Keystone News

Professional Market Segment Views Change As Opportunity

New Industry Market Trends Prove to Be Game Changers for Fleet

Change is often as unpredictable as it is inevitable. Business models either adapt to emerging market trends and consumer demand or become crippled by stagnant business practices. Leaders across the professional fleet market segment have found successful ways to navigate the challenges of an ever- evolving commercial industry that is heavily influenced by a variety of dynamic factors, from pioneering vehicle platforms, remarkable technological advancements and innovative aftermarket potential to more intangible variables, such as fluctuating fuel costs, uncertain economic stability and broadening emissions regulations.

Yet commercial industry innovators, such as OEM and aftermarket manufacturers, continue to advance the automotive sector. Why? Because they embrace change, evolve and grow with the market, continuously reinventing themselves, thus achieving sustainable growth through effective R&D, strategic planning, proper forecasting and appropriate diversification.

Eric Fairchild, Director of Northeast Sales and US Customer Support, is a veteran Keystone employee for nearly two decades. He’s seen the professional fleet market segment evolve masterfully throughout the years, always finding innovative ways to remain relevant even during challenging economic times. New commercial vehicle models have given the industry a facelift, making both form and function important factors in the decision-making process for end users. “The industry continues to be resilient while diversifying. The ability of our customer base and the manufacturers to react to trends efficiently is somewhat remarkable and really is the core of why they stay relevant,” said Fairchild. Aftermarket manufacturers and distributors like Keystone have a significant role to play in the growth of the commercial industry.

As the leading and largest wholesale distributor of specialty automotive parts in North America, Keystone is well versed in the opportunities that change provides. Its business strategy has flexed over the years to embrace change where change brought growth, including logistics expansion, brand and inventory diversification, as well as market segment specialization.

Keystone category management and sales leadership recently teamed up with WEATHER GUARD® and some valued customers to educate retailers and restylers about the current state of commercial business, emerging market trends in the industry, new and improved vehicle platforms and the significant aftermarket potential for professional upfitters. The takeaway? It’s a growing and changing segment, so don’t leave any money on the table!

State of the Business

Business continues to grow, as US auto sales remain strong in 2016 with a forecast of 17.6-17.8 million vehicles sold by year end, an increase over a record-breaking 2015. “We now have greater confidence that record sales in 2015 will lead to yet another volume record in 2016,” said Jeff Schuster, senior vice president of forecasting at LMC Automotive, a leading provider of automotive production, sales and powertrain forecasts and automotive industry market intelligence.

Commercial vehicle sales are part of the upward trend. According to the February 2016 edition of the NTEA OEM Monthly Chassis Report, “Commercial truck chassis sales rose 19.5 percent in the U.S./Mexico market in November 2015 as compared to the same month the previous year, with cumulative sales up about 9 percent. Canadian sales rose 25.5 percent in November and were up almost 15 percent for the year.”

The “Looking Ahead” section of the report paints a positive global growth outlook with projections at 3.4 percent in 2016 and 3.6 percent in 2017, corresponding with forecasts of 7.5 percent for India, 2.6 percent for the United States and about 1.8 percent for the European Union.

Scott Percival, Category Manager at Keystone, echoes that sentiment and adds there are a number of factors contributing to the growth potential of fleet business in 2016, including a rebounding US economy that finished strong at the end of 2015, as well as a decrease in fuel costs and low financing rates, which have supported the increase of new truck sales.

Mike Antich, Contributor, Editor and Associate Publisher of Automotive Fleet, reminds us that “fuel represents approximately 60 percent of a fleet’s total operating costs. Consequently, the stability of fuel pricing over the past 36 months has been the No. 1 factor contributing to keeping fleet operating costs flat.” Low fuel costs certainly enable businesses to further invest in their fleet and more vehicles on the road create additional professional upfitting opportunities for you!

Impressive year-over-year commercial growth last year will prove challenging to surpass in 2016. Antich, who authored 2016 Buying Forecast for Commercial Fleet, states fleet ordering for the 2016 model- year is forecast to be flat compared to the prior model-year, but “as the economy has improved in some economic sectors, these companies will in, crease their fleet buy due to growth in their businesses.”

But projections of a “flat” year still yield an impressive number of bid opportunities for professional upfitters...

