Keystone News

The Legend Lives On

Jeep® Is More Than Just A Brand -- It’s A Lifestyle

Seventy-five years and still going strong, we salute an iconic brand that made its debut as a wartime hero and successfully transitioned from battlefield performance to an alluring lifestyle, both on- and off-road. It’s fascinating how something so utilitarian simultaneously represents individuality, empowerment and adventure, evoking a sense of pride and unity among a community of diehard loyalists, while maintaining its exclusive status. All because they’ve managed to sell a lifestyle, not a product.

Few execute at the level of Jeep® and even fewer brands balance a global impact with social responsibility. The current tag line -- “We Don’t Make Jeep®. You Do” -- is a humbling nod to loyalists around the world, because anything is possible behind the wheel of a Jeep®.

Jeep® has succeeded both quantitatively and qualitatively, from global brand recognition to impressive unit sales and more. In 2015, Fiat Chrysler reported a record-breaking year. Not only were annual sales up seven percent, marking the sixth consecutive year of growth, but Jeep models also increased 42 percent collectively, experienced unprecedented sales in the U.S., and had its best December to date.

Jeep® steamrolled into 2016 and drove FCA profits during the first quarter. An impressive 15 percent year-over-year sales gain marked 72-plus months in an upward trajectory, with Wrangler continuing to lead the way. Yet, the sales are merely a profitable byproduct of an even bigger feat. Jeep® has evolved into an international phenomenon with significant influence over consumer demand, touting a rugged appeal that transcends societal demographics.

What makes the Jeep® such a commanding consumer purchase? In part, its ability to attract everyone from mainstream consumers and general car enthusiasts to outdoor lifestylers and hardcore rock crawlers, commented industry veteran George Lathouris, Keystone’s director of U.S. sales. “Until 2007,”said Corby Phillips, Warn Industries’ national sales manager, “we were accustomed to the 2-door sport utility of Jeep®s of the past,” which had a more limited consumer base. “With the release of the JK 4-door, it appealed to a whole new buyer,” he added. “You now see more women than ever piloting their own JK and jumping into the lifestyle. The new Jeep® platform offers extra space and convenience, and truly marks a new era for the brand.”

For an insider look at the current ins and outs of the Jeep® market, Keystone, the leading and largest wholesale distributor of aftermarket parts in North America, teamed up with some of its customers, sales associates and accessory manufacturers.

Why Jeep®?Jeeping ni Moab

Racecar aficionado Enzo Ferrari once said, "Jeep® is America's only real sports car." It’s true, kind of. Synonymous with freedom, the Jeep® brand is an experience, an adventure. It offers enthusiasts a similar thrill in a top-back, doors-off, monster-truck tires sort of way, but is exhilarating nonetheless. “Jeep®s are a fun vehicle to drive, plain and simple. It’s a vehicle that’s easily accessible to consumers, and it’s a highly customizable option that truly offers something for everyone, whether someone is building it to tackle Moab trails or just wants to take the doors off, add a bikini top and cruise,” said Ryan Osborne, off-road enthusiast and Keystone sales associate in Greensboro, NC. There are no limitations to its appeal, and that alone spells cash for retailers and restylers.

Ricky Artes, owner of Jeepers Den, Orlando, Florida, has been living the Jeep® lifestyle since 1995 and transformed his hobby into a business venture in 2003. The rest is history. Jeepers Den is booked solid for months at a time and experiences double-digit growth every year. While it’s a Jeep® specialty shop, Artes and his team can fix or customize any vehicle. “We believe in doing business the right way. We’re honest, provide great customer service, treat people kindly, and build awesome Jeeps,” said Artes.

Why Diversify?

There are very few shops that operate within a silo anymore. Modern means smart diversification to increase inventory margins and bolster profit potential. Archie’s Off Road & Performance Center in Wells, ME, has been thriving for 34 years. The company quickly learned the benefits of diversification during the 2008 economic downturn, rounding out its offerings in retail, enhancing installation capabilities and taking advantage of market trends, such as the steady and reliable Jeep business. “The Jeep® market has grown tremendously, and we don't see it changing any time soon, as Jeep® is the number-one accessorized vehicle in the market,” said owners Archie and Julie Stevens. “They have done a great job continuously reinventing the brand to appeal to a wide variety of consumers. You can have a hardcore off-road Jeep®, one that dominates at the drag strip, appeals to a pavement princess, rides at the beach or pleases a soccer Mom.”

