Auto Vision

Jan 26, 2010

We know where we’ve been and where we are, but what’s the business forecast?

“Forecasting is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” So said Edgar R. Fiedler, economist and adviser to Presidents Nixon and Ford.

Two years ago, at the beginning of 2008, the “R” word was being said aloud: The earmarks of recession were showing. Unemployment was rising, slowly overall, but rising. The inventory of new homes continued to grow and speculators looking to “flip” houses for nice profits were in a cash crunch, losing money on falling prices, accepting foreclosure. And then, of course, there were those infamous sub-prime loans that would default, and keep defaulting.

Lower values on homes also kept banks from letting consumers borrow on home equity, which kept consumers from spending, spending on things like cars, trucks, etc.

The economy spiraled down from there. No news to anyone now.

Two years ago, at the very beginning of 2008, some economists said the big “R” not only would come, but likewise would recede by mid-2009. Those predictions have begun to show some reality. Manufacturing is up, unemployment, even at more than 10% in early January, had slowed its steady growth. On the automaker side, Ford, GM and Toyota were planning to increase U.S. production, even add once-idled shifts, maybe hang out a For Hire sign. Electric vehicles are poised to begin real production and, slowly, an electric recharging infrastructure is coming online.

“The [Leading Economic] indicators (LEI) point to a bright new year,” said U.S. economist Ken Goldstein in mid December. “The U.S. LEI increased for the eighth consecutive month. Looking ahead, we can expect a slowly improving economy through 2010.” Goldstein is part of the Conference Board, a nonprofit, independent global membership organization designed in “the public interest,” where “we conduct research, convene conferences, make forecasts, assess trends.” Goldstein also noted that the government stimulus packages were working. And in a Bloomberg report earlier in 2009, Susan Molinari, a Republican strategist in Washington, said, “The fact that people for the first time in over a year are starting to look at some glimmers of hope plays to the prospect of some strength in the stimulus.”

With a rosier look ahead in mind, Restyling posed several forward-thinking questions to a number of industry professionals as we stood at the open door to 2010. Following are some of their candid, unvarnished responses. You’ll find the entire survey with their comments on our website at www.restylingmag.com.

 

Q: 2009 was an unexpectedly tough year. How do you see 2010’s economy affecting discretionary spending through 2010? And, who do you think might comprise the strongest demographics of buyers for aftermarket restyling products?

I don’t see a large increase in discretionary spending over 2009. If we stay flat, it will be hailed as “improvement” by the current administration, which seems to regale the idea of “not losing ground” as “improvement.” I believe many businesses will need to spend money on updating and improving equipment, but it will be money very carefully spent. Those selling products will have to be able to prove the value of their products and make that message very clear.

Demographically, I believe the 20- to 30-year-old group will be most receptive to spending. This group is driven by an “I want it now” mentality. They also have living arrangements that are different from generations past: Many are still living at home with parents or are in shared living arrangements which leave them with more spendable income.

– Karl M. Stearns, president, KMS Marketing Solutions, Mountainhome, Pa.

 

I think 2010 spending will improve dramatically throughout the year with the 30-40 age group being the primary spenders.

– Mike Lozano, general manager, RKSport Inc., Murrieta, Calif.

 

The challenging economics of this past year have had an impact on consumers’ discretionary spending, so it’s likely that people will be more selective in how they spend in 2010. They will invest in products that provide a return. In terms of who will be buying in 2010, our value proposition is to provide products that keep vehicles looking better longer, which appeals to all demographics.

– Jeffrey Boettcher, market development manager, 3M Automotive Division, St. Paul, Minn.

 

We expect discretionary income to be somewhat limited again, at least for the first six months of the year. Because of this, we still key in on dealer work, either directly to them or, preferably, through a local installer. More and more accessories will be “part of the deal” even on new cars.

– Josh Rohm, aftermarket manager, Mito Corp., Elkhart, Ind.

 

Enthusiasts, no matter the demographics, find a way to enhance their beloved ride, which has always been the beauty of this hobby. Retirees or those that are employed lend themselves to more than a modest income and can afford appearance and performance modifications during these economic times.

Geography plays an important role in our industry. Our hobby thrives on warm climates, which bring about car shows and cruise-ins; sanctioned racing facilities open to the public throughout their season; and the do-it-yourself hot rodder in their garage or driveway is always seen on any given weekend throughout our country hard at work.

– Kevin Woodruff, marketing manager, SLP Performance Parts, Toms River, N.J.

 

I think the most important thing we all have to remember is that the economy that we are experiencing did not happen overnight, nor is the recovery going to happen overnight, either. Job security will continue to be the No. 1 factor that is affecting discretionary spending habits in 2010 regardless of the customer’s demographic. Retirees that have discretionary income and a stable financial situation are still spending.

