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

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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