What’s Hot?

Rapto Worx HandlesHow many products and at what cost to build a rig that can withstand the assault of harsh landscapes? Accessorizing a Jeep® doesn’t need to be a tug of war between quantity versus quality. “The brands and products continue to evolve, but the main, core focus of the Jeep® market remains the same,” said Rhonda Pilto, a West Coast-based Keystone sales associate. And this consistency offers retailers and restylers a level of stability when investing in inventory.

Keystone offers its customers access to hundreds of aftermarket manufacturers that produce quality products at an affordable price point and for those who want the premium treatment, well, they have that too!

Archie’s Off Road purchases plenty of JKS, Fab Fours, Pro Comp, ReadyLIFT, Mickey Thompson, Toyo, Super Swampers, Skyjacker, Smittybilt, WARN, Crown Automotive, Hypertech, Superchips, Edge, Magnaflow, MBRP, K&N and aFe from Keystone. Jeepers Den kicks out its fair sharBestop Sunrider Tope of TeraFlex, Factor 55, Rancho, BOLT high-lift mounts and fender flares of various brands. “Lifts, wheels, tires, bumpers and LED lighting continue to drive Jeep® aftermarket sales for my customers in the Upper Plains region,” said Jeff Grega, a Keystone sales associate with experience in the Northeast and Midwest regions. “But one of my favorite new products is the Bestop Sunrider, which is an all-weather replacement for bulky freedom panels on factory hardtops.”

Keystone’s Osborne agreed that Bestop’s new product is a game changer. “We anticipate this to be a hot seller in the Southeast areas, states that see sunny weather most times, but benefit from having a hard top (during) some poor conditions throughout the year.” In Texas, it’s go big or go home. “Texas continues to knock out the 3.5-inch lift and 35-inch tire option as its go-to, or adding flat fender flares to get even larger tires stuffed under their rigs,” said Erich Ross, Texas-based Keystone sales manager. “LED headlight replacements are still very popular as well, and I think Jeep® owners are always looking for new and innovative ways to carry bicycles, kayaks, etc. to promote their outdoor lifestyle, so cargo-management options are important, too.”

So how do aftermarket manufacturers produce game-changing products year after year? “Rugged Ridge is always in motion to remain successful,” said Northeast Sales Manager Ray Weaver. “Everyone from marketing to engineering contributes and everyone shares in the company’s success. We’re not afraid to try new things and if something isn’t working, we’re not afraid to change course either. Our new C3 Cargo Cover, Exo-Top and stamped steel bumpers are unique, functional and give the consumers what they want.”

Why Merchandise?

As Jeep® gears up for its 2017-2018 launch, aftermarket manufacturers are ready to pump out even more dynamic product. “New models always represent a sales opportunity and Jeep® will be introducing a redesigned Wrangler soon. Our engineers already are implementing a strategy so that Rugged Ridge can be first to market with several products,” said Weaver. “One nice thing about the Wranglers is they pass through several owners, each wanting to add their own modifications. As a manufacturer, distributor, retailer or restyler, this offers several bites of the apple so to speak,” he added.

Failing to merchandise a showroom properly can result in missed opportunities with new and repeat consumers. Keystone’s Pilto believes in the power of displays, always reminding her customers about the importance of allowing consumers to use their senses to interact with the product they want to purchase.

“Displays sell product! They trigger a consumer response since they can look, touch and judge the quality right in front of them. When consumers shop online or out of a catalog, they have to rely on pictures, descriptions and reviews,” said WARN’s Phillips.

It’s also a perfect opportunity to upsell, he added. “If you’re selling a WARN winch, then merchandise winching accessories near the winch display and help a Jeep® consumer make the most of their purchase. WARN offers a rigging/accessory bag that comes with a snatch block, 2 d-ring shackles, an 8’ tree strap, winching gloves and a 30’ tow strap -- everything they need to get unstuck!”

Jeep® -- An Aftermarket Game Changer

Shop owners and aftermarket manufacturers that continue to engineer, market and sell quality products perpetuate the success of the Jeep® brand. Continue to ensure generation after generation of Jeepers have access to the most innovative aftermarket products, so they can trail blaze an individualized path and explore, pushing boundaries both on- and off-road.

