Keystone News

Keystone Named 2015 RVBusiness Newsmaker of the Year

In an era when the U.S. RV industry has exhibited consistent growth and resilience, consolidation continued to reshape the North American RV market­place in a big way in 2015 just as it has in an array of other U.S. business sectors.

On the manufacturing side, Thor In­dustries Inc. acquired key vendor Pos­tle Aluminum Inc., Cavco Industries Inc. bought Fairmont Homes Inc. and Chariot Eagle Inc. and California-based Pacific Coachworks Inc. purchased Northland Industries in Nampa, Idaho.

Supplier Patrick Industries Inc. made headlines with the acquisition of North American Forest Products Inc. and Structural Composites of Indiana Inc., while Elkhart, lnd.-based Dexter Axle completed the late-year purchases of AL-KO Vehicle Technology and Titan lnternational's brake and actuator business. Lippert Components Inc. and Valterra Products LLC also finalized significant acquisitions.

On the retail front, Camping World Inc., Lazydays RV, Campers Inn RV, Pete's RV Center and Woody's RV World were among the retailers buying existing stores.

But it was consolidation in the RV aftermarket parts and accessories end of the business that arguably generated the most "buzz" in the trade press over the past year and ultimately made LKQ Corp:s Exeter, PA-based Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. and NTP­Stag RV distribution unit a slam-dunk choice as the "2015 RVBusiness Newsmaker of the Year:

"It wasn't a tough choice for the staff of RVBusiness, given the sheer volume of news stories on this topic in the com­petitive trade press; reported RVBusi­ness Publisher Sherm Goldenberg. "The fact of the matter is that LKQ in two years has amalgamated a substantial share of the U.S. RV aftermarket by pur­chasing the nation's top three RV after­market distributors, including Keystone Automotive itself and its Oregon-based NTP Distribution Inc. division plus Atlanta-based Stag-Parkway Inc. and, in August, The Coast Distribution System Inc. out of Morgan Hill, California.

"And when you look at the general ongoing wave of consolidation and the attention Keystone's acquisitions spawned among dealers, suppliers and competitive distributors, there's really no question in our minds that Keystone Au­tomotive was the most newsworthy sin­gular news story in the RV arena over the past year:"

Of course, there were plenty of other buzz-worthy headlines in 2015, among them:

"Winnebago's Potts Retires; Olson is Interim CEO" - The abrupt August exit of Winnebago Industries Inc. Chairman, President and CEO Randy Potts after 32 years with the Iowa manufacturer was a complete surprise to the rest of the industry, as was the temporary appointment of retired chairman Bob Olson and, subsequently, the interim tenure of Board Chairman Larry Erickson as the search for Pottts' replacement continued.

"Huge/meyer Succeeds Coon as RV/A's President" - Change at the top of the manufacturer-led Recreation Vehicle Industry Association doesn't occur all that often. Richard Coon, a former Cummins/Onan sales execu· tive, served 1 0 years before his October retirement. So, people are watching closely the transition to a new era at the Reston, VA-based trade association during which ex-Outdoor Industry Association President Frank Hugelmeyer should bring plenty of energy and new ideas.

"GE Sells Commercial Finance Arm to Wells Fargo" - Less than a month after GE CEO and Chairman Jeffrey lmmelt visited the RV industry's leadership in February in Elkhart, Ind., he informed General Electric Co. share· holders that the returns from its massive banking operations had fallen below the company's cost of capital, adding urgency to its consideration of an exit from the business. Sure enough, in mid-October, GE Capital, a major RV floorplan lender, was sold to Wells Fargo & Co.

All things considered, though, Key­stone's NTP-STAG rollup clearly was the story of the year, even though Keystone Vice President and General Manager Bill Rogers wasn't altogether flattered by all of the press coverage and the at­tention it involved. On the contrary, Rogers said in an early December inter· view during RVIA's 53rd Annual Na­tional RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky., that his top priority right now has little to do with publicity and everything to do with the integration of all three companies under the corporate umbrella of 2,000-employee Keystone. RVB Exeter Building

As part of that effort, Rogers and his RV team at Keystone - already one of the world's leading distributors of specialty automotive parts and accessories - are methodically working their way through the ranks of North American dealers and suppliers to further assure them that they will like doing business with Keystone and NTP-STAG over the long haul, given a chance to do so.

"I guess I don't see it (a "Newsmaker of the Year" designation) as all that significant in itself," said Rogers, as his company prepared for its first combined NTP·STAG 2016 Expo trade show Jan. 19-20 in New Orleans. "I think what we've done has made good logic in terms of helping build a supply chain for dealerships that is efficient, that is able to offer high service levels, that is economically helpful. And the more vol­ume that goes through that supply chain, the more runs (delivery cycles) we can have to the customers."

Although Keystone will continue doing business in the RV sector as "NTP-STAG" for the time being, Rogers says that name could change once Key­stone gets its arms around the Coast acquisition. NTP-STAG has already consolidated three of Coast's warehouses into Keystone's overall network - which today includes seven warehouses, 47 stand-alone shipping cross-docks and $200 million in field inventory.

