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 Announces 2019 RAM Project: The TerraRAM

Exeter, PA – Keystone Automotive Operations announced during its BIG Show at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX, plans to build a customized 2019 RAM 1500 show vehicle – the TerraRAM.  Modeled to be the Ultimate Overland Adventure Vehicle, the TerraRam will be a fully self-contained, on- and off-road explorer that combines rugged good looks with the latest technology and performance improvement products available in the aftermarket.

 

“We wanted this project to be a collaborative one where we have a chance to showcase the products and brands going into the build along with our customers that will be instrumental in putting the whole thing together,” says Larry Montante, VP of Category Management. Playing off the BIG Show theme, “The Ultimate Road Trip”, TerraRAM will be taken on a year-long odyssey that will feature Keystone customers contributing to the build along the way. Larry adds, “We think it will be a terrific way to build a community around the project and shine a bright light on the suppliers and installers that help make it happen.”

 

Shrouded under a cover on the exhibit hall floor during BIG Show, the TerraRAM drew a lot of attention and questions from attendees and exhibitors. “The show is a great platform to create some excitement for the project. We have a clear vision about the features we want to build into the truck and look forward to flushing out the finer details over the next 30 days as we sift through the proposals we received from suppliers that want to be part of the project,” says Larry. “Suffice it to say, the TerraRAM will embody the spirit of travel wherever the road leads.”

 

Plans for the TerraRAM include featuring the latest in solar and satellite technology to improve off-grid connectivity. Additionally, extensive suspension improvements, exterior and interior upgrades, performance enhancements and a few surprises from Keystone’s RV supplier partners will help make the vehicle a home on the road. The company’s goal is to deliver a comfortable, self-sustained earth traveler that can thrive in the most remote locations and harshest conditions. 

 

The truck will be equipped for boondocking, rock-hopping and interstate travel (but only as a last resort) and have an extensive array of technology and performance products provided by the distributor’s supplier partners. “Through terraRAM we hope to illustrate the value aftermarket products have in helping enthusiasts realize their vision for how they want their vehicles to look and be used,” commented Harneet Kaur, Directory of Marketing at Keystone.

 

According to Kaur, this TerraRAM is more than a typical truck build project. “While our intention is to create a vehicle capable of far reaching journeys, we also intend to follow the journey that makes it capable,” she says.  By documenting the build and following the vehicle across the country as it goes from stock to the TerraRAM, the company hopes the product and installer profiles they produce and promote on social media and other select media outlets, creates awareness and interest for the sponsors’ products and the vehicle itself.

 

Keystone invites the industry and enthusiasts everywhere to take part in the TerraRAM’s journey in 2019 by following the project on Keystone Social Media Channels, TheEngineBlock.com and selected media outlets.  

 

Keystone is the leading distributor and marketer of automotive aftermarket 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.


70 New Suppliers to Exhibit at BIG Show

EXETER, PA – Keystone Automotive Operations’ BIG Show is adding a lot of new features… and exhibitors to its event March 8-9 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas.  In addition to a Warn sponsored keynote by Ken Schmidt, a double-header concert featuring Tim Montana and Karen Waldrup and casino night presented by WeatherGard, the BIG show is attracting new suppliers as exhibitors like never before.

“We have more than 70 suppliers exhibiting this year that weren’t at our 2018 event,” says John Spaulding, Director of Events for Keystone Automotive Operations. “The interest in BIG Show as a way for suppliers to connect with jobbers, dealers, installers and retailers continues to grow. Our show platform is becoming the premier destination for introducing new products, selling to new customers and engaging with the market in ways that most of us can’t in our day-to-day roles. It’s a vital part of our business and we know our customers and suppliers look forward to it every year.”

New items are essential to the aftermarket and its more than just model year changeover that’s driving new product development. Innovative solutions for improving vehicle performance, whether it’s suspension, exhaust, engine, tires and wheels or accessories that enhance the overall functionality, are creating sales opportunities for aftermarket product resellers and installers. Events like BIG Show play a pivotal role in showcasing these opportunities and connecting all the supply chain players in an effort to grow sales for everyone.

“The show experience has been designed to focus on new products,” says Spaulding. “We have a New Products Showcase with more than 180 new items on display. In addition, 36 companies are exhibiting new Point-of-Purchase tools that give our attendees ideas about how to merchandise and sell new products in their stores.” New suppliers will be highlighted on the BIG Show floor map and will be prominently featured throughout the event.

Brand new suppliers to Keystone will be showcased in a special sales promotion at BIG Show. Golden tickets representing extra bonus discounts will be given to every attendee. The tickets can be used for purchases from the 40 exhibitors at the event that are new to Keystone.

