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MSD, Mallory, or Both?
You know your brand has self-actualized when it's used to generically
define an entire product category. MSD, the leader in capacitive discharge
ignitions, has realized much success with their 6A and 6AL ignition
boxes. So much success, that both Crane Cams and Mallory followed suit by using nearly identical MSD naming conventions to define their own lines of competing boxes, the Mallory HyFire VI-A and the
Crane Cams HI-6.

Competition between the two red boxes, MSD and Mallory, can be fierce at times and it's safe to say that the MSD brand is a bit stronger than Mallory's in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts, we see that message resonate in the FordMuscle forums routinely.

To complicate the MSD vs. Mallory battle, both MSD and Mallory appear to now be private labeling product for Summit. The emphasis here is on the word "appear" because as we mentioned, when a private labeling deal is struck, both the name brand manufacturer(s) and the retailer tend to be discrete about letting the word out in order to protect the retailer's own brand building efforts. Despite this fact, on two occasions during our research for this article, Summit sales reps quietly mentioned that Mallory makes all Summit's ignition boxes. However, during our own in store visits at Summit, we couldn't ignore the convincing similarities between the ignitions under Summit Racing Equipment private label and those from MSD, NOT Mallory. So, we bought an MSD-6AL and Summit's low price private label alternative, PN SUM-850610.

Before reviewing the pictures below, consider the extent Summit is going to in order to make ignition boxes manufactured by someone else, appear to be their own from the tech support all the way to the graphically intense retail floor style packaging.

The similarities between the MSD-6AL and Summit's 850610 are striking from the exterior packaging alone. While there are 1000's of box styles to choose from when designing a retail package, the Summit and the MSD are packaged in identical boxes.
Pop the boxes open and we see the gear is even loaded in the same fashion.

There are enough identical pieces in the two different hardware packs to know these kits are assembled in the same facility.
The line art show on the underside of each ignition box was clearly drawn by the same artist.

Down to typestyles and lingo, the Summit instruction pamphlet is a "knockoff" of MSD's. Essentially, wherever the word "MSD" exists in the original instructions, Summit replaces it with "Summit". Again, the line art is almost identical throughout.

After comparing the Summit and MSD product, you can see that Summit's private label strategy is a bit more sophisticated with ignition boxes than it is with air filters. Obviously by using a unique housing and by private labeling even the instructions, Summit wants to appear to own their ignition products in the mind of the consumer. However, as a potential customer, you might ask yourself these questions: Are all of Summit Racing Equipment's ignition products supplied by MSD? Does Mallory also manufacture private label product or parts for Summit? If so, how do you establish your expectation of quality with regard to the Summit brand when they are using multiple manufacturers to expand their private label ignition product line?

Willing Participants

While it's easy to pick on a retailer that is bent on being a wanna-be manufacturer, we can't forget that many NBMs are obviously willing participants in the private label game. In the 2007 study titled "Should National Brand Manufacturers Produce Private Labels" published in the Journal of Modeling in Management, author Jorge Tarzijan cites this private labeling example...

"The U.S. Company Granatelli Motor Sports manufactures a large variety of performance products such as valve covers, mass air sensors and computer tuners, for the automotive aftermarket. Some Granatelli products are top sellers in their markets. A few years ago, Granatelli began producing private labels in some of its branded categories for companies such as “Summit Racing”. These private label products have been so successful that Granatelli Motor Sports has set up a private label division and is actively seeking this type of business from other retailers."


In conclusion, Summit Racing Equipment's practice of private labeling does benefit you by inciting competition between retailer and manufacturer, ultimately resulting in lower retail prices. Furthermore, when NBMs agree to supply Summit Racing Equipment with private label product, you also win because you have the choice to purchase a premium product at a discounted price, but that's ONLY if you can intelligently determine these relationships pre-purchase. As mentioned, in building their private label brand, Summit Racing Equipment IS NOT interested in marketing the true manufacturers behind their products.

Also, where Summit has been challenged, is in developing a private label brand that creates and maintains a consistent expectation in the mind of the consumer, the goal of any successful name brand manufacturer in the performance aftermarket. By satisfying their expanding list of private label part numbers with low quality knockoffs as well as higher quality name brand products, the Summit Racing Equipment brand can come off as schizophrenic at times.

Going forward, as Summit and similar retailers like JEGS widen their private label reach to pick-off more product categories, be an informed consumer. Ask yourself if your favorite performance aftermarket name brands still carry the weight they used to as you begin seeing more of their name brand products outside their native packaging. Experts argue, that as name brand manufacturers like K&N, Holley, Granatelli, and MSD participate in expanding private labeling programs, the immediate bottom line increase in revenue comes at the expense of cannibalized brands, brands that took decades to develop.
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