"So, we're 'NTP-STAG' for now, and since Coast isn't integrated yet, it still stands alone - and that's the way it's staying for awhile," said Rogers, seated next to NTP-STAG Director of Market­ing John Spaulding in the South Wing of the Kentucky Exposition Center dur­ing the Louisville Show. "I think we'll always do a different branding for the RV side versus the Keystone (automotive) side. Whether it changes over time remains to be seen."

Reflecting on his experiences over the past two years and some of the mis­understanding that sometimes surfaced, Rogers feels that he and his RV team could have done a better job of commu­nicating at times with both suppliers and dealers in presenting their overall game plan. That said, he thinks that Keystone's management has been making progress lately in conveying one essential message: That Keystone and its NTP·STAG division have no interest in doing anything but bringing improved service and better products to its customer base.

"Yes, we are making progress," said Rogers. "We are getting a good response from dealerships and the overall customer base. I think there was some early concern about it and I think we've tried to address those concerns - probably not quick enough. If there was anxiety in the supply chain, it wasn't, I don't think, anything that we did to create it other than a lack of communication or a lack of getting in front of the communi­cation around that. But the more time goes by and the more we're consistent and the more we're doing what we say we'll do, our channel partners are responding well. I am optimistic about our ability to stay connected with our customers and deliver an improved customer experience."

RVB Exeter Warehouse"And now that I've had the opportu­nity to visit with customers, I think there's a couple of things that we can do to help the industry in addition to just the normal stuff we do," added Rogers, whose company brought a staff of 40 people to the Louisville Show. "I think there's an area around training and helping to get more technicians into the industry that we can take a leadership role on. So, John (Spaulding) and I have talked about doing much more on that in 2016. Where we have training theaters at our facilities, we can provide space to hold meetings and help coordinate supplier engagement. We can help co­ordinate with suppliers to do training and really work with RVIA and the other industry associations to come up with programs that support the certification requirements that help get techs into the industry.

"And if we do that, it will help the deal­ers; I think they'll be appreciative. It's a win for them, but I think it's a big win for us, too, because the more business they do, the more business we'll do."

For his part, Spaulding, a former front-line Stag-Parkway executive, says he's looking forward to 2016 and to let­ting his company's veteran staff - representing all three formerly independent distribution firms - do what it does best at the New Orleans "Expo" show and beyond.

"Yes," Spaulding told RVB, "2016 will be an exciting year for us. We'll have all three entities operating in concert at the Expo and our goal is to prove ourselves and earn the business that customers are good enough to give us. Our priority is to provide what they need when they need it, very consistently, and to earn the right to be their first choice for aftermarket parts."  RVB

 

Recent Articles

Keystone Welcomes RideTech

EXETER, PA – Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc. welcomes RideTech, one of the world’s largest aftermarket suspension companies, to its performance category. RideTech, formerly known as Air Ride Technologies, was founded in 1996 when owner Bret Voelkel, now a member of the SEMA Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) Hall of Fame, developed an air ride suspension for a 1970 Ford Mustang project car.

RideTech has since evolved into an industry-leading company with a full line of products, from air suspension systems, coil overs, and shock absorbers to coil and leaf springs, control arms, sway bars, and much more. Serving a variety of applications from street to track, RideTech is committed to manufacturing high-quality parts that display cutting-edge performance, durability, and reliability. “We do the research and development, CAD drawings, prototyping, CNC machining, CNC tube bending, jig welding, shock assembly and dyno, air spring crimping and burst testing, and final assembly all within our facility in Jasper, IN,” says the company.

Dedication to in-house quality control has allowed RideTech to become a performance suspension specialist, with a virtually non-existent backorder rate and decidedly competitive warranty. The company stands behind all of its shock absorbers with a 1,000,001-mile warranty as proof that RideTech truly “goes the extra mile.” Furthermore, RideTech promises that any driver who expires their RideTech shock warranty, “will get a picture of themselves and their car in a full-page ad in Hot Rod Magazine.”

“Our business model has not been derived from any business seminar or book,” says the company. “It is simply our common-sense approach to give the customers what they want, when they want it. Since we are (a staff of) hot rodders, we feel we have a reasonably good idea what ‘it’ is.”

At the 2018 SEMA Show, RideTech introduced several new product launches, including a new line of sway bars that offer unparalleled dimensional accuracy and bar rate consistency. Featuring 100% in-house CNC-bent tubing, the new sway bar program also employs investment casting technology to redesign bar ends and end links for more durability and easier installation. RideTech also debuted an all-new billet modular spindle design for C5/C6 Chevrolet Corvettes (as seen on the company’s race-winning Track 1 C5 Corvette), and a new, larger rod end and weld-on bearing known as the R-Joint XL.

