According to the 2018 SEMA Market Report, industry sales reached a new high of $43 billion in 2017, showing an overall 4% rise. And while all the 2018 data hasn’t been neatly compiled yet, the general consensus is that, across the board, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers have shown substantial gains. Mostly all sales categories are showing positive growth, but a select few continue to stand out, driving new marketing strategies and product innovation.
Who’s leading the pack, you ask?
Well, it seems that regardless of a driver’s age, off-road-ready rigs continue to trend near the top, with pickup trucks and SUVs (particularly Jeeps) showing incredible growth year over year. We’re seeing interesting advancements among traditional categories like wheels and tires (which we’ll explore in more detail tomorrow), exterior accessories, and lighting, as the aftermarket responds to ever-evolving vehicle technology at the OE-level.
But the aftermarket is nothing if not nimble. And we’ve singled out a few off-road manufacturers that we feel are, frankly, crushing it with the new products they’re bringing to market. From new brands quickly climbing the ranks to tried-and-true veterans honing their stellar reputations, these companies are meeting and exceeding consumer expectations, with signature confidence and enthusiasm.
Wheels and Tires
Despite whispers that younger generations have no interest in driving, SEMA reported that U.S. car owners between the ages of 16 and 24 spent $7.2 billion modifying their vehicles last year, with 49% upgrading wheels and tires. (No paltry sum for a group of people supposedly disinterested in the auto industry.) In fact, SEMA reports that wheels are the single most common type of modification among young’uns, and looking at a company like Raceline Wheels, we can see why.
Among off-road manufacturers, these guys are top dog material. Founded back when the Macarena was still being (unironically) played at weddings across America, Raceline has spent the last 20+ years curating a massive selection of purpose-built and competition-proven wheels for a variety of applications. Constructed with first-rate quality in mind, Raceline Wheels ensure maximum form and function thanks to a heritage of racing excellence. (Think King of the Hammers and Mint 400.) The company offers hundreds of custom options in a variety of sizes and finishes, all backed by a competitive warranty.
“As global leaders and innovators in the off-road beadlock wheel industry, some have said that our wheels are over-engineered,” says Raceline. “But we pride ourselves in building a quality wheel with unparalleled focus, attention to detail, styling, and structural integrity. We are firm believers that it’s better to have it and not need it, then to need it and not have it.”
New to the lineup are the 934 Clutch, a patent-pending 10-spoke design available in black, bronze, or gunmetal finishes and a satin black simulated beadlock, as well as the 939 Disruptor, a modern take on the classic 9-spoke design, available in a gloss black finish with milled windows, chrome, or polished finish. Both are ideally suited for truck and Jeep applications.
Young and Hungry
For those who don’t require hardcore performance, but still demand a smooth ride with unparalleled looks, feast your eyes on FURY Off-Road. A young brand among off-road manufacturers, FURY’s only been on the scene since 2017. But the splash it’s made has created a massive ripple in the industry. With a finger on the pulse of off-road competition, FURY offers an exceptionally broad selection—all backed by a competitive four-year manufacturer’s warranty—with tread designs that marry rugged capability and on-road comfort. And when we say broad, we mean massive. “This company is set apart by unique sizes that push the boundaries, allowing bigger wheels on smaller lifts, such as the 33/14.50-24,” says Dan Guyer, Category Manager at Keystone Automotive. In fact, in November 2018, FURY Off-Road was proud to announce it would be the first manufacturer to make an M/T tire for a 30” wheel.
This desire to both meet and set trends has made the brand a darling among show truck enthusiasts, as evidenced by the abundance of its products on display at the 2018 SEMA Show. FURY’s flagship offering is the Country Hunter M/T, to which it just added a second-generation tread design improved for better off-road handling. Available in fitments for 17-, 18-, 20-, 22-, 24-, 26-, and 28-inch sizes, the FURY M/T offers all-season performance with an aggressive look and smooth ride. The company’s Country Hunter R/T series is available in fitments for 17-, 18-, 20- and 22-inch wheels and offers all-season performance with a fuel-efficient design, great for the everyday driver who still demands confident performance off-road.
“Our innovative engineering and technology deliver unique experiences by breaking new ground and setting the bar,” says the company. “Our products are tested on and off-road daily, ensuring only the best make it to market.”
Accessory & Appearance Enhancements
Also taking a big piece of the aftermarket pie are accessory and appearance products, which the 2018 SEMA Market Report clocked at a $23.05 billion consumer purchase estimate. Of that, over $3 billion was spent on exterior accessories and over $2 billion on lighting upgrades. The following off-road manufacturers are taking product innovation far beyond fan-favorites.
From cargo carriers to body mods, there’s no shortage of exterior accessories for consumers to experiment with. And experiment they do, with 63% of the dollars spent coming straight from the pockets of truck, SUV, and CUV drivers.
