Keystone News

Keystone's George Lathouris shares his 38 years of experience, and discusses the growing Jeep® market

Industry veteran and 2013 SEMA Person of the Year George Lathouris has vast experience in the off-road market. Specifically, the knowledge he has acquired about all things Jeep® make him an asset to the Keystone category management and sales teams, as well as to the industry at large. Here he shares some of his 38 years of industry wisdom.

Q: The Jeep® market is always bumping, so what makes this year any different?

Lathouris: First, the Jeep® network just continues to broaden as more and more mainstream consumers get involved. Second, high-quality products are in and low-quality products are out. Retailers and restylers stand behind trusted brands. Consumers want the brand names that look good and last longer, so they’re willing to spend bigger bucks for the quality upgrades. Third, adaptability is a huge trend. Consumers want products that accommodate multiple lifestyles, from convertible tops and safari doors to exterior cargo management.

Q: How do you help your sales team stay abreast of the ever-changing and ever-growing Jeep® market?

Lathouris: We encourage key manufacturers to conduct sales training in our call centers regularly. We promote national, regional and community Jeep® events, and support our associates’ attendance. We recently joined the Off Road Business Association (ORBA) to get more engaged in this ever-growing marketplace. We also have a teacher-pupil model in the call centers, so those who are considered experts in the Jeep® and off road market segment serve as educators to their peers -- the go-to person about all things Jeep®.

Q: Do you ever anticipate an end to the Jeep® craze?

Lathouris: No. It’ll continue to provide growth for the aftermarket. Introducing the new JK with the four-door option in 2007 changed the dynamic, providing families with a fun and functional vehicle, and Jeep® with explosive sales growth. It’s attractive, versatile and now a family-friendly option that has expanded Jeep®’s reach. It’s added new wind in their sails. In addition to the expanding first and second owner JK market, the TJs are highly desirable for many off road enthusiasts. So the aftermarket potential will truly be a long term ride for all of us.

 

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

Tim Montana Live in Concert at the Glass Cactus

Gaylord Texan and Convention Center, Grapevine, TX

Join us and WEATHER GUARD to welcome Tim Montana for a LIVE concert before the BIG Show in Dallas, Texas on February 23rd at 8:00 p.m.. Protected by WEATHER GUARD.

* You must show your convention badge for entry.
* Must be 21 to attend.

 

ABOUT TIM MONTANA

It’s easy to see why Montana’s music connects with so many people far and wide. Dubbed as one of Rolling Stone’s “Artists You Need to Know,” his musical influencers range from Merle Haggard to Guns N’ Roses. Montana’s passion for music has not gone unnoticed by his fellow musicians. “Tim is the real deal. He’s a little bit country with lots of hard rocks — or maybe he’s a rocker in touch with some serious country roots,” says ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. 

Tim grew up in Butte, MT in a household that did not support his musical career. He quickly learned if he wanted to make a reality of out his passion to sing and play guitar, he had to escape Big Sky Country. He packed his bags and made his way to the heart of country music, Nashville, TN. 

Soon after living in Nashville, a rodeo performance caught the attention of David Letterman. David was so impressed by Tim’s music, he personally invited Tim to perform on The Late Show with David Letterman. 

Montana continued to write and record which earned him a worldwide publishing deal with the Spirit Music Group. This led to an introduction with ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. The two of them collaborated on multiple different tracks including, “This Beard Came Here to Party” which was the anthem for the Nashville Predator’s 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Tim followed up with writing on Kid Rock’s current single, “Tennessee Mountain Top” and “Greatest Show On Earth” as well as Mac McAnally’s current hit, “Amarula Sun.” 

In September 2017, Tim released his single, “Hillbilly Rich.” Rolling Stone called the song an, “an ode to fantasies about telling off your boss, making it rain, and having everything all at once.” Shortly after the song was released, Tim performed the single live on Fox & Friends.

To learn more about Tim Montana you can click here to visit his website.

The BIG Show to Feature Erik Qualman as Keynote Speaker

Gaylord Texan and Convention Center, Grapevine, TX

KEYSTONE AUTOMOTIVE OPERATIONS, Exeter, PA.  -  Keystone Automotive Operations is pleased to announce the addition of Erik Qualman as keynote speaker to the 2018 BIG Show lineup, Friday, February 23rd at 4:30 PM – 5:30 PM prior to show opening at 6:00 PM. “Our BIG show is bigger than ever this year and we wanted to add a Keynote Address as a new component to our program,” commented Fred Petrivelli, VP Sales for Keystone Automotive Operation. “We are always looking for ways to help our customers and believe that delivering thought provoking content and solutions that can expand the way they think about their business is important.”   He adds, “We are very grateful of Warn’s sponsorship of Erik Qualman and helping us provide an educational and entertaining jumpstart to our event,”

 

#1 Best Selling Author and Motivational Speaker Erik Qualman has performed in 49 countries and reached 25 million people this decade. His Socialnomics work has been on 60 Minutes to the Wall Street Journal and used by the National Guard to NASA. His book Digital Leader propelled him to be voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter's J.K. Rowling.

What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube helped Qualman be listed by Forbes and Fortune as a Top 100 Digital Influencer. His business books are used in over 200 universities and he has received an honorary doctorate for his groundbreaking work.