John Brassfield is the owner of two Trucksmart retail locations, one in Rocklin, CA, and the other in Aurburn, CA. Truck accessory sales have been the driving force of Brassfield’s business model the past 29 years and there’s no slowing down in sight. Sales are booming and the professional upfitting contracts keep rolling in. “We have reliable and consistent professional bids with the municipality and railroad, fire protection, security and pest control companies, landscapers and builders and electrical contractors,” said Brassfield. “We (retailers and restylers) thought that when the economy collapsed, this Bedslidewas going to be the new state of normal. But it’s come back even better, at least regionally. I see a lot of contractors investing in brand new vehicles and equipment.” Commercial professionals + New Vehicles + A Need for New Equipment = $ for Retailers and Restylers

Market Trends and Products

Jeff Kotz, Senior Product Manager for commercial vehicles at WEATHER GUARD®, says there has been a shift to lighter weight, more fuel efficient models that deliver what a user needs in a more economical way. But, he notes, “While many businesses are investing in upgraded vehicles with enhanced features, the average life of a commercial vehicle remains 10-11 years in comparison to the historic 7-8 years, so we still see a lot of replacement product sales.” WEATHER GUARD® top sellers continue to be the 127 series toolboxes, the 184 series side boxes and the 300 series headache racks. There remains a huge and positive response to matte, textured black finishes on aftermarket products, added Kotz.

What’s selling BIG at Keystone? “Brands like WEATHER GUARD®, Kargo Master, Cross Tread, Dee Zee, Bedslide and Fill-Rite continue to drive the trend with their toolboxes, tanks, van packages, racking systems, window screens, cargo slides and bulkheads. Jotto or RAM Mounting System laptop mounts and various track systems, hitches, wiring and tie downs are asked for frequently as well,” said Thomas Sabetta, a sales associate in the Exeter, PA, Keystone call center. WEATHER GUARD®, BackRack, Rigid LED Lighting, Samlex, Air Lift, Firestone, Bedslide and the Cequent family are some of the most popular brands Brassfield purchases from Keystone to service his professional customers.

While many new trends are impacting the professional market segment, three are revolutionizing the industry:

• The increase of light-duty trucks as vehicles of choice: The Wall Street Journal reported a 6.5 percent increase versus prior year in light duty truck sales during January 2016 and based on February 2016 sales data, the Ford F-series, Chevrolet Silverado, RAM and GMC Sierra all land in the Top 20 of overall vehicle sales, sending a very strong message that these pickup trucks are not only desirable everyday drivers, but also strong contenders in the professional space. “The ½-ton market has made so many strides in horsepower, fuel efficiency, towing capacity and overall price tag that these vehicles have become serious contenders for fleet bids. The Ford F-150, Chevy and RAM are some of the top vehicles being upfitted,” said Kelli Kenyon, a sales associate at the Greensboro, NC, Keystone call center. Brassfield agrees, “I’m used to seeing bids for ¾-ton trucks, but the ½-ton vehicles have improved in every single area.” Practicality is dominating the decision making of end users, added Brassfield.

Strong light-duty sales provide a positive outlook for truck accessory shops and professional upfitters alike, especially since the light-duty market has made enormous strides in quality performance, features and affordability.

• The form, function and rise in sales of commercial vans: According to the February 2016 edition of the NTEA OEM Monthly Chassis Report, “Through November (2015), total (US/Mexico commercial van) sales were up 21.8 percent, and shipments were just behind with a 21.4-percent growth rate.”

Kotz communicated a possible trend in work truck versus van, as data supports commercial work truck registrations have declined, while van registrations continue to increase. Could it be the start of a shift? Time will tell.Weather Guard Toolbox

Kenyon says aftermarket product sales for commercial van models continue to do very well at Keystone, stating the company has gone even deeper and broader on application coverage to accommodate the growing business. Form, function and an array of innovative aftermarket upgrades to choose from, such as the new WEATHER GUARD® EZGLIDE2 ladder rack system, continue to make commercial vans an attractive, affordable option.

• The groundbreaking Ford aluminum-alloy body: Simply put, “It’s a game changer. No doubt about it,” said Kenyon. The introduction of Ford’s groundbreaking aluminum-alloy body is not merely a phase, rather a new standard in the automotive industry. Ford encourages its brand loyalists to Go Further, and the aluminum-alloy body allows just that. “Class-exclusive* military-grade, aluminum alloy body— this is the same 5,000/6,000-series high-strength grade of aluminum that’s used in industries such as aerospace, commercial transportation and energy. Our objective: reduce weight while increasing strength. What’s more, aluminum-alloy is resistant to dents and corrosion.”

