Keystone News

Industry retailers and professionals predict future growth with key products and categories

The aftermarket floats on seasonal trends, but 2016 suggested a shift within the industry. Short- lived, stylish items will always have their place; however, integrated LED lighting, blacked-out wheels and functional bed protection are a few of numerous trends that have long-term potential — all of which arguably begin and end with the success of popular vehicle platforms. Diesel and full-size truck segments continued to swell during 2016, making powered steps, tonneau covers, truck caps, and towing products consistently big sellers for Casey Meints, owner of Campway’s Truck Accessory World in Sacramento, Calif. “Hitches, adjustable ball mounts, accessories—I get them in stock, and two days later they’re gone,” he said.

Decades of R&D have resulted in sophisticated platform advancements for mid-size trucks, ideal utility or recreational vehicles prime for accessorizing. “The modern mid-size truck is the old full size,” said Ryan Osborne, FX Products product manager. Consider the revamped 2016 Tacoma and award- winning Colorado, which not only generated industrywide buzz, but also opened doors for the newly designed 2017 GMC Canyon Denali, 2017 Honda Ridgeline, and, perhaps, a new Ford Ranger. “That’s more tonneaus, more steps, more wheels, more tires, more suspension kits, and more performance product sales for all of us,” said Richard Villar, owner of Truck Toyz in Rocky Hill, Conn.

SUV and crossover accessory sales also remained steady, according to Keystone Automotive Operations Category Manager Nick Geiger. “Many car owners are shifting to these vehicle options, taking advantage of comparable size, safety and fuel economy,” he said. Manufacturers like Westin, Thule, Yakima and Go Rhino have responded with increased applications of bull bars, running boards, side steps, and cargo management. Example: TrailFX’s new bull bar with integrated LEDs in the crossbar gained ground.

But Jeep® remains the star of the show, garnering unwavering and ever-growing brand loyalty that is the foundation of ongoing expansion within the off-road segment. “Brands like Fox Shocks, JW Speaker and Rugged Ridge were big for us this year, as was LED lighting across the board,” said Mike Street, owner of Mike’s Off Road in Haltom City, Tex. “The platform remains very strong, probably the strongest for nearly everyone the past five years. I think it’s outperformed the truck market— just crazy growth,” he added.

Keystone Automotive Operations, the leading and largest wholesale distributor of aftermarket parts in North America, offers the most impressive selection of inventory across the industry. Keystone teamed up with industry professionals to recap a few of the many influential market segments, brands and products of 2016. See what they had to say!

Truck-Bed Options Lead The Way

“Truck bed rules the roost,” said George Lathouris, Keystone’s director of U.S. sales, “because millions of pickup trucks are sold every year. The acceptance of the tonneau cover to carry, protect and personalize continues to gain steam.” For Campway’s Meints, folding tonneau covers were especially popular, something he expects to continue into 2017.

Andy Morgan, Keystone’s category director of truck accessories, wheels and tires, has watched the tonneau market adapt to and drive trends. “If you look at the last five to10 years, the cover options have expanded exponentially, lower-profile designs, shaped or painted hard covers, and trendy, matte- black finishes. The functional expansion is really incredible — everything from water resistance, security, and cargo storage/management to ancillary lighting and multiple position options. Even automatic retractable covers are now available,” said Morgan.“Brands like BAK, Undercover, Extang, Truxedo, Retrax, Roll-n-Lock, and Pace Edwards continue to listen to the consumer and design new products using new materials to help offer new solutions. BAK MX4 and Undercover Ultra Flex will continue momentum in 2017,” he added.

Vehicle Protection: A Growth Segment

The rise of vehicle-protection products is simply unprecedented, noted Lathouris. “The vehicle- protection market is riding on the heels of the highly successful national advertising efforts of manufacturers like WeatherTech. They have grown the consumer base, opening up the funnel by Husky Liners Floor Liners advertising all over the place. Their efforts, and those of others, such as Husky Liners and Covercraft, have expanded the business for all.”

Commercial Applications Spur Sales

Growth on top of growth in the professional segment can be attributed to a variety of manufacturers and product categories. “The professional/upfitting market catering to the commercial customer has been a growth platform for many retailers,” said Lathouris. “The introduction of the smaller vans like Sprinters and Transits into that market has rejuvenated consumer interest in them, and that’s something we haven’t seen since the 1980s.” DECKED experienced a positive year, offering consumers a full line of innovative cargo solutions for work trucks and vans.

“There’s always a need to store goods safely and securely, whether for professional or personal use,” said Lathouris. Weather Guard released its new Defender Series, while Westin HDX and TrailFX heavy-duty bumpers, grille guards and steps like the Trapezoid continue to gain notoriety.

