Jim Chick has 25-plus years of experience in the automotive aftermarket. He’s a former offroad racer, and has worked with an impressive list of manufacturers over the years including Mr. Gasket, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, Trailmaster Suspension and Mastercraft, to name a few. He joined Colorado-based Bestop nearly three years ago.
Restyling spent some time recently with Jim to get his perspective on everything from the changing marketplace, to the undying loyalty of the Jeep enthusiast. Read on to see what he had to say.
RE: How long has Bestop been in business? How long have you been with company?
Chick: Bestop has been in business for over 50 years. They started out as a small trim shop making canvas tops for WWII Jeeps in Boulder, Colo. Over time, the company has expanded and enhanced the product lines and has become known as a Jeep and truck accessories manufacturer.
I’ve been with the company about three years now as the director of sales and marketing. I’ve always been a big Jeep and offroad enthusiast, so this position is a natural fit for me.
RE: How long have you worked in the industry? Also, we hear you were involved offroad racing for a while. Can you tell us about that?
Chick: I’ve been working in the industry now for about 26 years. I started out working for an automotive retailer doing everything from purchasing to management. Over the years, I have had the incredible opportunity to work with a number of aftermarket companies.
I got into offroad racing as a young teenager. My dad, Henry Chick, got me involved in it. We always had a Jeep in the family, and we used to go to the offroad racing events together as spectators. As my high school graduation present, we raced the Baja 500 in 1973 as a father-and-son team. It was an incredible experience. We didn’t finish the race, but I had a ton of fun and I stayed involved in offroad racing for about 10 to12 years after that either on my own or as part of a team. I still enjoy it, but now as a spectator.
RE: What is your perspective on the current economic climate and how it has affected the aftermarket, especially restylers?
Chick: I think people in this country will continue to spend money on their vehicles. That’s one of the great things about our country – our passion for the things we drive. I think this is good news for restylers because people will always want to personalize their vehicles and make them faster, more powerful, more comfortable, more functional or more attractive. So, the manufacturers are going to continue to keep coming out with new products, and restylers and jobbers will always have something to talk about and to offer to their consumers.
RE: What advice would you offer to the restyling retailers and jobbers right now?
Chick: First, I’d give them some credit. Hats off to you folks for persevering in this market.
Next, I would advise restyling retailers to make sure that they are doing whatever it takes to be familiar with the new products the manufactures are introducing. Shop owners need to be familiar with the products, what value those products offer to the customer, and the proper methods of installation as well as any other related services.
Right now, shop owners need to be poised to provide the services needed by the consumer to add value to that relationship. Every person that walks in the door needs great customer service. Even if the customer walks in with three boxes of stuff they ordered online and they need it installed [by you], make that customer feel welcome. Let them know that you are there to help them, and to make their customer experience an excellent one. Assure them that you can assist them with the installation service, and acquaint them with other products and services offered. This is an opportunity to build a relationship and increase sales – this is how shop owners can offer real value to every person that comes in the door.
For example, according to some research I read from Jeep, 45% of Jeep JK owners don’t own any tools. That means if they want to buy some cool stuff for their new JK, they’re going to need a reputable, reliable shop owner to provide the installation and related services, and this is a great opportunity shop owners do not want to miss.
RE: Bestop is recognized as the manufacturer of the factory original (OEM) soft tops for Jeep® Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. How has Bestop been affected by the recent changes in the automotive industry, especially those affecting DaimlerChrysler?
Chick: Yes, Bestop is still the factory original supplier to DaimlerChrysler for Jeep soft tops and has been since 1986.
Bestop has been really fortunate, I think. Bestop really works closely with Jeep, and as things change they adapt the soft top product in a very customized way to meet the needs of the vehicle. Bestop has been able to flourish as an OEM supplier in this example because of the popularity of the Jeep, and because of the long and collaborative nature of the relationship with Jeep.