Kotz believes, “Making the decision to venture into aluminum has completely changed the industry and its impact is just starting. Other makers are following suit and the truck equipment industry must be ready for it, all the way down to the aluminum and steel plants.”

Erich Ross, Regional Sales Manager at Keystone, adds, “As the truck market continues to evolve, fuel economy will always be a major factor. Engine design technology has always played a huge role in that, but Ford has taken it a step further with its aluminum body. This has allowed it to reduce the F-150 by 700 pounds. That directly affects fuel economy and puts money back into the pocket of the business owner who relies on a fleet of trucks out on the road daily.”

Popular Vehicle Platforms

Impressive horsepower, torque and towing capabilities in combination with upgraded features, improved fuel economy and top rated safety features are now standard at a value price… allowing some extra wiggle room in the budget for upgraded LED lighting, towing accessories, cargo securement, toolboxes and racking systems. There is no shortage of quality choices in the work truck area, all of which have prime upfitting potential. Here are a few of the top models recognized as contenders in the professional fleet market segment:

• 2016 Ford F-150 named Kelley Blue Book’s Truck Best Buy
• 2016 Chevy Colorado was named Motor Trend’s 2016 Truck of the Year
• 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 Named the Texas Truck Showdown Towing Champion
• RAM 1500 named 2015 Fleet Truck of the Year
• 2015 Vincentric Best Fleet Value in America™ awards went to Toyota Tacoma Base Dbl Cab 2WD for mid-size pickup; the RAM 1500 Tradesman Reg Cab 2WD for full-size ½-ton pickup; the RAM 2500 Tradesman Reg Cab 2WD for Full-Size 3/4-ton heavy duty pickup; and the RAM 3500 Tradesman 6.4L V8 Reg Cab 2Wd for full-size 1- ton heavy duty pickup.
• Ford named Best Overall Truck Brand in 2015 Kelley Blue Book Brand Image Awards
• Ford F-150 named 2016 Green Truck of the Year Award

How Can You Get a BIGGER Piece of the Action?

As a retailer, if you’re interested in exploring the professional fleet market segment then strive to foster productive connections with local municipalities, reach out to vocational businesses and partner with a trusted name like Keystone to get you started with effective display programs, merchandising, stocking and spec’ing guidance, as well as product education.

Keystone offers its customers product from more than 800 suppliers and access to 165,000 unique SKUs. The sophisticated logistics system operates through a highly reliable and route-based fulfillment network. The eight warehouses and 47 non-inventory stocking cross dock locations are strategically positioned throughout the country to best meet the delivery demands of customers in North America.

Steve Hesson, owner of Steve’s Vans and Accessories in Marietta, Ohio, says, “Ninety-nine percent of the product we’re selling or upfitting comes from Keystone. The large offering of brands and products makes it possible for me to diversify and grow.” Brassfield adds, “A KAO truck is in both my stores every single day. I can order right now at 7 pm and have it here in the morning. It’s impressive.” That kind of service gives you a significant competitive advantage during any bidding process.

What’s Kenyon’s advice to professional upfitters? “Let us work with you to tap into the bidding potential for local municipalities. I encourage my customers to diversify the right way, through proper product education, so their business can become a viable option in the fleet bid process,” she said.

Enter 2016 with a fresh perspective—the professional fleet market segment continues to embrace change as a springboard for opportunity and so should you! Get a bigger piece of the action by optimizing the many resources available to you through your Keystone salesperson.

 

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.

 

ABOUT TIM MONTANA

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

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

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

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

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

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

The BIG Show to Feature Erik Qualman as Keynote Speaker

Gaylord Texan and Convention Center, Grapevine, TX

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

 

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

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

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

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





Keystone is the leading distributor and marketer of aftermarket automotive products and services, uniquely positioned to offer customers and suppliers substantial scale, the most comprehensive inventory selection in the industry, high levels of customer service and innovative marketing support. Keystone is committed to expanding its offering to meet the ever-growing needs of its customer base, providing them what they need, when they need it most.

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