– Mark Heintskill, marketing director, Steffens Enterprises Inc./Fold-a-Cover, Caledonia, Mich.

 

Based on trends we started seeing in the latter part of 2009 we expect spending to bounce back in 2010. We expect our demographics to largely remain as previous years, with males, [ages] 25-54 [and] with our largest geography in the South and Southwest.

– Ryan Eilermann, brand manager, Solutia, St. Louis

 

I think that 2010 will be similar to 2009 as far as overall spending goes. We have seen improvements in some areas of the economy but it seems that consumers are and will continue to be cautious and frugal with their spending.

– Bob West, vice president of sales and marketing, Westin Automotive Products Inc., Irwindale, Calif.

 

First, people have adjusted their personal economic situation, so they can make appropriate purchases, instead of living in fear “with their feet on the brakes” the way they did last year.  Second, the overall state of the economy is slowly but steadily improving; and third, there is a pent-up demand for a modest but helpful level of aftermarket spending among people who postponed purchases while the economic situation was at it worst last year.

We feel the recovery will be strongest among the demographic groups that traditionally have been the strongest group for aftermarket purchases: vehicle enthusiasts who consider their truck or auto one of their chief avocational interests. This group spans a broad age range, but favors men, both married and single. Total income is not as important as discretionary income, as these enthusiasts tend to place a very high priority on purchases made in pursuit of their hobby.

From a geographic perspective, the deep economic depression of the aftermarket industry in the Southwest and Southeast United States suggests that these regions have the potential of making the biggest recovery, although we don’t expect business in either region to return to pre-depression levels in 2010.

– Paul Campbell, marketing communications manager, Truck Accessories Group (TAG), Elkhart, Ind.

 

 

Q: Without touting any specific brand, but targeting your specific aftermarket area, what types of aftermarket product(s) will appeal to the aftermarket restyler and his/her clientele? That is, what will consumers want? Why?

Self-adhesive products, primarily tint and paint protection film, will continue to be in demand. These have recognizable, tangible benefits. Restylers will continue to promote these along with graphics, vehicle lettering and signage because of the higher profit margins.

Ford has led the charge with innovations in onboard electronics with its SYNC system. This is being expanded to allow for Wi-Fi Internet access. Not something new, but now that some big players have gotten behind it, it will become increasingly “must have”. GM has already announced similar products, and Chrysler has been marketing a system for two years, albeit without a lot of traction. Ford’s marketing innovations will push this product category. Restylers should familiarize themselves with in-cabin electronics and start determining what they can offer. As always, even though the OEs are promoting these products, the innovation came first in the aftermarket industry, and the industry will develop new devices and applications way before the OEs have them as options.

– Karl M. Stearns, KMS Marketing Solutions

 

Hoods and spoilers – because these will dramatically change the appearance of the vehicle relatively inexpensively. 

– Mike Lozano, RKSport Inc.

 

As mentioned above, people will be looking for products and services that provide a return on their investment. The paint protection film category is perfectly suited to people who want investment protection. And consumers are likely to desire products that are proven to perform. The aftermarket restyler can look to brands that deliver reputation and confidence to consumers because they will be easier to sell.

– Jeffrey Boettcher, 3M Automotive Division

 

Quality products, especially for car dealers. If it only has a one-year warranty, don’t bother with it. Original equipment products do well for us. 

– Josh Rohm,  Mito Corp.

 

Q: Consumers are looking for their vehicles to stand out from the ordinary crowd: from the subtle to letting everyone know they’re coming. Each would like their vehicle to be slightly different than the other, and as soon as they purchase their vehicle, they’re generally thinking of: What kind of modifications can I now afford and when can I do them?

Hoods, spoilers, graphic kits, wheels and exhaust systems are generally most common and make the necessary statement needed.

Price your products affordably so the retailer/jobber can make a comfortable profit, while the end consumers still receive a bargain in their eyes.

– Kevin Woodruff, SLP Performance Parts

 

The overall vehicle mix has changed dramatically. The truck market is approximately 40% of what it was just two years ago. Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUVs) will continue to be a strong market. True vehicle enthusiasts will continue to personalize their vehicles even if they have downsized from a full-size SUV or truck. Consumers will be looking for products that will enhance their ownership experience as they transition from larger vehicles. Step tubes, trailer hitches, personal trailers and cargo accessories will be strong as consumers cope with downsized vehicle capabilities.

– Mark Heintskill, Steffens Enterprises Inc./Fold-a-Cover

 

Some of the newer [window] tint that is “signal enabling” should continue to be strong as more and more high-tech electronic devices are included in vehicles.