 

Recent Articles

LKQ finalized deal to acquire Warn Industries

Chicago, IL (November 1, 2017) - LKQ Corporation (Nasdaq: LKQ) today announced that it has finalized the acquisition of Warn Industries, Inc. (“Warn”) a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of high performance aftermarket equipment and accessories. Warn was previously owned by Dover Corporation (NYSE: DOV). Warn will be a part of LKQ’s Specialty Segment, Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc. (‘Keystone”)

“Finding new and better ways to serve the needs of our customers is a priority for Keystone. We are excited about the value and capabilities Warn brings to our customer centric approach to service,” said Bill Rogers, Vice President and General Manager of Keystone. “Their leadership position in the market and premium iconic brand give us the ability to drive our long-term strategy of growing share in our core markets and developing viable points of entry into adjacent spaces that show promise.”

Warn offers a broad product line of premium winches, hoists, locking hubs and bumpers and serve specialty retailers and distributors globally. Warn has a long history and reputation of developing the highest quality most technologically advanced products in the industry. The red W logo is omnipresent where rugged dependable products are required. From mountaintops to worksites and deserts to disaster areas, Warn is the product enthusiasts and professionals depend on.

“The team at Warn is very excited to be part of LKQ / Keystone,” said Eric Banks, Warn Vice President of Operations. “Our approach to customers and market opportunities are very similar. We believe that by serving our customers best we serve the needs of the entire supply chain better. They know our market space and have been leaders in it for many years. Being supported by a company that can bring new and critical resources to us means that our customers and all of our channel partners will benefit,” added Banks.

Warn will be run in an autonomous way within LKQ’s Specialty Products Group and maintain its operational presence in Oregon. “It is fantastic to have a very capable management team and experienced workforce in place there. Their infusion of talent to our organization will contribute significantly to all our working groups,” said Kyle Shiminski, Vice President of Keystone’s Specialty Products Group. “Their passion for their products and customers will help ensure that we continue to provide the highest quality products and service experiences people have come to expect,” he concluded.

“The collective team will be focused on maintaining the highest level of customer focus and driving the growth initiatives the organization has already developed,” said Rogers.

About LKQ Corporation
LKQ Corporation (www.lkqcorp.com) is a leading provider of alternative and specialty parts to repair and accessorize automobiles and other vehicles. LKQ has operations in North America, Europe and Taiwan. LKQ offers its customers a broad range of replacement systems, components, equipment and parts to repair and accessorize automobiles, trucks, and recreational and performance vehicles.

About Keystone Automotive Operations
Keystone is the leading distributor and marketer of aftermarket automotive products and services, uniquely positioned to offer customers and suppliers substantial scale, the most comprehensive inventory selection in the industry, high levels of customer service, and innovative marketing support. Keystone is committed to expanding its offerings to meet the ever-growing needs of its customer base, providing them what they need, when they need it most.

Keystone Automotive Operations Showcases Parts VIA at SEMA

EXETER, PA (October 23, 1017) – Parts Via is a new jobber friendly eCommerce solution developed by Keystone Automotive Operations that connects brands, through a unique network, to retail outlets and consumers. It is a web-based solution which creates a seamless transaction environment built over a supply chain network and infrastructure that can deliver anything from light bulbs and exhaust systems to tow bars and truck bed products to just about anywhere in North America next day.

According to Eric Fairchild, at Keystone. “Parts Via gives consumers the convenience of purchasing authentic branded products online with the choice to have them shipped to one of Keystone’s many qualified network retailers and installers. Parts Via provides consumers with unparalleled access to local services, technical expertise and installation support that traditional online purchases do not provide.”

Parts Via creates a strategic alliance between brands, retail outlets and consumers using Keystone’s technology, inventory, warehouses and fleet to enhance the shopping experience for consumers while growing sales for the Parts Via partner and dealer network. It enables and helps businesses capture sales where and how consumers shop in the fastest growing sales channel, always pulling the local retail outlet into the transaction.

“How we make it work is simple,” says Fairchild. “A consumer purchases an authentic branded product from their favorite branded website. We give them the choice to ship their purchase to their home or pick it up at a local network dealer’s location, gaining access to installation and service.” In either case the local establishment participates.

Keystone’s supplier partner’s website serves as the point of consumer engagement and Parts Via coordinates efforts to secure the sale and channel post-transaction activity (pick up in store and installation) with local merchants (network dealers). Parts Via bridges the customer engagement gap that leaves local brick and mortar retail outlets disconnected in most e-commerce transactions.

