Keystone News

  • 6/27/2016 12:00:00 AM
  • Sherman Goldenberg

Exeter, PA.-based Keystone Automotive Operations Inc. (KAO) had previously announced the opening of its sprawling, 360,000-square-foot Brownstown, Mich., warehouse, which has been shipping parts and accessories orders to independent automotive retailers and RV parts and accessories clients since last fall. (To view a slideshow scroll to the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com page linked above).

But the company’s new “Great Lakes Warehouse” got a more public initiation on Saturday (June 25) when Keystone, led by several senior executives, welcomed more than 100 customers for a casual meet-and-greet session plus lunch and tours of the facility just south of metropolitan Detroit after which attendees joined the “Keystone Team” for a Detroit Tigers-Cleveland Indians baseball game.

Also in attendance were a handful of supplier exhibitors, including bed-cover maker Truck Hero Inc., Ann Arbor, Mich., and hitch manufacturer Cequent Performance Products Inc., Plymouth, Mich.

KAO’s Brownstown facility, now one of seven key warehouses positioned nationally for a company that bills itself as the world’s largest automotive parts and accessories distributor, is designed to service primary Brownstown Open Housecross-dock fulfillment locations in places like Akron, Ohio, Chicago and Grand Rapids, Mich., and to speed deliveries throughout the north-central U.S. and parts of Ontario.

“I think the most important thing for us to get across is that we’ve always serviced this region as a company,” explained George Lathouris, director of U.S. automotive sales for KAO, a unit of Chicago-based LKQ Corp. “But we needed this facility and the inventory that’s inside it to do a better job here because of the growth and expansion that we’ve been experiencing as an organization. We just needed more square footage.

“So, instead of adding onto an existing facility, we put our merchandise closer to the customer, so they’re getting great order fill – quickly without a lot of transferring – coming right out of this facility directly to their stores.”

And while a clear majority of Keystone’s business is automotive — as were most of Saturday’s open house guests — KAO spokesmen indicate they’ve made a lot of progress lately in integrating the RV parts and accessories businesses added over the past two to three years with the acquisitions of North America’s three largest two-step RV distributors, including Oregon-based NTP Distribution Inc., Atlanta’s Stag-Parkway Inc. and, last August, The Coast Distribution System Inc., Morgan Hill, Calif.

In fact, Lathouris told RVBUSINESS.com that RV dealer parts and accessories deliveries are now part and parcel of KAO’s daily routine, with many delivery trucks now fitted with large “cannon tubes” for handling RV awnings and moldings. And, he noted, the overall impact has been a positive for a business built on volume deliveries across the country.

“I think it’s been great for the (overall Keystone) organization because it gives us the opportunity to offer varied products and, let’s just say, frequency of delivery because the increased volume in the organization gives us the opportunity to service all of our customers better – more cross-docks, more trucks, more inventory, more people,” said Lathouris, who’s based out of Corona, Calif. “It’s a situation where we can take care of more customers in a more effective fashion.”

Now that the integration of NTP and STAG has been completed, the main order of business on the RV side is to finish off the same process with Coast, a process that, according to John Ruch, vice president of fulfillment and logistics, should be finished in six months to a year.

“We’ve integrated or are in the process of integrating 13 of Coast’s 17 buildings,” said Ruch. “The four that are left are Fort Worth, Texas, Atlanta, Elkhart, Ind., and Visalia, Calif. And we’re going to continue through the rest of the year looking to see where we can provide better customer service by combining deliveries on our trucks and getting products more quickly out to our customers. We’re going to continue to integrate where we can, so there’s really no plan solidified yet on dates or anything. But we’ll just look to continue to provide that better customer service. By having everything consolidated, you have better inventory, better cut times and more consistent deliveries.”

Bottom line, Lathouris and Ruch agreed, RV parts and accessories are now part and parcel of what KAO does on a regular basis at all seven of its main warehouses.

“Our true value proposition is we take many different products, put them on one delivery truck and for one fee we drop off — one item or 20 items – a small part of the truck or the entire truck – for one fee — and the merchandise can come from any one of our seven locations direct to the customer,” said Lathouris. “The fact that it may be large and bulky and we can get it there so efficiently, I think, is some of the magic that we offer to the customer base. I think it’s worth noting.”

