Need a Lift?
The suspension aftermarket…it’s purportedly valued north of 1.6 billion dollars when all product subcategories are considered. Until recently, it seemed like all rigs were lifted so high that one needed a ladder and a gentle shove from a buddy just to climb into the cab. But Dan Guyer, an outside sales associate for Keystone, has taken notice of a slightly less-is-more phase among current truck owners.
Sure, there will always be those who can’t jack it up enough, but “a lot of full-size trucks are stepping down to 4-inch lifts like the ReadyLIFT SST instead of going six inches or greater,” said Guyer. Not only has the market been crowded with low-budget kits of questionable quality in recent years, but the end consumer has changed, too. “The lift experience is a complete 180 degrees from years past. Back when, 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 consumer anymore. They don’t want to do it themselves and prefer the convenience of aftermarket installers,” he added. This means that more than ever, it’s essential to sell and buy quality over convenience, price, and quick sales.
Modification In Moderation
The team at Truck Toyz knows their bread and butter, pushing out lifts, leveling kits, wheels, and tires all week long. Richard Villar noticed an uptick in premium brands and stated, “They are spending a little more to have better quality. It’s our job to upsell those features and benefits,” but simultaneously noted that low-grade budget kits are still popular. “They have no intention to take it off-road but want the look,” he added.
Another trend, “they’re foregoing the lift altogether and opting for a nice leveling kit. It allows just enough room to stuff some extra tire underneath and gives the ride great stance and appearance. You can get 35s on a RAM with a level kit—all day. That’s a lot more tire on the cheap from a consumer perspective,” he added. Guyer also notices more professionals investing in leveling kits to even out additional weight and sag from things like plows. “A lot of Timbren SES kits on the ½ ton models,” said Guyer. “Again, you can snag some bigger tires and do so affordably, all while maintaining daily drivability,” he added.
Getting Into the Game
Nick Geiger, Category Manager at Keystone, believes that retailers, restylers, and installers shouldn’t be apprehensive about expanding their shop’s lift product offerings. “The suspension market is a gateway to high incremental sale opportunities. With a lifted truck brings the potential for a wheel and tire upgrade; with wheels and tires comes fender flares; and how does one get into this nice looking, lifted rig now that it’s sitting a few inches higher? Well, we have multiple step solutions for that!” he said.
Many shop owners are under the misconception that lifting or leveling a truck is too difficult or labor intensive for their operation. But “nothing could be further from the truth,” said Steve Robinson, National Sales Manager at ReadyLIFT, “as most leveling kits install easily using a jack and stands. They require no specialty tools. Take our Chevy 1500 leveling kit for example—no need for a hoist. You can install it with common garage tools in about an hour or less and there is never a requirement for cutting or trimming of the OE parts. As a matter of fact, you can remove the kit in the future, which makes it ideal for leased vehicles as well.”
If you’re a shop owner looking to break into the suspension market, or you’re currently providing such services but could use a little push in the right direction to better capitalize on this profit center, then “provide only high-quality, reputable, and reliable brands. We at Keystone have always focused on stocking nothing but the best for our customers. Even with the influx of low-priced, entry-level products on the market, we’ve maintained our position on premium being the best option,” Geiger added.
The Future: Get Low
And believe it or not, lift modification is going both up and down. Literally. It’s time to make way for a revived street truck revolution. Slammed low and murdered out with too-big 22s is sure to raise eyebrows as a driver turns the corner. With the significant advancement of mid-size truck platforms, the introduction of new vehicle applications, and the resurgence of car-club culture—the market is ripe for fresh customization.
“We think that the street truck is coming back,” said Billy Longfellow, VP of Design and Engineering at AirDesign USA. And when he says back, let’s be clear—that means outside the already-popular lowrider scene on the West Coast. “Truck suspensions have been going up for years. Now it’s time to go back down,” Longfellow told The SHOP Magazine. AirDesign USA—notorious for custom designed, precision engineered, award winning full body kits—has enjoyed skin in the game for 20 years. So, it’s needless to say they know a thing or two about, well, trucks.
Longfellow and the team at AirDesign USA anticipate the street truck revolution to hit its stride across the Sunbelt states. Areas like Southern California, Texas, Florida, and Georgia will serve as important testing grounds. Furthermore, AirDesign USA is preparing to launch its Street Series with a custom styling kit for the 2017 Chevy Silverado, featuring a front air dam, side skirts, rear lower skirt, rear wing, and rear applique. Best part, AirDesign USA and its high-quality parts are exclusively distributed through Keystone.
“You gotta take chances in this business in order to elevate to the next level,” said Longfellow. As for a booming street truck revolution, “Build and they will come.”