His book How to Sell on LinkedIn is becoming mandatory reading for sales teams. Qualman was formerly a sitting professor at Harvard & MIT’s edX labs. “The digital age has brought an unprecedented focus on branding, especially social reputation. We feel Erik’s remarks will strike a chord with our customers as they look for new ways to connect with their consumers,” says Petrivelli.

For more information, attendees and suppliers should visit www.keystonebigshow.com or contact their Keystone representative.





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 offering to meet the ever-growing needs of its customer base, providing them what they need, when they need it most.

Holley and Keystone Automotive Operations team up to bring Bullitt Mustang to the BIG Show

Exeter, PA (February 2, 2018) The iconic 1968 Mustang fastback driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Bullitt (1968) will be on display during the Keystone BIG Show February 23-24, 2018 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX. The Bullitt Mustang came out of hiding after 40 years of being one of the best kept secrets in automotive folklore.  It’s unveiling occurred at the North American International Auto Show this January in the Ford booth during the company’s announcement of a special edition 2019 Bullitt Mustang celebrating the 50th anniversary of the movie.

Sean Kiernan, the car’s owner, had this to say, “I’m really looking forward to showing Bullitt at the BIG Show. Being a Keystone cousin – I’m an LKQ employee – it’s fantastic that the timing of the event and the attention the car is getting are so well aligned. I think it will be awesome for our customers while creating a real buzz in Holley’s booth.”

Sean has said that his family kept the car a secret over the years with plans to eventually restore it as a father-son project. It was used as a daily driver after the Bob Kiernan (Sean’s father) purchased it in 1974 from an ad that ran in Road & Track Magazine. Auction estimates place the value of the vehicle between $4-5 million – comparable to other iconic cars like the Batmobile and James Bond’s original Aston Martin.

Two 1968 Mustang GT fastbacks were used in the award-winning film. One was sold to a private buyer and the other one, due to its condition after being thrashed around the streets of San Francisco, was destined for the salvage yard. “This original Bullitt Mustang is one of the most iconic vehicles of all time,” said Mark Gessler, president of the Historic Vehicle Association. “It’s one of the most important artifacts of the 21st century in terms of automotive history. It is a national cultural treasure.” (as quoted in USA Today).Bullitt Mustang

 “We are really excited to be bringing Bullitt to the BIG Show and it wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of Holley. To give our customers the chance to see this very rare piece of American automobile heritage in person is thrilling,” said Bill Rogers, VP and General Manager for Keystone. “For most of our guests this will be a once in a lifetime opportunity and definitely worth the trip to Texas to see.”

The work of the Historic Vehicle Association with support from partners such as Ford Motor Company, Hagerty, Shell, Pennzoil, LKQ Corporation, American Fuel and Petrochemical manufacturers, and The NB Center for American Automotive Heritage have resulted in Bullitt being the 21st vehicle listed on the National Historic Vehicle Register.

To learn more about the Mustang Bullitt visit www.historicvehicle.org. Details about the BIG Show can be found at www.keystonebigshow.com.

 For additional information and videos click here: https://www.historicvehicle.org/documentary-films/

BIG Show Sponsored by WEATHER GUARD®

February 24, 2018 Gaylord Texan and Convention Center, Grapevine, TX

KEYSTONE AUTOMOTIVE OPERATIONS, Exeter, PA.

Keystone Automotive Operations is excited to announce the return of BIG Show sponsor, WEATHER GUARD® for the eighth consecutive year. “We’re ecstatic to return as the 2018 BIG Show title sponsor. It’s one of the most effective ways we have found to connect one-on-one with our customers” says Lenny Colasuonno, Senior Vice President of Sales. “We utilize the time at BIG Show to showcase new products, hear what is working, and learn how we can improve the products and services we provide to help our customers be even more successful selling WEATHER GUARD® products. The fact we get to do it while having a little fun is a bonus” he adds.

A highlight of the WEATHER GUARD® sponsorship will be a concert following the show opening on Friday February 23rd.  BIG Show guests are invited to kick up their heels with Tim Montana from 8:30 pm – 10 pm at the Glass Cactus. This up and coming band has been dubbed as one of Rolling Stone’s “Artists You Need to Know.”

The BIG show opens Friday, February 23, 2018 from 6 to 8 pm with a reception on the show floor followed by the WEATHER GUARD® concert. On Saturday, February 24 the exhibit hall will be open from 9 am to 6 pm and will feature more than 200 exhibitors with new products on display and the best deals of the year. The show concludes with a closing reception from 6 to 8 pm on Saturday at the Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel & Convention Center on in Grapevine, Texas.

Previously, Keystone held two (2) events annually, BIG Show East and BIG Show West. “This year, we’re combining our two events to create a BIGger, Better experience all under one roof. Our new one-show format will draw on the best elements of each event and be a destination for customers from all over the US and Canada to learn about new products while having the chance to capitalize on some of the best buying opportunities they will find anywhere,” remarked Fred Petrivelli, Keystone VP of Sales.  

For more information, attendees and suppliers should visit www.keystonebigshow.com or contact their Keystone representative.

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 offering to meet the ever-growing needs of its customer base, providing them what they need, when they need it most.

WEATHER GUARD® is an industry leader in truck and van equipment, including truck boxes, drawer units, shelving, cabinets, and racks for trucks, vans and utility vehicles. WEATHER GUARD® organizes trucks and vans for greater productivity and provides tools and valuables superior protection against break-ins and weather.

scroll up