Keystone News

  • 6/27/2016 12:00:00 AM
  • Sherman Goldenberg

Exeter, PA.-based Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. (KAO) had previously announced the opening of its sprawling, 360,000-square-foot Brownstown, Mich., warehouse, which has been shipping parts and accessories orders to independent automotive retailers and RV parts and accessories clients since last fall. (To view a slideshow scroll to the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com page linked above).

But the company’s new “Great Lakes Warehouse” got a more public initiation on Saturday (June 25) when Keystone, led by several senior executives, welcomed more than 100 customers for a casual meet-and-greet session plus lunch and tours of the facility just south of metropolitan Detroit after which attendees joined the “Keystone Team” for a Detroit Tigers-Cleveland Indians baseball game.

Also in attendance were a handful of supplier exhibitors, including bed-cover maker Truck Hero Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich., and hitch manufacturer Cequent Performance Products Inc., Plymouth, Mich.

KAO’s Brownstown facility, now one of seven key warehouses positioned nationally for a company that bills itself as the world’s largest automotive parts and accessories distributor, is designed to service primary Brownstown Open Housecross-dock fulfillment locations in places like Akron, Ohio, Chicago and Grand Rapids, Mich., and to speed deliveries throughout the north-central U.S. and parts of Ontario.

“I think the most important thing for us to get across is that we’ve always serviced this region as a company,” explained George Lathouris, director of U.S. automotive sales for KAO, a unit of Chicago-based LKQ Corp. “But we needed this facility and the inventory that’s inside it to do a better job here because of the growth and expansion that we’ve been experiencing as an organization. We just needed more square footage.

“So, instead of adding onto an existing facility, we put our merchandise closer to the customer, so they’re getting great order fill – quickly without a lot of transferring – coming right out of this facility directly to their stores.”

And while a clear majority of Keystone’s business is automotive — as were most of Saturday’s open house guests — KAO spokesmen indicate they’ve made a lot of progress lately in integrating the RV parts and accessories businesses added over the past two to three years with the acquisitions of North America’s three largest two-step RV distributors, including Oregon-based NTP Distribution Inc., Atlanta’s Stag-Parkway Inc. and, last August, The Coast Distribution System Inc., Morgan Hill, Calif.

In fact, Lathouris told RVBUSINESS.com that RV dealer parts and accessories deliveries are now part and parcel of KAO’s daily routine, with many delivery trucks now fitted with large “cannon tubes” for handling RV awnings and moldings. And, he noted, the overall impact has been a positive for a business built on volume deliveries across the country.

“I think it’s been great for the (overall Keystone) organization because it gives us the opportunity to offer varied products and, let’s just say, frequency of delivery because the increased volume in the organization gives us the opportunity to service all of our customers better – more cross-docks, more trucks, more inventory, more people,” said Lathouris, who’s based out of Corona, Calif. “It’s a situation where we can take care of more customers in a more effective fashion.”

Now that the integration of NTP and STAG has been completed, the main order of business on the RV side is to finish off the same process with Coast, a process that, according to John Ruch, vice president of fulfillment and logistics, should be finished in six months to a year.

“We’ve integrated or are in the process of integrating 13 of Coast’s 17 buildings,” said Ruch. “The four that are left are Fort Worth, Texas, Atlanta, Elkhart, Ind., and Visalia, Calif. And we’re going to continue through the rest of the year looking to see where we can provide better customer service by combining deliveries on our trucks and getting products more quickly out to our customers. We’re going to continue to integrate where we can, so there’s really no plan solidified yet on dates or anything. But we’ll just look to continue to provide that better customer service. By having everything consolidated, you have better inventory, better cut times and more consistent deliveries.”

Bottom line, Lathouris and Ruch agreed, RV parts and accessories are now part and parcel of what KAO does on a regular basis at all seven of its main warehouses.