 

  • 6/14/2016 12:00:00 AM

CORONA, CA - There is nothing more indicative of summer than eating a burger.  Unless, you’re eating that burger riding shotgun in a souped up ride!  Here at Keystone, we always feel the need for speed (and burgers!) so Tuesday, June 14th we invited employees, manufacturers and customers to our Corona, Ca offices for a little supercharged fun in the sun. 

Our partners at Magnaflow, Edelbrock, Energy Suspension, MGP Calipers, Powermaster, KW Suspension, Hypertech and Belltech came together with their show trailers and booths, while Customers and employees walked the show listening to dynamic sales training and new product tutorials.  Edelbrock even spun some of them around in their Supercharged Mustang, courtesy of Ken Schuck and KAM Marketing.

Ben Chase, regional Sales Rep, along with George Lathouris, Director of Sales, and John Grier, West Coast Sales Manager, gave customers a tour of the California offices and warehouse.   Chase said the event was a major success, noting the great deal of customer and supplier interaction.

The local community came out to support.  Very special thanks to The Habit Burger Grill for supplying the delicious burgers and to Thunder from the Lake Elsinore Storm Minor League Baseball Team for entertaining us with his sweet dance moves.

Powersports Industry Offers Retailers And Restylers Increased Profit Potential

Spring is a seasonal gold mine across many aftermarket segments and an ideal opportunity for retailers and restylers to take advantage of increased foot traffic and cash in. There’s certainly no shortage of enthusiast activities to fuel a consumer spending spree.

 

For example:

  • Off-road racing fans are savoring the intensity of a short-course dirt track and tinkering with their own 4x4 parts in the garage
  • The Jeep® community is hitting the trails top-down style, hoping to get stuck and put that premium winch to good use
  • Open-road adventure seekers have their campers in tow, excited to explore the great outdoors
  • Gear heads are making final modifications to get their whips road ready for the summer season

 

But the powersports market, comprised of ATVs, side-by-sides (SxS), motorcycles, powerboats, personal watercraft (PWC), and snowmobiles, has a diehard group of recreational enthusiasts that often is overlooked as a prime target and means for diversification within the aftermarket. It’s a stable industry with healthy margins and a loyal customer base — and retailers and restylers should be tapping into this pool of increased profit potential.

“(Powersports units) need to be towed, hauled or trailered, and you need a truck in order to do that, so there’s strong customer crossover between truck-accessory shops and the powersports market. Keystone offers products for both,” said Tom Gross, a powersports industry veteran of nearly 30 years and owner of Uni Filter, a manufacturer of high-performance polyurethane foam air filters and a top brand choice among serious off-roaders.

Keystone Automotive Operations, the leading and largest wholesale distributor of automotive aftermarket parts in North America, teamed up with two of its valued partners in the powersports industry, Terracross and Uni Filter, to educate retailers and restylers about the current state of business, market trends, crossover and diversification opportunities, as well as profit potential.

Side-by-Sides Leading the Way

Glenice Wilder, VP of Powersports EFG Companies, said the first quarter of the 2016 fiscal year was off to a positive start, as unit sales, dealer profitability, and maintenance service repairs are all trending upwards. But SxS sales are the true story, taking the industry by storm and nearly cannibalizing a once-dominant ATV market. According to Motorcycle & Powersports News, UTV sales are estimated to be in the neighborhood of 400,000 units, which is significantly higher than its ATV counterpart.

“The UTV has become a popular choice among families, sportsmen and off-roaders alike,” said Joe Duncan, owner of Terracross and a 20-year veteran of the industry with extensive experience in the snowmobile and SxS market segments. “It’s an estimated two-billion dollar segment that is expected to nearly double over the next two years. Whereas ATVs are a highly individualized activity, an entire family can enjoy a UTV experience together during all 12 months of the year, and so we’ve seen a shift (in demand),” he said.

Market data suggests that powersports consumers have one of the largest discretionary budgets, spending thousands of dollars on the unit itself and then several thousand more in aftermarket upgrades — not unlike many truck or Jeep consumers who are eager to customize their rig at the point of purchase with LED lighting, side steps, recovery items or front-end protection. “And that discretionary budget doesn’t end there. It includes an increased rate of replacement parts and maintenance service repairs associated with powersports recreation,” explained Duncan.

Do you see dollar signs yet? According to Steve Nessl, Yamaha ATV/SxS group marketing manager, “The SxS market is evolving, and that’s a good thing for dealers and consumers who will have more selling and buying options.” The result: An opportunity for retailers and restylers to attract new customers, diversify their business and share in the powersports profits — from aftermarket upgrades and personal equipment to repair and maintenance products.

