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

Keystone Automotive Launches Exclusive Interactive Garage Integration
Keystone Automotive Operations, distributor and marketer of automotive aftermarket products and services, has now exclusively integrated Interactive Garage, a virtual custom vehicle build visualizer, into its dealer transactional portal,

This new tool allows Trial and Premium subscribers to the platform a visual sales tool to demonstrate to their customers exactly how their selected parts and accessories will appear on their vehicles prior to purchase and installation.

“It is important to us that we continue to develop enhancements to the eKeystone user experience for our jobbers while providing them with tools designed to assist the sales process and help them grow their businesses,” says Keystone vice president, category management, Larry Montante. “We believe that high-quality services such as Keystone Interactive Garage add significant value to our eKeystone Premium users with an easy-to-use tool that their customers will appreciate.”

Accessed via, the Keystone Interactive Garage features 38 base vehicles sorted by year make and model, along with their corresponding color options and at launch, features more than 10,000 individual part variations from nearly 90 participating suppliers. Customized builds can be provided to in-store customers as a printout while the parts themselves can be added to the eKeystone cart with a single click.

“We developed Interactive Garage to be the perfect complimentary sales tool for jobbers, dealerships, and accessory manufacturers to provide the best user experience for the ultimate customer: the end consumer,” states Interactive Garage CEO and founder, Ryan Hagel. “Teaming up with Keystone provides our platform significant access into the marketplace that will aid in the acceleration of aftermarket product sales through visual vehicle personalization for users across the U.S. and Canada.”

This addition to the platform is now available and included with eKeystone Premium subscriptions. A customized version is also offered that delivers jobbers the ability to manage their retail pricing, customize the look and feel of the user interface, and incorporate the tool into their own websites.

“We’re receiving a tremendous response to Keystone Interactive Garage from our jobbers as well as our supplier partners,” added Montante. “With new parts being added daily, we will continue to expand the product offerings and with it, the variety of custom build options.”

2019 SEMA Show attendees will have the opportunity to learn more about the Keystone Interactive Garage when they visit the Keystone Booth #21249, while those who will not be attending the show are encouraged to speak to their Keystone representative for more information or visit:
Cap-it International partners with Keystone Automotive

EXETER, PA (September 10, 2019) - Today, Andrew Funk, President of Cap-it International, announces a partnership with Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc. as a Designated Supplier of Automotive parts and accessories to its 29 Cap-it Genuine Truckware locations across Canada and the United States.

Previously, Cap-it locations were serviced by Western Warehouse, a Wholesale Distributor of light truck accessories based in Western Canada owned by the Funk family.

“Since our beginning in 1977, Cap-it has been focused on providing an exceptional retail experience to our customers with a selection of light truck, adventure, and power sports accessories that is second to none. We believe this partnership will allow us to accelerate our efforts expanding the Cap-it Brand across North America. With Keystone’s exceptional service and inventory, they are the perfect partner to allow us to focus on growth while at the same time ensuring our franchisees and customers receive the best service possible.”

“We are excited to partner with the Cap-it team. Our mission and values match up nicely with theirs. Hank and Andrew have built an impressive business model focused on providing the best possible customer experience.” said Bill Rogers, President of Keystone Automotive Operations, “We have been servicing the Cap-it locations for many years and we are excited about the opportunity to significantly expand the partnership and enable their growth plans.”

Since 1990, Cap-it® Genuine TruckwareTM has established itself as a world-class retailer of quality truck accessories and camping products. Because Life’s an Adventure®, Cap-it’s 29 stores across North America provide customers and their vehicles lifestyle solutions for both work and recreation.

About Keystone Automotive Operations:

Keystone Automotive Operations 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.

Are You Tripping Up Your Customers on Their Path to Purchase?

It is no secret that a consumer’s journey to making a purchase is convoluted. The advent of online shopping, social networking and the availability of more information than ever before has created better informed and somewhat hard to predict buyers. In an October 2016 Thinking with Google article—titled 7 ways to win consumers on their path to purchase—the author states that the path to purchase is rarely linear and more akin to a scavenger hunt. To be successful today, a business must find ways to make sure they are found and captured in that hunt.

To get into the game you have to be ready to play and there are hundreds of books, articles, blog entries and white papers that provide insight into content, page design, search engine optimization, customer engagement, advertising and transaction management strategies that can help lay a foundation for your ecommerce initiatives. Not getting these things right will definitely hamper your success rate.

Oddly enough, however, those fundamentals are not what trips up consumers when they are making purchases online. Steven Noble, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, stated that a consumer passes through four lifecycle phases on their path to purchase: Discover, Explore, Buy and Engage. Historically, online and instore experiences—Discover and Explore—are positive and helpful in steering consumers to a buying decision.

It is at the Buy phase that eCommerce and instore purchases stall. In-store a consumer may fail to pull the trigger on a purchase because of price, experience with sales person, product availability and host of other reasons. Online that failure to commit is recorded as an abandoned cart and it is a significant problem for ecommerce stores. In his January 2019 article on, Stephan Serrano states that the average online store loses over 75 percent of their sales to cart abandonment.

Why are we able to get them to the gate but trip them up at the finish?

The reasons are plenty but center on transparency. Research by Statista and Baymard cite shipping and other unexpected costs along with the need to set up a user account as the primary motivators for not completing transactions. In the Barymard study of 1,799 U.S. adults in 2017, 60 percent of the respondents said they abandoned a cart because the extra costs associated with shipping, tax and fees were too high.

Imagine if you could claw back some of that 60 percent, not to mention the other 22 percent we leave at the alter because we want them to set up user accounts. Seamless, painless and easy to execute transactions can close more business. Buy-as-a-guest is a popular solution and offering free shipping can certainly help. However, tight profit margins can make free shipping services unaffordable for some businesses.

Keystone Automotive’s Parts Via sales network provides an innovative solution that tackles these issues head on. Parts Via connects brick and mortar retailers to supplier sites and the consumers looking to buy online. A simple Buy Now button inserted on the supplier’s site allows the consumer to purchase at the peak of their exploration process and choose to have their product shipped-to-home or shipped-to-store. Whatever shipping option is selected the retailer and the supplier benefit from the transaction.

The simplicity of the transaction process—no user account required—keeps consumers engaged and the free shipping, ship-to-store option delivers two distinct benefits. It gives the consumer what they are looking for (free shipping) and it provides traffic to the brick and mortar business allowing them to add to the original purchase and offer installation and other services. The Parts Via Network currently supports multiple supplier partners and 2,000-plus dealer members and many additional partners and dealers are coming online daily.

Keystone recently previewed its new consumer website during its annual BIG show in Dallas, as part of the program’s Phase II rollout. The site will complement the Buy Now functionality on supplier sites and have the added benefit of hosting all the Parts Via supplier’s products in one location. The new site will include a robust parts look-up tool, fresh content and ship-to-store and ship-to-home options. A new appointment scheduling feature, allowing Parts Via dealers to promote available installation times, will be added soon.

Keystone has also 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, where every transaction, a portion of the sale is shared with a Parts Via Network Dealer. The storefront’s current 2,661 SKUS are made up of high-volume MAP brands that help maintain margins throughout the supply chain.

A new loyalty program is also available to Parts Via network members. 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.


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, 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.

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