“Our true value proposition is we take many different products, put them on one delivery truck and for one fee we drop off — one item or 20 items – a small part of the truck or the entire truck – for one fee — and the merchandise can come from any one of our seven locations direct to the customer,” said Lathouris. “The fact that it may be large and bulky and we can get it there so efficiently, I think, is some of the magic that we offer to the customer base. I think it’s worth noting.”

 

  • 6/14/2016 12:00:00 AM

CORONA, CA - There is nothing more indicative of summer than eating a burger.  Unless, you’re eating that burger riding shotgun in a souped up ride!  Here at Keystone, we always feel the need for speed (and burgers!) so Tuesday, June 14th we invited employees, manufacturers and customers to our Corona, Ca offices for a little supercharged fun in the sun. 

Our partners at Magnaflow, Edelbrock, Energy Suspension, MGP Calipers, Powermaster, KW Suspension, Hypertech and Belltech came together with their show trailers and booths, while Customers and employees walked the show listening to dynamic sales training and new product tutorials.  Edelbrock even spun some of them around in their Supercharged Mustang, courtesy of Ken Schuck and KAM Marketing.

Ben Chase, regional Sales Rep, along with George Lathouris, Director of Sales, and John Grier, West Coast Sales Manager, gave customers a tour of the California offices and warehouse.   Chase said the event was a major success, noting the great deal of customer and supplier interaction.

The local community came out to support.  Very special thanks to The Habit Burger Grill for supplying the delicious burgers and to Thunder from the Lake Elsinore Storm Minor League Baseball Team for entertaining us with his sweet dance moves.

Powersports Industry Offers Retailers And Restylers Increased Profit Potential

Spring is a seasonal gold mine across many aftermarket segments and an ideal opportunity for retailers and restylers to take advantage of increased foot traffic and cash in. There’s certainly no shortage of enthusiast activities to fuel a consumer spending spree.

 

For example:

  • Off-road racing fans are savoring the intensity of a short-course dirt track and tinkering with their own 4x4 parts in the garage
  • The Jeep® community is hitting the trails top-down style, hoping to get stuck and put that premium winch to good use
  • Open-road adventure seekers have their campers in tow, excited to explore the great outdoors
  • Gear heads are making final modifications to get their whips road ready for the summer season

 

But the powersports market, comprised of ATVs, side-by-sides (SxS), motorcycles, powerboats, personal watercraft (PWC), and snowmobiles, has a diehard group of recreational enthusiasts that often is overlooked as a prime target and means for diversification within the aftermarket. It’s a stable industry with healthy margins and a loyal customer base — and retailers and restylers should be tapping into this pool of increased profit potential.

“(Powersports units) need to be towed, hauled or trailered, and you need a truck in order to do that, so there’s strong customer crossover between truck-accessory shops and the powersports market. Keystone offers products for both,” said Tom Gross, a powersports industry veteran of nearly 30 years and owner of Uni Filter, a manufacturer of high-performance polyurethane foam air filters and a top brand choice among serious off-roaders.

Keystone Automotive Operations, the leading and largest wholesale distributor of automotive aftermarket parts in North America, teamed up with two of its valued partners in the powersports industry, Terracross and Uni Filter, to educate retailers and restylers about the current state of business, market trends, crossover and diversification opportunities, as well as profit potential.

Side-by-Sides Leading the Way

Glenice Wilder, VP of Powersports EFG Companies, said the first quarter of the 2016 fiscal year was off to a positive start, as unit sales, dealer profitability, and maintenance service repairs are all trending upwards. But SxS sales are the true story, taking the industry by storm and nearly cannibalizing a once-dominant ATV market. According to Motorcycle & Powersports News, UTV sales are estimated to be in the neighborhood of 400,000 units, which is significantly higher than its ATV counterpart.

