The Jeep® and off-road market has offered consumers over-the-top customization since the advent of the platform. What’s changed are the brands, products and overall trends driving the industry. Let’s take a look at what’s in store for 2017.
Ultimate Tool for Personalization
“The Jeep® and off-road aftermarket has been able to weather economic uncertainty the last 8-10 years. And it just continues to grow. I think this is due to the strong enthusiasm and passion that Jeep® consumers have,” said Joe Johnston, Director of Sales at Drake Automotive Group.
“Innovation is what drives this market, as there are no two Jeeps® that are exactly alike. Every owner wants to differentiate and create his or her own ultimate Jeep®. What we do well at Drake Off Road is create unique quality parts that help the Jeep® owner have something extraordinary to set them apart,” Johnston continued.
A Shift in Quality for Jeep® and Off-Road Products
And while that desire to personalize won’t change in 2017, the term uniqueness is beginning to wane. Jeep® provides the ideal platform for crazy customization. So it’s no surprise the market continues to be flooded with new brands and products all attempting to make their mark. But there’s little differentiation when everyone has started to rock the same look.
“The Jeep® and off-road market is becoming a bigger pie. But that also means it’s more split up since larger, more traditional retailers are acknowledging the space,” said George Lathouris, Director of US Sales at Keystone Automotive Operations, Inc. “It doesn’t mean the Jeep® and off-road market won’t grow, but differentiation is needed. There’s a lot of copy cats out there,” he added.
Fortunate for us, innovation deserves a standing ovation as of late. Consumers are demanding top quality even if they don’t plan to take the rig off road. So there’s been a distinct shift from cheap and middle-grade to premium products. And that includes everything from high end performance items and expensive vehicle protection to additional interior, exterior and lockable Jeep® storage.
Our pals at Fab Fours are leading the way when it comes to quality made right here in the good ol’ USA. The popularity of their Grumper and Vicowl have spawned a fiercely fashionable movement unlike any other. And it’s inspired aggressive-looking hoods, fender flares and body armor for Jeeps by countless other manufacturers.
“Jeepers want nicer quality items, so they only have to buy it one time. Made in the USA continues to gain ground,” added Justin Andrews, Marketing and Sales at Factor 55.
Broaden the Horizons
“Also, we as an industry have been completely focused on Wrangler, forgetting there are a ton of classic Cherokees on the road to customize as well. The introduction of Patriots and Renegades, which are over 100k vehicles sold every year, change the game too,” said Lathouris. Wrangler still has the halo effect, but the others offer untapped potential for shops looking to dip their toes in adjacent areas. That includes development of the long awaited Ford Bronco return and popular Toyota models like the Tacoma, 4Runner and Land Cruiser.
Expansion in Complementary Segments
Complementary market segments are also ripe with potential. “People are using their vehicles for more things today. Road warriors are making the off-road segment very exciting. And they’re after both form and function,” said Melissa Richardson, VP of Sales and Marketing at Warrior Products. “We see a trend in consumers buying products that pertain to the complementary overlanding/camping market, as opposed to hardcore rock crawling. Our parts at Factor 55 work for both. It doesn’t matter what vehicle you have. We do vehicle recovery from Jeep® to Toyota,” said Andrews.
What’s undeniable in 2017 is an ever-growing divide among off-road purists and mall-crawler modifiers. “It’s less about function and more about individualizing appearances anymore,” said Dan Guyer of Keystone. Shop owners, get stockin’. And consumers, have fun personalizing!