“Our sales initiatives and on-the-floor activity are all about helping our customers grow their business,” states Vice President of Sales for Keystone Automotive Operations, Fred Petrivelli. “We know that these new product and new lines can have an incredible impact on their sales and profits and want to make sure they are aware of the opportunities so they can make informed decisions about the best way to serve their customers and their businesses in the future,” he adds.

The Keystone BIG Show is the industry’s largest distributor event in North America drawing thousands of attendees from Canada and the United States. Host to more than 200 exhibiting companies, nearly 100 show vehicles and an agenda packed with special events and networking opportunities, the BIG Show is the place to be March 8-9 in Grapevine, TX.

Keystone is the leading distributor and marketer of automotive aftermarket 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’s Parts Via Program to add Broader e-Commerce Reach and Loyalty Benefits for Its Members

Exeter, PA - In 2017, Keystone Automotive Operations launched Parts Via, an innovative sales network that linked organic site traffic at its brand  partner’s websites to local brick and mortar business via a “Buy Now” button. The profits from the online transactions are shared among the participating supplier partners and dealers while the free, ship-to-store delivery option served as a catalyst for driving consumer traffic to the local business. This new, incremental business stimulated add-on sales, installation revenue and service opportunities, furthering the value of the Parts Via Program to its membership.

The company announced that it is launching Phase II of Parts Via to the automotive aftermarket during its annual BIG Show March 8-9, 2019 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX. This phase includes program enhancements that expand e-commerce reach through a consumer facing website and marketplace store. In addition, Parts Via members will be part of a new customer Parts Via loyalty program.

“Our development roadmap for Parts Via has always included growing the network though enhanced tools and participation,” stated Bill Rogers, President of Keystone. “We recognized early on that a consumer’s path to purchase is one with many forks and the decisions made by them along their journey impact where the final purchase is made. We wanted to build a program that put our partners in the best competitive position to capture the sale regardless of where and when a consumer chooses to buy something, whether it is in a store or online.” He concludes.

Keystone will be previewing its new consumer website www.partsvia.com during the BIG Show as part of the Phase II rollout. The site will complement the “Buy Now” functionality on partner sites and have the added benefit of hosting all the Parts Via partner products in one location. The new site will include a robust parts look-up tool, fresh content and ship-to-store / ship-to-home options. “This will further expand the opportunity for our brick and mortar Network Dealers to participate in an on-line sale that may have otherwise gone around them.”  Also, a new appointment scheduling feature that will allow Parts Via Network Dealers to promote available installation times will be added soon.

Understanding the sheer volume of business generated through online marketplaces that brick and mortar businesses are not participating in, prompted the company to look for a solution that allows their customers to claw back some of that lost revenue. Keystone has launched its Parts Via Amazon Marketplace store. This storefront will sell products under the Parts Via banner and generate similar benefits for the member Network Dealers. The storefront’s current 2,661 SKUS are made up of high-volume MAP brands that help maintain margins throughout the supply chain.

“As we thought about the introduction of Parts Via Phase II, we wanted to leverage some of the unique capabilities we are providing our customers and wrap them into a loyalty program,” said Larry Montante, VP Category Management. “We are introducing the Parts Via Loyalty program in conjunction with the Phase II launch.” The new loyalty program employs a tiered approach to participation that makes getting involved easy and scalable for future growth regardless of a business’s size, focus or markets served. As a Parts Via Network Dealer’s participation and engagement with Keystone grows so to do the benefits of being in the Parts Via Loyalty Program.

The dealer’s benefits will be determined by their status within the Silver, Gold and Platinum levels of the program. Some examples of the benefits include dealer web locator placement and positioning, Parts Via profit share, installation network inclusion, marketing support, BIG Show benefits, preferred product access, exclusive promotional opportunities, unique travel and event incentives, and Keystone services incentives.

“Just like airline mileage programs, we intend to award points and member benefits based on sales and other goals,” says Montante. He adds, “We will be using an online rewards tracking program that will allow our customers to monitor their status in real time and redeem their points on a variety of member rewards.” The availability of these new tools and services will allow Keystone to expand the Parts Via value proposition to its Brand Partners and Network Dealers driving more business back into local businesses.   

Keystone is the leading distributor and marketer of automotive aftermarket 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.

Keystone Now Offers Black Horse Off Road

Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. has added Black Horse Off Road to its stable of truck and off-road product offerings.

Long Island-based Black Horse Off Road has grown from a small wholesaler of accessories to a nationally-recognized brand during the past 15 years, according to Keystone. The company offers grille guards, bull bars, brush guards, safari bars, hard tonneau covers, no-drill side step systems and running boards, bumper guards, lighting solutions, and electric winches.

The company’s latest offering, the Black Horse Armour Bull Bar, is constructed of heavy-duty stainless steel in an aggressive and modern angular design, available for a variety of makes and models.

Black Horse Off Road recently announced a partnership with American Luxury Coach (ALC), which debuted a limited-edition Black Horse Series 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 at SEMA 2018.

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