“The UTV has become a popular choice among families, sportsmen and off-roaders alike,” said Joe Duncan, owner of Terracross and a 20-year veteran of the industry with extensive experience in the snowmobile and SxS market segments. “It’s an estimated two-billion dollar segment that is expected to nearly double over the next two years. Whereas ATVs are a highly individualized activity, an entire family can enjoy a UTV experience together during all 12 months of the year, and so we’ve seen a shift (in demand),” he said.

Market data suggests that powersports consumers have one of the largest discretionary budgets, spending thousands of dollars on the unit itself and then several thousand more in aftermarket upgrades — not unlike many truck or Jeep consumers who are eager to customize their rig at the point of purchase with LED lighting, side steps, recovery items or front-end protection. “And that discretionary budget doesn’t end there. It includes an increased rate of replacement parts and maintenance service repairs associated with powersports recreation,” explained Duncan.

Do you see dollar signs yet? According to Steve Nessl, Yamaha ATV/SxS group marketing manager, “The SxS market is evolving, and that’s a good thing for dealers and consumers who will have more selling and buying options.” The result: An opportunity for retailers and restylers to attract new customers, diversify their business and share in the powersports profits — from aftermarket upgrades and personal equipment to repair and maintenance products.

Know Thy Market

Duncan of Terracross offered shop owners some candid advice to consider while exploring diversification opportunities in the powersports industry. “Powersports is a specific niche, so you’ve got to know the players, be knowledgeable about the units and aftermarket products, and share a passionate appreciation for the lifestyle,” said Duncan. “First rule of thumb is to know thy market,” he added. “What kind of powersports are in demand within your immediate area? Is there a body of water, a motocross track or trails?

Next, you want to get yourself involved in the local sport — attend an event, sponsor an event, talk to consumers at the event. Pick their brains about what products they’d like to see offered in your shop. You have to know what’s sellable! This is a loyal group of enthusiasts, and if you support them, they’ll support you.” Uni Filter’s Gross also suggested a handful of core products that will always be in demand among powersports users, including maintenance items, such as tires, filters, spark plugs, chains and belts.

Tap Into Sales and Profit Potential

“On average, accessories spending is about $2,000 the minute (customers) buy the (UTV). They may spend $6,000-$7,000 in accessories over the lifetime of the unit. If it’s being used in the racing circuit, guys could be spending $50,000-$60,000 when all is said and done between the engine, tranny and differential work,” said Terracross’ Duncan. “Bottom line, there’s a lot of sales potential and strong margins on powersports products, which help offset some of the margin pressures on the aftermarket side of the business,” added Gross. “Guys are towing their toys, so it’s a natural add-on sale for truck-accessory shops.”

And it doesn’t stop there! Above and beyond accessorizing, ATVs and UTVs virtually assure consistent work for service repair shops. “The rise of SxS sales represents plenty of tire changes, service work, parts and accessories profitability for dealers to cash in on,” reported Motorcycle & Powersports News. This provides retailers and restylers an opportunity to showcase the significant range of skills its technicians have to service crossover consumers in both the aftermarket and powersports industries.

Partner with a Distributor

“We’re always looking to bring on more enthusiasts and expand our powersports network,” said Duncan. But the powersports industry has a strict distribution model, so diversification must be done appropriately. Duncan and Gross suggested that retailers and restylers identify a target segment, conduct preliminary market research to determine what lines and products will best suit the needs of local consumers, and lean on the expertise of key manufacturers within the powersports space to direct them to the right distribution partner. “Keystone is dedicated to expanding the reach of the powersports industry by getting our automotive aftermarket customer base excited about and involved in the market,” said Jason Shatrowskas, Keystone category manager. “We carry dozens of powersports lines, many of them very strong crossover brands that make it an easier transition into this space for our automotive aftermarket customers.”

Diversification doesn’t need to be drastic. It can be as simple as stocking popular maintenance parts or as complex as broad inventory and repair service. Either way, consider the impressive opportunity that awaits. Let Keystone be your go-to team, helping you explore a new market, expand your customer reach and increase your company’s profitability.

 

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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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