Bump It Up
As the first manufacturer to create multi-faceted smooth steel bumpers for truck, Jeep, and SUV applications, Road Armor is uniquely positioned to serve all markets with its quality-crafted, USA-made products. And while the company has recently expanded its product line to include body armor and light mounts for Jeep JK and JL Wranglers, the main focus always has been, and continues to be, quality aftermarket bumpers for both consumer and government applications.
“At Road Armor we pride ourselves in building the ultimate replacement bumper,” says the company. “A bumper that adds utility and function to your vehicle while simultaneously making it a safer place for its occupants. We receive testimonials regularly from grateful customers whose lives they believe were spared thanks to our bumpers, and first responders who see these kinds of accidents every day and know what the alternative looks like.”
Currently, the company’s bumper offerings break down into five series, all featuring the highest quality U.S.-sourced steel in gauges up to 2.5x thicker than the competition: Stealth (now available for 2015-2018 models of the award-winning RAM Rebel 1500), iDentity, Sahara, Vaquero, and Spartan.
“From the thickness of the steel and the quality of the welds to the perfection of the powder-coating process, Road Armor takes extreme pride in knowing their customers are getting the very best bumpers available for purchase,” says Scott Percival, Category Manager at Keystone Automotive.
Rhino-Rack, a leading manufacturer and distributor of roof rack systems and accessories in Australia since its founding in 1992, has recently expanded into the North American market, bringing with it a massive range of high-quality and durable roof top cargo solutions.
Rhino-Rack is dedicated to continually innovating its respected and heavy-duty product line through superior customer service, environmentally sustainable practices, and an open dialogue with car manufacturers about emerging vehicle trends. Every product is held to strict quality standards and undergoes rigorous testing to ensure it can perform in the harshest environments.
From roof racks, trays, cargo boxes and luggage bags, to sport accessories like bike carriers, kayak haulers and boat loaders, Rhino-Rack has a first-rate transport solution to suit every lifestyle. New to the off-road-ready brand’s lineup is a comprehensive awning system, providing an incredible 270 degrees of shade thanks to its ‘bat-wing’ design. Great for overlanders and outdoor enthusiasts, it can be outfitted with a wide range of accessories like tents, extensions, mesh rooms, and side walls.
Also new is the Rhino-Rack Backbone. Fitting to factory roof mounting points, the Backbone distributes load weight evenly over the vehicle, allowing for a carrying capacity of 331lbs, meaning you can carry more gear and explore further locales. Constructed of either stainless steel or cast aluminum with a powder-coat finish, the system is durable, weather-resistant, and stylish.
There is no shortage of off-road manufacturers offering durable body armor. But how many do you know are offering customizable, magnetic armor? Yea, that’s what we thought. While currently only available for certain Jeep models, MEK Magnet is growing fast and taking customers by storm. The San Diego-based company had its first major appearance at the 2018 SEMA Show, with the association referring to it as “a brand to watch.”
MEK Magnet’s unique Jeep armor is a stylish, custom-fit alternative to bulky, permanent body armor. Constructed of cast vinyl-wrapped magnetic panels, the armor kits are durable, flexible, and exceptionally easy to use. The sheeting is outdoor-rated, standing up to bad weather, bumpy trails, and temperatures ranging from -40°F to 170°F. Furthermore, each panel is digitally printed with high-quality UV ink, ensuring a crisp, clean, and fade-resistant finish.
MEK Magnet currently offers eight unique designs as well as the opportunity for customers to upload their own image, creating endless possibilities for customization. Ideal for those enthusiasts who want to stand out on the trail or business owners who want to expand their brand awareness. Each Jeep armor kit comes complete with panels for the front and rear fenders, doors, and door seams, takes only minutes to install, and wipes down easily with a damp cloth.
“There has never been an easier way to style your Jeep and provide tough and dependable protection,” says the company. “Your Jeep is an extension of you, put your mark on it!”
Can we really talk accessory upgrades without touching on the truly incredible work Baja Designs is doing? For over 25 years these guys have been dedicated to engineering the highest-performing LED lights on the market. Earning its stripes in off-road motorcycle racing, the brand has long led the charge toward innovating lighting technology. Pioneering both HID and LED illumination, Baja has now turned its sights on laser lighting, recently introducing the world’s first laser light bar and farthest-reaching product on the market, the OnX6 Hybrid.
While still using LEDs, the OnX6 Hybrid combines them with laser chips that provide a light beam that projects 350% further than any other premium light bar using traditional LED technology. Crafted from aircraft aluminum with a mil-spec hard anodized finish and stainless steel hardware, the light bar is waterproof, rainproof, and submersible. And like all of Baja’s quality products, it’s built with replaceable lenses and optics to keep you running no matter what. Keep looking to the future and add on a Baja XL Laser High Speed Spot—the world’s first laser auxiliary light.
Impressed by what you see here? You should be. These off-road manufacturers and many like them are showering the aftermarket with innovative goodies. And with no signs of slowing down, we can expect more big things. Speaking of which, you can meet each of these brands at the upcoming Keystone BIG Show, March 8-9 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas.