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

 

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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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