealer doesn’t stock a lot of parts? Why would they?!?!
And how about the issue of PGA letting one dealer buy all the filters? Well, what is PGA in business to do? Why, sell stuff! And I’ll bet their web-based ordering system has no human oversight monitoring every order, nor do I think it should. A dealer places an order, a contracted warehouse ships it, and a computer automatically bills the dealer. If a dealer orders all PGA has of purple widget part number XYZ , all the better.
Now I’d call Guzzi dealers and owners pretty resourceful people, and as such, several substitute oil filters were quickly identified. The first I heard of was the so-called Shiver filter, as used on the Aprilia Shiver, Dorsoduro 750, and Mana. But it has 8 flats on it and is a little prone to a cup wrench slipping. This isn’t a problem in its intended applications, as the filter is completely exposed and can easily be spun with channel locks or an oil filter strap wrench. But on the 1400, the filter is positioned in a fairly tight-fitting recess, so this is not a good plan. I’d strongly suggest shying away from any 8-sided filter. Also, the Shiver has an anti drain-back feature because the filter mounts sideways. This is probably just superfluous but it does bring up the subject of filters having different characteristics for specific applications, and how can you tell which is OK to use and which is not? There’s potentially more to it than simply that it fits, doesn’t leak, and the bike runs.
Guzzi’s filter for the 1200s has been used successfully but it’s a lot taller. One could argue that it’s not really important that it hangs below the engine as the frame hangs even lower. At least sticking out so far we don’t have to worry about the cup wrench slipping!
The 1400’s actual oil filter has 12 sharp-cornered notches, making its cup wrench noticeably more secure than the Shiver’s or 1200’s. The only other Piaggio filter that we see that shares this feature is the one for the 500 scooters. It also shares basic dimensions, mounting position (up from the bottom), and a tight-fitting receptacle with the 1400s. It doesn’t quite look the same inside, but then again, neither do filters from the same manufacturer sometimes, one batch to the next.
I like to say that the true showing of character is not what happens to you but instead what you do about it. So when PGA got bought out, did they fly over a batch of 1400 filters from Italy to supply their dealers when fresh new customers were coming in for their first services? Are you kidding? They aren’t really losing many filter sales so why spend the extra money? And did PGA quickly get approval from Italy of one of several possible substitute filters? Heck no; that would require sticking their neck out and also possible product liability.
So truly, I do believe that everyone acted just as expected. So what to do? Well, I know of 1400s running around with 500 & 1200 filters on them. And it’s really no big expense to simply pay the going price. Also, PGA promises more filters in stock June 7th.