Market Segment Roundup: Truck Bed Protection Just Got Interesting

If Truck Sales are the Bread, Truck Bed Accessory Sales are the Butter

It’s no secret that automotive sales softened during 2017. Actually, as of October, car sales dropped a whopping 10.4 percent year over year. Despite this, truck sales have been a continued ray of light. And yes, their climb has slowed. However, light duty trucks experienced a 4.3 percent sales increase in their year-to-date numbers from last October. So regardless of a national sales drop affecting nearly every brand on the market, the truck segment continues to hold strong and steady.

And with that growth comes the rise of the truck aftermarket. Customization and modification continues to march to new heights. Every nook and cranny of your ride can now be tailored to suit buyers’ wishes. And one of the most popular ways for drivers to spend cash, is to customize and protect their truck beds.

According to the 2017 SEMA Market Report, truck bed liners and other bed accessories were a 680-million-dollar business in 2016. That’s a 6 million dollar increase compared to the prior year. Additionally, the exterior accessory and appearance products segment, as a whole, is projected to top out at 700 million dollars in growth (from 7.8 to 8.5 BILLION dollars) during 2017. And truck bed liners and bed accessories will account for nearly 10 percent of that market. So it’s safe to say that there is more money than ever to be made in this growing segment.

Setting Trends and Seizing Opportunities

There are a number of companies, some familiar and some newcomers, eager for their turn in the spotlight. One of the most familiar brands pushing this segment forward is Truck Hero family of brands. Charly Henley of BAK Industries is very excited about the new ground his company can break in the coming years.

“Truck bed covers are the largest and fastest growing segment in the automotive market,” he said. “The bottom line is: if you see trucks at your store every day, and you’re not selling truck bed covers, then you’re missing one of the largest opportunities your business may have.”

BAK Industries is launching a line of new products to accommodate the public’s growing demand for bed protection. The new BAKFlip MX4 is a cover that allows for leading large equipment with its easy-to-use fold up design. The RevolverX4 with its modern matte-black finish has an aluminum construction and rag top material to keep the contents of your bed safe from the elements while still looking cool. And the BAKFlip MVP (formerly known as the BAKFlip VP) showcases a new convertible-top material while still boasting peak performance and an affordable price point.

A Growing Market Means Innovative Products

Bed protection has evolved a lot from basic tarps and clips, to sophisticated remote operation, and everything in between. (Check out our detailed feature, The Evolution of Tonneaus, right here on The Engine Block!) Regardless of your preferred brand or budget, they all add some level of increased utility, protection, security, functionality, and appearance. In the past year, names like UnderCover have reinvented the truck bed from basic protection to stylish lifestyle accessory. (Have you seen the Ridgelander?!) Now it’s Extang’s turn, with a reinterpretation of an old favorite.

In 2018, Extang will introduce a UTV-edition of the Solid Fold 2.0. “The UTV market is large; however, there is not a variety of tonneau cover options available for consumers with UTVs. The Solid Fold UTV edition not only meets consumer needs, but also is designed to offer cargo functionality that surpasses the competition,” said Erishun Garrett of Truck Hero. “The product will be available early 2018 and will offer all of the same great features of the Solid Fold 2.0 and more!”

What Do Consumers Want to See?

But what trends should shop owners be following in 2018? Mike Henderson of BedRug says that consumers are more concerned about impact-damage than in previous years. “With the OE’s being pressed to meet more stringent fuel economy standards, they’ve been utilizing aluminum or lighter-gauge steel in the construction of truck beds. This allows the bed to be damaged more easily. Most of us have seen the TV ads showing how easily ‘brand A’s’ aluminum beds can be damaged by throwing various objects into them. This is a trend that BedRug is well-suited for, as our new Impact Mats, XLT Mats, and Original BedRug offer unsurpassed bed protection. The 3/4” polypropylene foam padding on the underside of our bedliners and bed mats really cushion the bed and help to prevent impact-damage,” he said.

And along the lines of UnderCover’s Ridgelander success, a representative of Truck Hero said, “There has been a recent emergence of a market and need for utilization of the space available above the truck bed and, in our case, above the tonneau cover. Rack segments are growing as consumer needs are increasing. They are ultimately seeking accessories that are versatile and can optimize their cargo capacity. Retrax has in turn introduced the TRAX Rail System to meet this need. The TRAX Rail System was designed with work and play in mind, allowing consumers to transform their Retrax tonneau covers into a more dynamic accessory,” added Andy Nephew of Retrax.

Versatile AND Profitable

There are unlimited ways to utilize truck bed space. And more companies are helping consumers realize that potential in today’s growing market segment. Most certainly we are at the dawn of the Electric Age in the automotive world. And the aftermarket companies that will best succeed are those that meet this new challenge head on. Such outside-the-box thinking shows that it doesn’t matter if consumers choose gas, diesel, or electric vehicles to get the job done. A company like Pace Edwards, or Roll-N-Lock, or Extang is going to have you covered (both literally and figuratively). We don’t know what the future of truck sales may hold. Rest assured though, these brands are making sure that the beds of those trucks can hold dang near anything. And as complementary truck bed products like Penda tailgate pong, AirBedz, DECKED, and Rightline Gear show, the truck bed is equal parts work and play.

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