“In 2015, we made some adjustments to the professional segment and expanded to even deeper and broader inventory coverage. (Consequently), our Weather Guard and Kargo Master business was through the roof in the Southeast during 2016,” including tool boxes, ladder racks, van shelving, full van configurations and BOLT locks, said Kelli Kenyon, a Keystone sales team leader in Greensboro, N.C. “We can talk to our customers with confidence, educating them about fleet deals and encouraging them not leave anything on the table, because we have them covered,” she added.

What to look for in 2017?

The Ford Super Duty reigns commander in chief of the fullsize truck market. “The 2017 Ford Super Duty will help propel additional growth in the professional segment, as municipalities look to upgrade their fleets,” which means an increase in tool boxes, tanks, ladder racks, work lights and front-end protection, said Lathouris.

Jeep®, Off-Road Go Mainstream

“The segment went from niche to mainstream. The demand for off-road accessories didn’t diminish in any way, shape, or form,” said Lathouris. According to Truck Toyz’s Villar, conventional off-road products, such as Warn and Smittybilt recovery items, experienced another healthy year. “Jeep/off-road is becoming a bigger pie, but that also means it’s more split up, since larger, more traditional retailers are acknowledging the space,” said Lathouris. The market continues to be flooded with new brands and products, all attempting to make their mark.

Innovation in quality designs also deserved a standing ovation. TrailFX released its new front and rear bumpers, receiving a warm welcome at consumer events, such as Daytona Jeep Beach. Bestop introduced its groundbreaking Sunrider for hardtop, while the popularity of Fab Fours Grumper and Rugged Ridge Spartan grilles spawned a fashionable movement, including aggressive-looking hoods, fender flares, and body armor for Jeeps.

What’s undeniable is an ever-growing divide among off-road purists and mall-crawler modifiers. “It’s less about function and more about individualizing appearance,” said Dan Guyer, outside sales for Keystone in the Northeast. It’s become THE look, one so futuristic tit barely resembles a Jeep, a turn-off to many traditionalists but bringing retailers and restylers hordes of new business opportunity. Keep an eye on complementary markets during 2017, including outlander and camping items, such as ARB awnings, fridge/freezers and roof racks.

Consumer Demand Lifts Suspension Sales

The lift experience is a complete turnaround from years past. “Back then, many (consumers) were part of an off-road club. You grabbed a case of beer with your buddies and did the lift in the driveway together,” said Guyer. “But it’s not the same consumers anymore. They don’t want to do it themselves and prefer the convenience of aftermarket installers,” he added.Bilstein Shock and Coil Spring

The team at Truck Toyz knows its bread and butter, pushing out lifts, leveling kits, and wheels and tires. And Villar noticed an uptick in premium brands, “They are spending a little more to have better quality. It’s our job to up-sell those features and benefits.” But he also noted that budget kits are still popular. “They have no intention to take it off-road but want the look,” he added. The aftermarket unleashed some serious shock technology in 2016. “There’s tremendous innovation in the creation of the Old Man Emu BP-51 shock absorbers. They provide the ultimate in comfort and control,” said Lathouris.

He explained the BP-51 range allows on-vehicle, independent adjustability of both rebound and compression to offer class-leading ride customization that can be tailored to individual vehicle or trip requirements. “And the Bilstein B8 6112 provides consumers with superior ride characteristics and quality. The kit optimizes off-road and on-road capabilities with a 60 mm digressive piston for increased damping control,” he added.

Another hot-ticket item in 2016: “Leveling kits are incredibly popular. For about $300-$400, a consumer can give their truck an entirely different look — a minimal amount of money to achieve much better appearances (and) that small adjustment means they can get more tire underneath,” said Guyer.

Wheels And Tires Keep Rolling Along

Mickey Thompson, Dick Cepek and Toyo consistently deliver dependable tires. This year was no exception, as these lines were well received by jobbers and consumers alike. The new norm in the world of wheels: “Black has overtaken bling,” said Marc Pugh, Ultra Wheels marketing manager. “The biggest trend in 2016 wasn’t necessarily the wheels themselves as much as how rapidly they were coming out. The styles were out and then evolved or died before they could even be knocked off overseas,” said Keystone’s Guyer.

Lighting Has A Bright Future

Another mainstay is LED lighting, and this past year placement proved to be as important as function. “Rigid Industries takes the cake,” with quality and aesthetics, said Villar at Truck Toyz. “But the placement has gone crazy. Integrated into bumpers, on top and underneath hoods, interiors, undercarriages,” he said. Not to mention enormous 50-inch-plus mounted light bars that mall crawlers likely will never use, but need to have.RIGID Light Display

Expect an increase in utility in 2017. “The trend seems to be shying away from vanity applications and toward increased utility focus. Hardcore off-roaders have always been prime customers, but more snow plowers and contractors are getting into the game, while the for-show-only crowd might soften,” said Keystone Northeast sales manager Erich Ross.

