Does Tuning have a Future?

An interview with horsepower pro Jean Pierre Kraemer

Heartbeat spoke with the tuning specialist and head of a loyal fan club of more than 280,000 YouTubers in the BMW branch showroom of his hometown of Dortmund about his opinions on autos, the fun of tuning and how he came to television.

Most Germans know him from the popular Sport1 series “Die PS-Profis—Mehr Power aus dem Pott”, (literally: “The Horsepower Pros—More Power from the Ruhr”). Since 2014, he’s been on the “Road to 95”. In a recent series of videos, he has documented the effort necessary to bring CO2 emissions for new cars down to 95 grams per kilometre by the year 2020.

// What do autos mean to you?

That has changed over the years. As an 18-year-old, autos were everything to me, but it was a dream that seemed difficult to reach. I even sometimes came here with the tram in order to look at autos. Now that I’m 34, I’m in this scene and I’m also proud that my name is almost synonymous with the word “auto” for many people in Germany, but I look at the whole thing in a fundamentally more relaxed way.

// With such a large number of fans, is it even still possible to keep track, given all the comments you get there?

I’m always the amusing, funny fellow, but I observe everything. I observe absolutely everything, every reaction. I try to read as much as possible under the videos in order to find out what people want to see and file that away completely unconsciously in my mind and react to what they write 100%. And I think everyone watches YouTube by now. For instance, we have an incredibly high percentage of women viewers and also a high share of 60–65-year-old men.

// Are the YouTubers also your tuning customers?

No, my circle of customers is substantially smaller, but when you are a car enthusiast, then I think you also want to have some understanding of every technical detail. The customers who come to me are people who trust what I say, who think: “Yes, he explains that well to me, I actually understand what I should buy based on what he’s told me”—and that’s the reason why I believe many customers come to me.

// And what about ecology? The tuner tribe doesn’t really care much about petrol consumption, does it?

Believe it or not, I personally play a new game every day of getting down to the lowest petrol consumption. But that’s because I’ve had enough. I’ve been a motorsport driver for some years and have absolutely no interest in putting my pedal to the metal out on the road. Very few people realise it, but I’m actually more a “right lane—100 km/h” type of fellow. I also cycle a lot, especially within a 5-km radius. I often take my bike on these routes when the sun is shining.

// And what is the special feeling you get when tuning?

For me, it’s all about improvement. I think that the auto industry does a very good job at everything, no matter what it does. For me, it’s really about improving an auto even further, whether it be the driving, the performance or the sound—it needs to be really better!

(Kopie 4)

// Let’s think about your “Road to 95” series. When we arrive at 95 g CO2 in 2020, won’t the fun of tuning be over at some point?

Yes, we’re currently in a phase where we’re squeezing the highest efficiency out of the fuel. I believe that’s the biggest shift that the tuning scene has witnessed. We’re right in the middle of it and it means turbo technology—supercharging technology or e-compressors—that just really tries to boost efficiency as high as possible. That’s also what tuning is all about.

// Would you say the tuning scene has a future?

Yes, but not as it is now. It will change radically within the next 10 years because it will become electric.

// Can you adjust and calibrate as much there as you can with combustion engines?

I hope that I can, but it won’t be easy. For example, we’re working on BMW i8, we also have a very close relationship with Tesla, we experiment and we’re also always gathering knowledge because many tuners who aren’t doing anything in that direction at all are going to experience a very cold awakening. That means that they’ll have to learn a great deal in a very short time.

// But having one’s auto tuned certainly isn’t exactly cheap?

I’m not a tuner who targets certain groups of buyers. We are just as willing to convert the Golf 2. For me, it’s all about improvement. The potential for improving an M4 is of course smaller than that of a Golf 4. The important thing is that one finds the right mix between price and performance for the tuning that one does.

// So, 12 hp for €3,000?

Yes, that’s how it really is sometimes. And then the lads want to persuade me that that really achieves anything at all. They have this performance diagram in the glovebox and they say to themselves: “Wow, now I’ve spent €3,000 for 12 hp” and they kid themselves into believing: “Hey, that works a lot better”. For a vehicle weighing 1,500 kg, 12 hp is NOT noticeable, full stop! But an electronic control unit for a turbocharged vehicle with a baseline performance of 220 hp can, for example, boost this up to 300 hp at a cost of only €700. That’s something you can really notice. I therefore look very closely at what I recommend to people.

// You are now somebody who travels worldwide and who is a world citizen due to your upbringing. Is tuning more of a European phenomenon?

We have no idea here about what tuning can mean. Because of the German TÜV, we are the ones who alter our vehicles the least. Every country has different philosophies and different approaches. I also want to talk even more about that soon on YouTube by having us start to travel and show the folks in Germany how Russians, how people in Dubai, in Japan, China or America want to have their cars.

// Were you always somebody who liked to explain things to people?

There’s a really wonderful story from my schooldays: I did my A levels in the completely normal way and then did an apprenticeship at Porsche to become an automobile salesman. And back then I read a great deal and was occupied very much with technology. And then I would always tell my vocational school teacher how things worked. And then at one point he said: “Jean Pierre, you’ll never amount to anything!” And the funny thing is, whenever I meet my schoolmates from that time someplace, they always call out: “You’ll never amount to anything!”.

How does one get into television?

Got up one morning and the telephone rang: we're looking for somebody with a very fast car for our program "GRIP". Do you have one? JP: I do. Did the film shooting, talked a lot (the car was almost too fast). Got a call the next morning from the head of FocusTV: Are you Mr Kraemer and would you like to do a television show for us? JP answers: No! Things went on like this for another year until he changed his mind. The rest is history.