On behalf of the supplier partner and the retailer (network dealer), Parts Via develops the eCommerce components, runs transactions, manages distribution and oversees customer support. “This type of coordinated network partnership is unique and made possible only through Parts Via,” says Fairchild. “After a year’s worth of testing with very positive results and a ton of data and testimonials, we look forward to expanding our network with new suppliers and network dealers in the coming months,” he concludes.

Suppliers and retailers, dealers, installers and jobbers interested in learning more about Parts Via can visit www.partsvia.com.

LKQ Corporation to Acquire Aftermarket Business of Warn Industries, Inc.

Chicago, IL (October 23, 2017) - LKQ Corporation (Nasdaq: LKQ) today announced that its Specialty Segment, Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc. (‘Keystone”), agreed to acquire the aftermarket business of Warn Industries, Inc., a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of high performance vehicle equipment and accessories. Warn is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dover Corporation (NYSE: DOV).

Established in 1948, Warn’s aftermarket business offers a broad product line of winches, hoists, locking hubs and bumpers, with over 350 employees serving specialty retailers and distributors globally. Holding over 130 patents, Warn has a long history of developing the highest quality, most technologically advanced products in the industry.

“Warn’s leadership position and premium iconic brand offer our Specialty Products Group the ability to drive our long-term strategy of growing our core markets and developing viable points of entry into adjacent markets,” said Bill Rogers, Vice President and General Manager of Keystone. “LKQ and Warn will be committed to continuing delivery of great value to our customers and to growing our combined businesses to higher levels.”

The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter, subject to customary closing conditions.

About LKQ Corporation

LKQ Corporation (www.lkqcorp.com) is a leading provider of alternative and specialty parts to repair and accessorize automobiles and other vehicles. LKQ has operations in North America, Europe and Taiwan. LKQ offers its customers a broad range of replacement systems, components, equipment and parts to repair and accessorize automobiles, trucks, and recreational and performance vehicles.

Keystone Automotive Operations acquires Topline Systems, Inc.

 

Exeter, PA. Keystone Automotive Operations has announced the acquisition of Topline Systems, Inc., a dealer and retail software development company that specializes in dealership/shop management and point of sales products that include comprehensive sales, service and parts management modules. “Our interest in looking at software as a solution for our customers began when we tried to think of new and improved customer support strategies and ways we could help our customers grow. What are the challenges our customers face that we can help them overcome?” states Keystone Business Leader, Bill Rogers.

“After hundreds of customer visits in the markets we serve we determined that inventory management, procurement, sales processes, and fundamental reporting and analytics were areas that many of our customers struggle with. The options available to them are either complicated and expensive, or too simplistic and ineffective. We felt a robust and easy to use alternative was needed and found Topline’s suite of products a perfect fit,” adds Rogers.

Keystone and Topline have a long history of working together, collaborating on a variety of projects. “We are excited about continuing our work with Keystone in a much more significant way,” comments Topline president, Steve Karafas. “The availability of capital and other resources they bring to the relationship will result in expanded features and benefits for existing users and help our emerging presence supporting customers in new markets as well.”

The foundation of Topline’s software is firmly rooted in the owner-manager-doer mindset. It was developed at a dealership with a retail store and a service/installation shop - for that business, by that owner. The same daily decision making process used to run the business was engineered into the software and has application well beyond the market it was initially intended to serve. This thoughtful - “I’ve actually done this work before” - approach has resulted in a feature-rich software solution that is affordable, easy to install, and easy to use.

“There are hundreds of dealers in North America using the Topline program today and we intend to keep things business as usual for them. They will experience no interruption in services or be required to work any differently than they have in the past. In fact, our intention is to operate Topline independently to maintain the existing securities and confidentiality that all of Topline’s customers and business partners have enjoyed,” commented Rogers. “We are looking forward to expanding on the foundational programming solutions that Topline has developed and applying them to businesses in other markets with similar needs, including the automotive aftermarket where we see a significant opportunity.”

Keystone intends to infuse capital and resources into the company to help it continue developing customer satisfaction solutions in the markets they serve. “For over 50 years, Keystone / NTP-STAG has been committed to partnering with our customers to not only provide them the broadest and deepest inventory selection and world class fulfillment capability, but also helping them continue to grow and succeed by offering end-to-end marketing solutions and innovative e-commerce solutions,” says Rogers. He adds, “The addition of Topline allows us to continue to offer new ways to help our customers grow and succeed by providing value based, high quality, state of the art business solutions, including Dealership Management, Point of Sale, Service, and Parts Management.”

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