Looking forward, RideTech continues to invest in R&D and expand its engineering department resources, making its innovative suspension systems more durable and technologically capable. The company’s RidePRO-X Digital Air Suspension Leveling System made an encore appearance at SEMA 2018 to debut its innovative new smartphone app that provides greater custom calibration and increased accuracy. In addition, RideTech is active outside the automotive aftermarket, diversifying its portfolio with OEM, marine, and military applications.

With a dedicated team focused on product development and customer satisfaction, backed by a true passion for hot rodding, RideTech is working hard to secure another generation of exciting suspension systems. “RideTech is the leader when it comes to performance suspension system upgrades. The complete systems give our customers the ability to make one purchase for everything they need to fully upgrade a suspension system,” says Joe Rutledge, Director of Category Management for Performance at Keystone. “Our team is honored to be able to offer the RideTech product line to our customers.”

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.

NTP-STAG’s Pre-Cart Functionality Makes Preparing for EXPO Easier Than Ever

Exeter, PA – One of the most important things a dealer can do before they attend NTP-STAG’s EXPO, is prepare. “Over the past several years we have integrated technology solutions into our trade show to make it easier for our customers to maximize their time on the show floor with us and take advantage of all the special offers we provide,” states John Spaulding, Director of Events and Communications. “Early preparation and utilization of these new tools can really improve a customer’s experience at the show,” he adds.

The company found that dealers who reviewed their purchase histories, took stock of their inventory and forecasted their demand for certain products before the show typically had more time to visit with suppliers about new lines and learn about new products and services offered by NTP-STAG. “Our Pre-Cart option within VIA allows our customers to get a head-start on building their show orders. The functionality is available now, giving everyone attending EXPO plenty of time to develop a buying plan for when they are with us in Nashville January 22-23,” says Fred Petrivelli, VP Sales NTP-STAG.

NTP-STAG’s pre-cart works just like an e-commerce shopping cart. Customers can add items to the pre-cart by selecting the Add-to-Expo Cart button available on product list and product detail pages within VIA. Pre-cart contents can be modified at any time and show pricing will appear on those items at the opening of the show.

EXPO attendee can also use the Pre-Show Upload tool available in the EXPO site. The Upload tool uses a simple Excel file format that allows customers to build their show buy and upload directly into a pre-cart. This is extremely helpful for customers that use their point of sales software to output usage reports. The information those reports generate can now be easily translated into a shopping cart making it much faster to build an order.

To see a quick tutorial about Pre-Cart go to Expo Precart Tutorial to learn more.

Technology advancements have also influenced how orders are placed at the show. Electronic ordering was introduced at EXPO two years ago, and is fast becoming the most popular way to submit orders. “Dealers are realizing that the time savings, order accuracy and other benefits associated with the technology makes the order writing process easier, faster and more enjoyable,” says Spaulding. “We use a bring-your-own-devise-and-data approach to our web-based solution and found that it is easier for people to use equipment they are familiar with. If it can connect to the internet, it can be used to place orders at the show.”

NTP-STAG EXPO is the industry’s largest warehouse distributor sponsored event. It draws attendees from across North America and features educational programming, exhibits from over 200 suppliers, season-best buying opportunities and a variety of networking functions. The event is being held January 22-23 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville, TN. To learn more about the event or pre-cart ordering, customer should contact their sales representative or visit expo.ntpstag.com.

NTP-STAG Expo 2019 Show App Available Now

Exeter, PA - NTP-STAG has announced the launch of the 2019 Expo Show App and its availability to download from the Apple Store and Google Play.

EXPO QR Code

The App is the Expo attendee’s gateway to real time information about the show.  Users will gain access to the show agenda, RV University schedule and PRO Seminar speakers and topics. Additionally, the App provides an interactive floor plan to make finding suppliers easier and live updates for notifications on prize drawing winners, Power Hours and much more. It’s simple to use and a very handy tool to get the most out of the Expo experience.

Getting the App is easy.  Go to https://guidebook.com/g/ntpstagexpo19

1. Tap the "Download" button to download the free Guidebook app
2. Open Guidebook and you can find our "NTP-STAG Expo 2019" guide
3. Tap "Enter passphrase" and enter ntpstagexpo19 to download our guide

Whether EXPO is the largest RV distributor sponsored event in North America. RV Dealers, Service Centers and Mobile Repair businesses are attracted to EXPO for the education and buying opportunities the event provides.  This year’s show will host 36 technical product and business development seminars at RV University. The exhibit hall will be home to nearly 200 suppliers showcasing new items, a model store and NTP-STAG exclusive marketing and merchandising offers. The season’s best deals await NTP-STAG’s customers at EXPO and the new Show App makes getting the most out of the event, easy.

NTP-STAG is the leading full service distributor and marketer of aftermarket RV products and services, uniquely positioned to offer customers and suppliers substantial scale, experienced associates, the most comprehensive inventory selection in the industry, high levels of customer service, and innovative marketing support. NTP-STAG 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 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.

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