Know Thy Market

Duncan of Terracross offered shop owners some candid advice to consider while exploring diversification opportunities in the powersports industry. “Powersports is a specific niche, so you’ve got to know the players, be knowledgeable about the units and aftermarket products, and share a passionate appreciation for the lifestyle,” said Duncan. “First rule of thumb is to know thy market,” he added. “What kind of powersports are in demand within your immediate area? Is there a body of water, a motocross track or trails?

Next, you want to get yourself involved in the local sport — attend an event, sponsor an event, talk to consumers at the event. Pick their brains about what products they’d like to see offered in your shop. You have to know what’s sellable! This is a loyal group of enthusiasts, and if you support them, they’ll support you.” Uni Filter’s Gross also suggested a handful of core products that will always be in demand among powersports users, including maintenance items, such as tires, filters, spark plugs, chains and belts.

Tap Into Sales and Profit Potential

“On average, accessories spending is about $2,000 the minute (customers) buy the (UTV). They may spend $6,000-$7,000 in accessories over the lifetime of the unit. If it’s being used in the racing circuit, guys could be spending $50,000-$60,000 when all is said and done between the engine, tranny and differential work,” said Terracross’ Duncan. “Bottom line, there’s a lot of sales potential and strong margins on powersports products, which help offset some of the margin pressures on the aftermarket side of the business,” added Gross. “Guys are towing their toys, so it’s a natural add-on sale for truck-accessory shops.”

And it doesn’t stop there! Above and beyond accessorizing, ATVs and UTVs virtually assure consistent work for service repair shops. “The rise of SxS sales represents plenty of tire changes, service work, parts and accessories profitability for dealers to cash in on,” reported Motorcycle & Powersports News. This provides retailers and restylers an opportunity to showcase the significant range of skills its technicians have to service crossover consumers in both the aftermarket and powersports industries.

Partner with a Distributor

“We’re always looking to bring on more enthusiasts and expand our powersports network,” said Duncan. But the powersports industry has a strict distribution model, so diversification must be done appropriately. Duncan and Gross suggested that retailers and restylers identify a target segment, conduct preliminary market research to determine what lines and products will best suit the needs of local consumers, and lean on the expertise of key manufacturers within the powersports space to direct them to the right distribution partner. “Keystone is dedicated to expanding the reach of the powersports industry by getting our automotive aftermarket customer base excited about and involved in the market,” said Jason Shatrowskas, Keystone category manager. “We carry dozens of powersports lines, many of them very strong crossover brands that make it an easier transition into this space for our automotive aftermarket customers.”

Diversification doesn’t need to be drastic. It can be as simple as stocking popular maintenance parts or as complex as broad inventory and repair service. Either way, consider the impressive opportunity that awaits. Let Keystone be your go-to team, helping you explore a new market, expand your customer reach and increase your company’s profitability.

 

Recent Articles

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 vendors 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 also modified travel and in-person meeting policies appropriately and expect our employees stay home if they show symptoms or feel sick.

 

While we are actively monitoring the fluid developments of this situation, we also understand the importance of continuing to serve our customers and support the interests of our suppliers. Many of our customers and suppliers are small and medium-sized, independent businesses and as a vital component of the supply chain, we are remaining true to our mission in the attempt to mitigate the impact on these businesses and their communities.  In the furtherance of this objective, we continue to receive and process orders and maintain deliveries except where limited by government restrictions.

 

We understand the economic realities of this unprecedented situation and their potential impact on our industry and believe that in staying the course, we can limit 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 continued business.

 

Thank you,

Bill Rogers

eKey App Used by Over 1000 Jobbers
The eKey Mobile App launched early 2019. No more were Jobbers tied to a computer terminal. The app gave the flexibility to access eKeystone tools from anywhere they choose. In addition to Year/Make/Model and VIN barcode reader, Jobbers can use the Smart Search tool they are familiar with from the eKey website. It doesn’t stop there, once the parts are orders on the app, Jobbers can track the status of their delivery truck, ensuring that service schedules can be maintained. The app is available for download on the iTunes App Store and Google Play.
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, eKeystone.com.

This new tool allows Trial and Premium subscribers to the eKeystone.com 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 eKeystone.com, 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: http://wwwsc.ekeystone.com/KIG.
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.

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