While the industry of automotive restoration and building is quite huge, there are very few businesses in the field which are as memorable and successful as West Coast Customs.
The business gained international fame not only for the quality of its mind-blowing restorations and the talent of its crew but also for being featured in worldwide known shows such as “Pimp My Ride” and “Inside West Coast Customs”. However, how did all that become possible, and what are the secrets behind the business’ success?
Stay here as we dig into the real reason behind the story of Ryan Friedlinghaus’ company, how his TV shows began and why they ended, what is going on with West Coast Customs these days, and more about his current projects.
Why Did The Show End?
Besides being a successful businessman, Ryan Friedlinghaus’ career on TV is just as impressive. Nonetheless, while having his business as the focus of internationally known productions such as “Pimp My Ride”, “Inside West Coast Customs” and “Street Customs” was understandably positive for the reputation of his car customization brand, it also impacted his business in not so positive ways.
In a 2022 interview with The Tom Ward Show, Ryan opened up about the struggles of having his company affected by the decisions of TV producers, especially back when “Pimp My Ride” was in its prime. As Ryan affirmed, the customization projects West Coast Customs made in the show followed the demand of TV producers, who wanted impressive cars to take the audiences’ attention, yet these weren’t fit for what his business usually did aesthetically and functionally-wise.
Sensing that his goals were no longer aligned with what “Pimp My Ride” was about, Ryan moved his business to a different location in Corona, California, effectively separating himself from the show and network that way.
Though “Pimp My Ride” continued for two more seasons after West Coast Customs exited the show in 2007, as ratings dropped it wasn’t renewed after the sixth season. Whether the decrease in viewers was caused by the then-new format of the show or other reasons is up to debate, but there’s no doubt that West Coast Customs played a huge part in the show’s initial success.
What Is Ryan Doing Now?
Even if West Coast Customs’ separation from “Pimp My Ride” wasn’t a smooth one, it’s impressive to see how many projects Ryan Friedlinghaus has been working on since the show’s end. From 2008 onwards he worked on several TV productions such as “Street Customs” and its international spin-offs, on top of starring in the long-running “Inside West Coast Customs”, having his business change its California locations a couple of times throughout the years, starting a couple of international West Coast Customs shops and even making huge deals with big brands.
With such an impressive record of winning business moves under his name, Ryan’s current goal is to guide others through their own path to success. That’s why in 2022 he and the Burbank Unified School District joined to start West Coast Customs Academy, which looks to encourage kids to start a career in the trades by focusing on non-text-books knowledge but on getting their hands dirty with real projects: ‘There are no new kids who want to come into this industry and build with their hands. So, that’s my passion. That’s what I’m looking to change,’ as Ryan told The Tom Ward Show.
By introducing new generations to the automotive path, Ryan also wants to become a mentor for others, something he didn’t have back when he started, but which could surely have made his way easier.
What Happened To The International Franchises?
One good thing about TV fame is that it allowed West Coast Customs to open a variety of franchises around the world, even though some of these weren’t as successful as expected.
The first these franchises was based in Dubai, where it was operated by a local company from 2007 to 2017, making it the longest-running and most successful non-US-based franchise of West Coast Customs to date.
The second franchise was opened in 2008 in Berlin, Germany, and was featured in detail in the one-season-long “Street Customs Berlin” spin-off, in which Ryan Friedlinghaus also appeared. Though this shop was successful for a while, it closed its doors in 2009.
Also in 2009, a Mexican franchise of West Coast Customs was started by Friedlinghaus’ former employee Mauricio Hernandez. The customizations done in his new shop were featured in detail in the local TV show version of “Pimp My Ride”, but the company later changed its brand’s name, to separate itself from the US franchise.
Other West Coast Customs franchises were announced to be opened around the world in locations such as China, Japan, Malaysia and Russia. However, out of these only the Chinese-based one was ever opened, as the other ones were left as just announcements.
Regarding the seeming failure of his international shops, in 2022 Friedlinghaus affirmed that international customers weren’t interested in seeing West Coast Customs being managed by locals, but US-based employees in it, which wasn’t the case of any of the franchises.
Was The Business Sued?
West Coast Customs has had its fair share of legal issues, but the most remembered one had nothing to do with lawsuits, and was instead about the work conditions of the company’s employees.
While a glimpse of the demanding work schedules in the shop was evident in “Pimp My Ride”, that didn’t become a concern until the late 2000s when several former employees affirmed that the company didn’t offer social security benefits, had underpaid wages for overtime work, on top of accusing them of hiring undocumented immigrants. All of this resulted in an investigation led by the US Department of Labor, which identified that West Coast Customs failed to comply with the Fair Labor Standard Act, finding out that the company also pushed its workers to work up to 12 hours a day, but failed to fairly pay for extra hours, only providing weekly salaries for everyone while falsely classifying them as independent contractors.
Due to the many issues found in the company, in 2014 West Coast Customs paid almost $17,000 in penalties and an extra $160,000 in fines for the unpaid wages of its former employees. Furthermore, the business was pushed to comply with the US standards for working conditions, and has kept it that way ever since.
Though West Coast Customs became famous for the extravagant and over-the-top car customizations featured in “Pimp My Ride”, that also meant that not everyone was happy about the shop’s work.
As reported by The Huffington Post in 2015, several former contestants from the show claimed that the work done by Friedlinghaus’ crew wasn’t as impressive in real life as it looked on TV, referring to mechanical issues, malfunctioning devices, and useless flashy artifacts as some of the most usual problems found in the cars delivered by the shop.
Big Happy Birthday to… The CEO, The Founder, The General… The man who makes everything happen… Ryan Friedlinghaus!…
While it’s somewhat expected from a reality car-centered TV show to show off lavish customizations for the sake of impressing viewers, more controversies about the quality of West Coast Customs’ work have resurfaced, even after “Pimp My Ride”s end. That includes when in 2012, the video-game developer Red 5 Studios claimed the shop had failed to deliver a customized truck on time, and accused them of going against their agreed design.
Later in 2015, internet personality Trisha Paytas claimed that the company failed to comply with the established deadline to customize her Mercedes-Benz, along with delivering the car with malfunctioning devices in it. A similar case was brought up in 2020, when professional football player Malik Jackson sued West Coast Customs over breach of contract for over-charging him for two cars he commissioned the shop to customize.
What’s In The Future For The Shop?
Between lawsuits, public controversies, and having their reputation put in doubt thanks to their TV shows, West Coast Customs has had its share of not-so-positive times in the last two decades.
Nevertheless, not only is the company not over yet, but it has lots of projects for the future. On one hand, the shop’s online presence has expanded hugely in recent years, having its official YouTube channel reach almost a million subscribers to date. Their content on the video-sharing platform is everything which old fans of “Street Customs” and its follow-up show “Inside West Coast Customs” surely appreciate, as it showcases both old episodes of these two series and other exclusive content about the shop’s current activities.
— West Coast Customs (@officialwcc) February 23, 2016
Besides the fact that Ryan is actively looking to expand his brand to education with the start of West Coast Customs Academy, he’s also keen on keeping his company alive, not only as a business but as a staple of car customization culture. As he told Tom Ward in 2022: ‘I want this to be Disneyland for car people. When you come here it’s an experience from when you walk in the door to when you leave.’
Of course, building the business of his dreams took Ryan at least three decades, but it’s been worth the effort. Nowadays, not only is West Coast Customs known all around the world, but Ryan Friedlinghaus is also equally well known.