Performance Products Keep Up The Pace

Name brands like aFe POWER and Magnaflow recorded big years with Keystone, confirming that Jeep and truck owners are demanding higher performance from their vehicles. “Diesel performance (BD Diesel, MBRP, etc.) just keeps getting bigger. Guys are competing more and more. They may drive them during the week, but they’re building them to run at the track,” said Villar. Darron Shubin, Magnaflow national sales director, added, “Nearly half of all Magnaflow exhaust system sales are in the truck segment, and six of the top 10 SKUs are truck applications. Specifically, the Ram 1500 dual rear exit and the Ford Raptor cat-back systems maintained year-over-year pace. The GM and Chevy 2500 and 3500 series Duramax-equipped trucks are trending. Another exciting observation would be the rapid growth from the young 1500 series pickups equipped with diesel motors.”

The year 2017 appears promising in the aftermarket, no matter the ride of choice. Capitalize on new-vehicle platform releases by partnering with Keystone. Order the latest brands, products and applications today, receive it tomorrow.


Recent Articles

Keystone Automotive Launches New Mobile App

Exeter, PA Keystone Automotive Operations, has launched a new mobile app that puts the power of their industry best “eKeystone” business-to-business system into any device and makes it mobile! “Access to information when and where a person needs it was a fundamental consideration in the building of our app for mobile devices,” states Harneet Kaur, Director of Marketing at Keystone. “Fast, convenient and thoughtful access to data, tools and sales resources that make our customer’s lives better and more productive was the objective and the result we achieved,” she added.

Shop owners are often in front of the counter, out in the parking lot looking at a customer’s vehicle, making a dealer sales call, or in the shop working on a vehicle build. This app gives them the flexibility to access eKeystone tools anywhere they work.

“In addition to being able to access all the power and resources available on eKeystone, it goes even further. One of the new features is VIN Lookup which has been on our desired feature list for a long time” states Fred Petrivelli, Vice President of Sales at Keystone. The app harnesses mobile device technology including voice-to-text capability to allow users to search for products simply by saying a category or brand, and utilizes the camera to scan QR, UPC and vehicle VIN numbers and VIN barcodes. This scanning capability takes the mobile app from a retail sales driver to a store management tool for inventory control and other store functions like pricing, labels and ordering.

eKeystone App Barcode and VIN Scanner

The eKeystone app includes all the proprietary data in Keystone’s B2B system. Subscribers can access 800k+ cataloged SKUs, 400k images, 20k videos, 40k installation instructions, and more. “When you put a tool like this to work in a live business environment the possibilities for improving customer service and sales are endless,” explained Petrivelli.

Whether the app is used to scan a vehicle VIN to help identify accessories appropriate for that vehicle, place an order, track a shipment or upsell accessories in a car lot, car show or event, it will prove to be a powerful sales tool that can be taken anywhere.

The app is now available for download on the iTunes App Store and Google Play and immediately available to existing Premium eKeystone users. Once loaded onto a user’s device the app is activated using the customer’s eKeystone account login information.

For more information contact a Keystone Automotive Operations customer service associate at (800) 521-9999.

Keystone Automotive to Distribute GRID Off-Road Products

GRID Off-Road has entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with Keystone Automotive Operations covering the U.S. and Canada.

“To compete and grow in today’s dynamic retail environment, businesses like ours need to find better ways to deliver products to market quickly and efficiently,” said Lawrence Lee, owner of GRID Off-Road. “After lining up our strengths and thinking about what we really love doing—designing innovative wheels and manufacturing them to the highest quality—we came to the realization that we needed to find a partner that could help us reach our growth potential and tackle the supply chain challenges.”

GRID Off-Road evaluated several options before landing on Keystone, according to the company.

“With Keystone’s network of warehouses, fleet of trucks, commitment to inventory and complete toolkit of marketing solutions they became the obvious choice,” Lee said. “We market, design and manufacture to the highest trendsetting standards in the aftermarket today. We believe their unique ability to serve the aftermarket coupled with their approach is a perfect fit."

Keystone operates seven distribution centers in North America with a combined available warehouse footprint of over 2.5 million square feet. GRID Off-Road products will be stocked in all locations to provide next-day delivery service and improved fill rates, according to the company.

GRID Off-Road headquarters are stationed near Keystone’s new 450,000-square-foot warehouse in Eastvale, California.

“We are extremely pleased to have this opportunity to work with GRID and serve both their existing customers, our very broad customer base and the future customers we develop together,” said Bill Rogers, president of Keystone Automotive Operations. “GRID’s focus on providing quality products and a positive customer experience is in alignment with ours. Our ability to reach the market through our sales team, the BIG Show and our marketing programs will provide GRID an excellent platform for growth. We appreciate their confidence in us and will work hard to insure the potential of their products and brand is realized.”

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.



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 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.

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