Q&A: Industry Pros Discuss a Growing Truck Performance Segment and How Shops Can Capitalize

Pro Comp Tire A/T Sport

In our previous piece exploring the market of truck performance aftermarket upgrades, we explained how this segment paves the way for many additional accessory sales. Check out this Q&A with industry pros to learn more about current trends in the truck market as well as top products, models, and brands.

Q: What is the current state of business in the truck performance industry?

A: Light duty truck sales were the hardest hit during the economic downturn. Now, not only are truck sales on the rise, but the truck performance segment is alive and well too. In fact, exhaust sales alone hit the 1.26 billion dollar mark in the latest SEMA Market Report. “The truck performance segment is a tremendous market for the jobber to capture add-on sales and build a client for life, time and time again,” said Chuck Wallace, a sales associate located in the Dallas, TX call center. Supporting this claim, independent specialty shops sat atop the leader board in latest SEMA Market Report, with 18% of all exhaust sales.

John Shelton, a fellow sales associate based in Corona, CA, warns that the biggest threat to continued sales growth in the truck performance segment is CARB regulations in states like his, which can significantly impact intake and tuner business. “So long as [aftermarket] manufacturers can keep up with the new-model trucks, then we’ll continue to capture sales,” he said. And thus far, the aftermarket continues to pump out one hot and compliant product after another!

Q: What are the most common trucks being upfitted?

A: Ford, Chevy, Dodge, and Toyota continue to drive the upfitting trend. The light duty truck market, including Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, and RAM, are important to MagnaFlow’s exhaust division growth, commented Laurel Dasher, National Accounts Manager at MagnaFlow. “Specifically, the Ram 1500 dual rear exit and the Ford Raptor cat-back systems are maintaining year over year pace,” added Darron Shubin, National Sales Director at MagnaFlow. “The GM & Chevy 2500 & 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,” continued Shubin.

But Dave Simpson, Vice President of Sales at aFe POWER says the industry should be watching the long-term popularity and performance of vehicles like the Ford F-150 EcoBoost, which stand to have a significant impact on the diesel truck performance segment.

From a Keystone sales perspective, “The Super Duty is still a top selling vehicle overall and it’s one of the least expensive to do a lift [add-on sales, Cha Ching!]. Dodge/RAM have a strong platform and are common for industrial environment use. And the Duramax has become more mainstream,” said Chuck Wallace. It will be interesting to see if the Nissan Titan XD becomes a contender among the giants…

Q: What is the most common reason consumers are purchasing truck performance aftermarket products?

A: The truck performance segment is vast and there are many products available to suit the unique needs of general consumers, street performance enthusiasts, racers, haulers, or commercial users. “Most people are seeking better performance overall, including everyday driving and general trailering or RV’ing. Some want better mileage and others just want to smoke the tires,” said Shelton.

Retailers and restylers don’t need to be masters of all. Rather, let a partner like Keystone help identify a target audience and build an appropriate inventory selection. If a consumer is interested in a part that you don’t happen to have in stock, then place your order with Keystone today and have it by tomorrow.

Q: If a retailer or restyler wants to diversify their shop offerings to include truck performance items then what are the top products and brands that should be considered?

A: Performance truly begins at ground level with a consumer’s choice of proper wheels and tires, which, in turn, dictates the quality of suspension products required to optimize the desired experience. “Then it’s time to consider upselling the BIG 3: intake, exhaust, and tuner. Suggestions: Intake – aFe POWER, Airaid and K&N; exhaust – Flowmaster, MagnaFlow, and MBRP; and tuners – Hypertech, Superchips, Bullydog, and Edge,” said Shelton. “Diesel trucks have a few more options to increase the horsepower with intercoolers, turbo upgrades, and injectors,” he added. “And don’t forget the electronic side speedometer calibration, which is a nice add on,” said Wallace.

BD Diesel

BD Diesel has established a legacy and with more than four decades of experience in the fuel injection business, they are a renowned brand name whose quality is undisputed on both the road and at the track. “BD Diesel offers a line of exhaust manifolds that don’t tamper with the emissions system. The throttle position sensors work on gas and diesel trucks and plug into any North American gas pedal to make the driving experience so much easier,” said Brian Roth, President of BD Diesel.

MBRP

MBRP, another popular choice among consumers and a leader in diesel exhaust systems, adds to the new product line-up with the release of new replacement parts for many of the wear items on late model diesel trucks. “This includes, but isn’t limited to, y-pipes, up-pipes, manifolds, and many others,” commented Jesse Rohr, U.S. Sales & Marketing Director at MBRP.

aFe POWER

aFe Power remains one of the best kept secrets of the diesel truck performance segment, coming on the scene in the early 2000s and growing leaps and bounds ever since. “aFe POWER has a variety of products, not just intakes and not just exhaust systems, that fit both gas and diesel vehicles. Build brand equity with us and experience excellent synergy with aFe POWER, from exhaust and intake to a new tuner and more. Receive the same look, feel, features, and benefits [for a cohesive aftermarket experience],” said Dave Simpson, Vice President of Sales at aFe POWER.

Q: If I am a current truck performance shop already well-versed in the product offerings, then what can I be doing differently to grow my business?

A: Another critical component that consumers often avoid and shops fail to upsell are ring and pinion upgrades. “Yes, an intake will increase performance, but it will be localized. With a ring and pinion upgrade, you can feel it in every gear, in every situation,” said Dan Guyer, Category Manager at Keystone Automotive. “It’s a financial investment for consumers and a skill and labor-intensive installation for jobbers, but the fruits of the effort are worth it [for both],” he added.

“Our customers know when adding larger wheels and tires, it changes the overall drive ratio. Educating consumers of the importance to upgrade the ring and pinion gears essentially does a few things: A) ensures consumers that their vehicle will perform as the engineers originally designed it. B) presents you as a legit, specialty shop since ring and pinion gear upgrades are a more challenging installation. And C) due to the complexity of such an upgrade, it establishes a relationship between you and the consumer that likely will lead to many other aftermarket purchases and installations,” said Guyer.

Q: What is the truck performance segment forecast for aftermarket retailers and restylers?

A: Guyer believes the enhanced sophistication of late-model trucks will result in increased business for retailers and restylers. “If a consumer is dropping between $60,000-$80,000 on a new truck, then he’s going to be less likely to play DIY with performance upgrades like tuners and even exhaust, especially with increased emissions controls and possible voids of warranty these days. He’s going to want a skilled shop to stand by their work,” he said.

Q: Are there any new market trends in the truck performance industry?

A: “There is an uptick in gas trucks and half-ton models in particular. Based on the [OEM] modifications, many truck owners don’t need the added expense of having a three-quarter ton when a half-ton truck now can get the job done,” said Wallace. “There remains a strong preference for diesel in the construction and industrial trades because of the vehicle platform’s motor and overall durability.”

The late-model behemoths boast some fine-tuned upgrades, including luxurious interiors with massaging seats, integrated WiFi, heated and cooled seats, leather trims, and much more. Yet pre-emissions trucks rank high in demand for many DIYers. “Because of the complexity of the new trucks, ‘Harry Homeowner’ might be looking at a 2005 or earlier [where he can tinker more freely without the hassle of today’s emissions controls],” added Guyer.

The truck performance segment continues to grow, with golden opportunities around every corner. But your success in this market is only as good as the effort you put in. Do the necessary consumer-level research and reach out to partners like Keystone to determine who the target customer is and what they’re eager to purchase. After a target audience is established, you can tailor product and service offerings, employee training, and marketing in that direction.

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