Keystone News

Industry retailers and professionals predict future growth with key products and categories

The aftermarket floats on seasonal trends, but 2016 suggested a shift within the industry. Short- lived, stylish items will always have their place; however, integrated LED lighting, blacked-out wheels and functional bed protection are a few of numerous trends that have long-term potential — all of which arguably begin and end with the success of popular vehicle platforms. Diesel and full-size truck segments continued to swell during 2016, making powered steps, tonneau covers, truck caps, and towing products consistently big sellers for Casey Meints, owner of Campway’s Truck Accessory World in Sacramento, Calif. “Hitches, adjustable ball mounts, accessories—I get them in stock, and two days later they’re gone,” he said.

Decades of R&D have resulted in sophisticated platform advancements for mid-size trucks, ideal utility or recreational vehicles prime for accessorizing. “The modern mid-size truck is the old full size,” said Ryan Osborne, FX Products product manager. Consider the revamped 2016 Tacoma and award- winning Colorado, which not only generated industrywide buzz, but also opened doors for the newly designed 2017 GMC Canyon Denali, 2017 Honda Ridgeline, and, perhaps, a new Ford Ranger. “That’s more tonneaus, more steps, more wheels, more tires, more suspension kits, and more performance product sales for all of us,” said Richard Villar, owner of Truck Toyz in Rocky Hill, Conn.

SUV and crossover accessory sales also remained steady, according to Keystone Automotive Operations Category Manager Nick Geiger. “Many car owners are shifting to these vehicle options, taking advantage of comparable size, safety and fuel economy,” he said. Manufacturers like Westin, Thule, Yakima and Go Rhino have responded with increased applications of bull bars, running boards, side steps, and cargo management. Example: TrailFX’s new bull bar with integrated LEDs in the crossbar gained ground.

But Jeep® remains the star of the show, garnering unwavering and ever-growing brand loyalty that is the foundation of ongoing expansion within the off-road segment. “Brands like Fox Shocks, JW Speaker and Rugged Ridge were big for us this year, as was LED lighting across the board,” said Mike Street, owner of Mike’s Off Road in Haltom City, Tex. “The platform remains very strong, probably the strongest for nearly everyone the past five years. I think it’s outperformed the truck market— just crazy growth,” he added.

Keystone Automotive Operations, the leading and largest wholesale distributor of aftermarket parts in North America, offers the most impressive selection of inventory across the industry. Keystone teamed up with industry professionals to recap a few of the many influential market segments, brands and products of 2016. See what they had to say!

Truck-Bed Options Lead The Way

“Truck bed rules the roost,” said George Lathouris, Keystone’s director of U.S. sales, “because millions of pickup trucks are sold every year. The acceptance of the tonneau cover to carry, protect and personalize continues to gain steam.” For Campway’s Meints, folding tonneau covers were especially popular, something he expects to continue into 2017.

Andy Morgan, Keystone’s category director of truck accessories, wheels and tires, has watched the tonneau market adapt to and drive trends. “If you look at the last five to10 years, the cover options have expanded exponentially, lower-profile designs, shaped or painted hard covers, and trendy, matte- black finishes. The functional expansion is really incredible — everything from water resistance, security, and cargo storage/management to ancillary lighting and multiple position options. Even automatic retractable covers are now available,” said Morgan.“Brands like BAK, Undercover, Extang, Truxedo, Retrax, Roll-n-Lock, and Pace Edwards continue to listen to the consumer and design new products using new materials to help offer new solutions. BAK MX4 and Undercover Ultra Flex will continue momentum in 2017,” he added.

Vehicle Protection: A Growth Segment

The rise of vehicle-protection products is simply unprecedented, noted Lathouris. “The vehicle- protection market is riding on the heels of the highly successful national advertising efforts of manufacturers like WeatherTech. They have grown the consumer base, opening up the funnel by Husky Liners Floor Liners advertising all over the place. Their efforts, and those of others, such as Husky Liners and Covercraft, have expanded the business for all.”

Commercial Applications Spur Sales

Growth on top of growth in the professional segment can be attributed to a variety of manufacturers and product categories. “The professional/upfitting market catering to the commercial customer has been a growth platform for many retailers,” said Lathouris. “The introduction of the smaller vans like Sprinters and Transits into that market has rejuvenated consumer interest in them, and that’s something we haven’t seen since the 1980s.” DECKED experienced a positive year, offering consumers a full line of innovative cargo solutions for work trucks and vans.

“There’s always a need to store goods safely and securely, whether for professional or personal use,” said Lathouris. Weather Guard released its new Defender Series, while Westin HDX and TrailFX heavy-duty bumpers, grille guards and steps like the Trapezoid continue to gain notoriety.

“In 2015, we made some adjustments to the professional segment and expanded to even deeper and broader inventory coverage. (Consequently), our Weather Guard and Kargo Master business was through the roof in the Southeast during 2016,” including tool boxes, ladder racks, van shelving, full van configurations and BOLT locks, said Kelli Kenyon, a Keystone sales team leader in Greensboro, N.C. “We can talk to our customers with confidence, educating them about fleet deals and encouraging them not leave anything on the table, because we have them covered,” she added.

What to look for in 2017?

The Ford Super Duty reigns commander in chief of the fullsize truck market. “The 2017 Ford Super Duty will help propel additional growth in the professional segment, as municipalities look to upgrade their fleets,” which means an increase in tool boxes, tanks, ladder racks, work lights and front-end protection, said Lathouris.

Jeep®, Off-Road Go Mainstream

“The segment went from niche to mainstream. The demand for off-road accessories didn’t diminish in any way, shape, or form,” said Lathouris. According to Truck Toyz’s Villar, conventional off-road products, such as Warn and Smittybilt recovery items, experienced another healthy year. “Jeep/off-road is becoming a bigger pie, but that also means it’s more split up, since larger, more traditional retailers are acknowledging the space,” said Lathouris. The market continues to be flooded with new brands and products, all attempting to make their mark.

Innovation in quality designs also deserved a standing ovation. TrailFX released its new front and rear bumpers, receiving a warm welcome at consumer events, such as Daytona Jeep Beach. Bestop introduced its groundbreaking Sunrider for hardtop, while the popularity of Fab Fours Grumper and Rugged Ridge Spartan grilles spawned a fashionable movement, including aggressive-looking hoods, fender flares, and body armor for Jeeps.

What’s undeniable is an ever-growing divide among off-road purists and mall-crawler modifiers. “It’s less about function and more about individualizing appearance,” said Dan Guyer, outside sales for Keystone in the Northeast. It’s become THE look, one so futuristic tit barely resembles a Jeep, a turn-off to many traditionalists but bringing retailers and restylers hordes of new business opportunity. Keep an eye on complementary markets during 2017, including outlander and camping items, such as ARB awnings, fridge/freezers and roof racks.

Consumer Demand Lifts Suspension Sales

The lift experience is a complete turnaround from years past. “Back then, many (consumers) were part of an off-road club. You grabbed a case of beer with your buddies and did the lift in the driveway together,” said Guyer. “But it’s not the same consumers anymore. They don’t want to do it themselves and prefer the convenience of aftermarket installers,” he added.Bilstein Shock and Coil Spring

The team at Truck Toyz knows its bread and butter, pushing out lifts, leveling kits, and wheels and tires. And Villar noticed an uptick in premium brands, “They are spending a little more to have better quality. It’s our job to up-sell those features and benefits.” But he also noted that budget kits are still popular. “They have no intention to take it off-road but want the look,” he added. The aftermarket unleashed some serious shock technology in 2016. “There’s tremendous innovation in the creation of the Old Man Emu BP-51 shock absorbers. They provide the ultimate in comfort and control,” said Lathouris.

He explained the BP-51 range allows on-vehicle, independent adjustability of both rebound and compression to offer class-leading ride customization that can be tailored to individual vehicle or trip requirements. “And the Bilstein B8 6112 provides consumers with superior ride characteristics and quality. The kit optimizes off-road and on-road capabilities with a 60 mm digressive piston for increased damping control,” he added.

Another hot-ticket item in 2016: “Leveling kits are incredibly popular. For about $300-$400, a consumer can give their truck an entirely different look — a minimal amount of money to achieve much better appearances (and) that small adjustment means they can get more tire underneath,” said Guyer.

Wheels And Tires Keep Rolling Along

Mickey Thompson, Dick Cepek and Toyo consistently deliver dependable tires. This year was no exception, as these lines were well received by jobbers and consumers alike. The new norm in the world of wheels: “Black has overtaken bling,” said Marc Pugh, Ultra Wheels marketing manager. “The biggest trend in 2016 wasn’t necessarily the wheels themselves as much as how rapidly they were coming out. The styles were out and then evolved or died before they could even be knocked off overseas,” said Keystone’s Guyer.

Lighting Has A Bright Future

Another mainstay is LED lighting, and this past year placement proved to be as important as function. “Rigid Industries takes the cake,” with quality and aesthetics, said Villar at Truck Toyz. “But the placement has gone crazy. Integrated into bumpers, on top and underneath hoods, interiors, undercarriages,” he said. Not to mention enormous 50-inch-plus mounted light bars that mall crawlers likely will never use, but need to have.RIGID Light Display

Expect an increase in utility in 2017. “The trend seems to be shying away from vanity applications and toward increased utility focus. Hardcore off-roaders have always been prime customers, but more snow plowers and contractors are getting into the game, while the for-show-only crowd might soften,” said Keystone Northeast sales manager Erich Ross.

Performance Products Keep Up The Pace

Name brands like aFe POWER and Magnaflow recorded big years with Keystone, confirming that Jeep and truck owners are demanding higher performance from their vehicles. “Diesel performance (BD Diesel, MBRP, etc.) just keeps getting bigger. Guys are competing more and more. They may drive them during the week, but they’re building them to run at the track,” said Villar. Darron Shubin, Magnaflow national sales director, added, “Nearly half of all Magnaflow exhaust system sales are in the truck segment, and six of the top 10 SKUs are truck applications. Specifically, the Ram 1500 dual rear exit and the Ford Raptor cat-back systems maintained year-over-year pace. The GM and Chevy 2500 and 3500 series Duramax-equipped trucks are trending. Another exciting observation would be the rapid growth from the young 1500 series pickups equipped with diesel motors.”

The year 2017 appears promising in the aftermarket, no matter the ride of choice. Capitalize on new-vehicle platform releases by partnering with Keystone. Order the latest brands, products and applications today, receive it tomorrow.


Recent Articles

NTP-STAG Awarded 2021 RVIA Distributor of the Year

NTP-STAG was honored to be recognized as Distributor of the Year at the recent 2021 RV Aftermarket Conference in Atlanta, Ga.

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Conference, the RV Aftermarket Awards presentation was hosted by Bob Brammer of Stromberg Carlson and John Hawkins of BAL as the industry came together to recognize the top aftermarket individuals, suppliers, distributors, and products.

Click here to learn more about the 2021 RV Aftermarket conference and this year’s RV Aftermarket Award recipients.

Jon White and John Spaulding of NTP-STAG accept the RVIA Distributor of the Year Award

Larry Montante - 2021 SEMA Board of Directors Candidate
Larry Montante - 2021 SEMA Board of Directors Candidate

Larry Montante - 2021 SEMA Board of Directors Candidate

Keystone Automotive Operations is proud to announce that after a rigorous vetting process, our very own Larry Montante is a Candidate on the ballot for the 2021 SEMA Board of Directors.

For more than 37 years, Larry Montante has been instrumental in the success of Keystone Automotive Operations. Launching his career in the warehouse then on to roles in Retail, Sales, Purchasing, and Marketing, Larry has risen through the ranks to his current position as Vice President of Category Management. Throughout his time with Keystone, Larry has fostered important relationships with the automotive retail community along with the manufacturers that supply products to the industry.

Now, at a time when the automotive aftermarket is facing some of its most unique challenges, Larry has decided to parlay his lifetime of experience into a role where he can be a strong, positive influence on the industry as he vies for a seat on the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Board of Directors. Having been chosen as a candidate for the position, Larry’s campaign emphasizes his years of experience in multiple leadership roles along with his genuine understanding of the needs of retailers, suppliers, and consumers in this rapidly evolving marketplace.

As he looks to make an impact on the future of the industry, Larry’s knowledge, passion and energy make him an idea individual to join the SEMA Board while they work to protect our industry and continue to inspire and educate future automotive enthusiasts. There is much work to be done and Keystone Automotive Operations is proud that one of our own, Larry Montante is ready to roll up his sleeves and do what it takes to get the job done.

To learn more about Larry Montante and his SEMA Candidacy, please visit: and follow him on Facebook for updates

Keystone Automotive Operations and Elby Bikes join forces to distribute Electric Bikes across North America


August 1, 2020

Elby Mobility has entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with Keystone Automotive Operations covering the entire U.S. and various parts of other countries. Elby Bikes created its first e-bike with an industry-leading hydroformed step-through frame design and continues to innovate in the e-mobility market.

"With the growth in the e-bike market over the past few years, businesses like ours need to secure, strategic partnership programs with a company like Keystone, that deliver products to market more efficiently and quickly," said Frank Stronach, owner of Elby Bikes and founder of automotive products manufacturer, Magna International. "Our strengths have always been creating and designing high quality industry-leading products and bringing them from concept to reality. We are also excited to show what we have for 2021, and we feel Keystone is the best partner to launch with"

Elby Mobility evaluated several options before landing on Keystone. "I have been a pioneer in the automotive aftermarket for decades and we feel that Keystone is the perfect fit for the growth of Elby Mobility. Under our new leadership team, we are excited to support the distribution and B2B platform once again."

"We are very happy to partner with Elby Mobility in this rapidly growing space." Said Andy Morgan, category director for Keystone Automotive Operations. "Elby’s ebikes are extremely high quality, use top notch components and are consistent with the quality we expect. The product is very well designed, operates impeccably and most of all are fun to ride! We are excited to serve a new dealer base as well as offering them to our existing customers."

Elby Bikes

About Elby Mobility

Founded in 2019, Elby Mobility is pioneering a revolution in the way we move through our communities and cities. Elby Mobility’s ebikes provide empowering alternatives to move people through their communities with ease. By providing a scalable, leading-edge solution, we strive to relieve the pain points of transportation and build value for businesses. At the same time, we know our electric-powered solutions are contributing toward a sustainable future, reduced congestion, a cleaner environment, and higher quality of life for everyone.

Elby Mobility sells directly to consumers but is also a leading provider of ebike fleets to hospitality properties, corporate and collegiate campuses, high-density residential communities, and municipal governments. These fleets provide organizations with new opportunities for revenue generation, improved customer engagement and loyalty, and methods to advance corporate sustainability initiatives.

Elby is welcoming, aspirational, connected, and built to carry us all into a better future. Most of all, they’re incredibly fun to use. Elby. Feel Electric.

For more information on Elby Mobility, please visit

COVID-19: How we are responding, a message from our President



To our trusted suppliers and customers:

The unprecedented effects of COVID-19 (coronavirus) are having a tremendous impact on our lives and businesses. The health, safety and wellbeing of our employees, customers and suppliers is our primary concern and we are continuing to take actions to mitigate the risks across all our facilities based upon guidance provided by the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and other public health authorities and resources. We continue to expect that all employees and drivers remain vigilant in maintaining proper hygiene habits in addition to social distancing.

Our practices have been enhanced to include more frequent, regular cleaning and disinfecting of delivery vehicle surfaces such as interiors and steering wheels, remote controls on lifts, doorknobs and other areas of the vehicles that are frequently touched. We have modified travel and in-person meeting policies appropriately and expect our employees to stay home if they show symptoms or feel sick. We have instituted rigorous cleaning and sanitation practices throughout all our warehouses, vehicles, offices and facilities. Where possible, employees have been transitioned to work at home while we have established strict distancing guidelines for associates working in any of our operating facilities.

We actively monitor the fluid developments of this situation as we continue to serve our customers and support the interests of our suppliers. Many of our customers and suppliers are small and medium-sized, independent essential businesses and as a vital component of the supply chain, we are doing everything we can to service them and the communities and consumers they serve.  In the furtherance of this objective, we continue to receive and process orders and maintain deliveries where there is demand and not limited by government restrictions.

We understand the economic realities of this unprecedented situation with their impact on our industry and believe that in staying the course, we can take steps to mitigate the disruption to our business partners.  We are confident that this challenge will pass, and we will move forward together.

We wish you safety and health and thank you for your support.

Thank you,
Bill Rogers

scroll up