– Ryan Eilermann, Solutia

 

Even in a slow economy, consumers will still be spending some part of their disposable dollars on their vehicles. What we feel the majority of buyers will be looking for is functionality and value for their dollar spent. Truck buyers will need step products, towing and bed accessories regardless if they are general consumers or work truck owners. Small SUV, CUV and sedan owners will need cargo management products geared toward recreation.

– Bob West, Westin Automotive Products

 

Products that have a functional justification will have an easier time finding buyers than sheer appearance products. Products that improve gas mileage, performance, security, storage and convenience are among those that have a positive functional aspect. “Green technologies” that improve gas mileage, reduce emissions and feature recycled materials will have an advantage in the market.

– Paul Campbell, Truck Accessories Group (TAG)

 

 

Q: Going beyond your specific market niche, do you see other product areas or new technologies that aftermarket restylers should keep an eye on as a growing trend?

See my response to the 2nd question, above. There is a lot of business to be obtained by servicing fleets with electronics. This can lead to other lucrative work such as vehicle lettering and graphics, along with vehicle wrap installations.

– Karl M. Stearns, KMS Marketing Solutions

 

Looking into 2010, restylers will see new applications for LED-based lighting – products that add personalization, functionality and convenience. New technologies are being developed to transform how an LED light-up element is used in a vehicle, and we anticipate further advancements during the year. 

– Jeffrey Boettcher, 3M Automotive Division

 

More backup cameras than “beep ‘n’ crash” systems. Sonar, sensors, etc. tend to have a high failure rate even in OE applications; the aftermarket ones are, unfortunately, worse. Why cameras? A picture is worth a thousand words.

– Josh Rohm,  Mito Corp.

 

Electronics, such as GPS, units will become even more interactive and precise. Areas of safety will always be high on the priority list. And eco-friendly performance enhancements will have to make power without increasing emissions, yet increase fuel economy.

– Kevin Woodruff, SLP Performance Parts

 

Electronics will continue to be a strong market. The tech savvy generation of 20-somethings and 30-somethings see electronic upgrades and conveniences to be just as important as exterior and interior personalization.

– Mark Heintskill, Steffens Enterprises Inc./Fold-a-Cover

 

Fuel efficiency and “going green” are and will continue to be strong factors in the automobile industry.

– Ryan Eilermann, Solutia

 

We think the field of “smart electronics” for vehicles will continue to grow, as consumers look for ways to integrate computer, Internet and wireless technologies into their vehicles. We feel that tech-savvy consumers will offer the best reception for products that bring well-known, proven names from the computer marketplace like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Dell and others into vehicles.

– Paul Campbell, Truck Accessories Group (TAG)

 

 

Q: Will the kinds of cars coming from the automakers in 2010 change the types of aftermarket products that manufacturers will have to create (e.g., smaller cars, CUVs, hybrids)? And how fast can the aftermarket suppliers have new product ready to go to retailers and their customers?

The decline of truck sales will obviously have an impact on the bolt-on accessory market. However, opportunity presents itself in the automotive side since people have become accustomed to all the “stuff”: the toys, bells and whistles that were in their SUVs and pickups. They won’t give those things up easily. The big news here is that OEs have decontented many of their vehicles to strip out weight and get fuel economy up, as well as lower the sticker prices. This leaves a huge hole for the restyling industry to fill.

– Karl M. Stearns, KMS Marketing Solutions

 

No changes as far as products. The products seem to be available faster and faster each year. 

– Mike Lozano, RKSport Inc.

 

It’s important for suppliers to develop and maintain relationships with OEMs as a way to stay ahead of trends. This helps them beat the curve with products for the newest vehicles. For example, OEMs continue to improve the paints they use, and the newest low-surface energy and scratch- and mar-resistant paints can present challenges for adhering aftermarket parts. But by maintaining relationships with the OEMs, leading suppliers can develop and refine technologies for suitability and performance.

– Jeffrey Boettcher, 3M Automotive Division

 

For vehicle specific products, they will have to adapt very quickly; for our product lines it doesn’t really matter as our stuff is very versatile in its “fit.”

– Josh Rohm,  Mito Corp.

 

The OEs are playing a big part in the economic rebound providing aftermarket-friendly vehicles in which customization is affordable to all enthusiasts no matter the demographics. From the resurgence in muscle cars, to trucks/SUVs to now more eco-friendly vehicles, there is something there for everyone.

The aftermarket thrives on all of these platforms and can react to all vehicles that the OE is producing for consumer demand of products needed in each segment. Each manufacturer specializes in their own niche area; and with technology of both computers and machinery being developed at faster rates, it makes it that much easier for products to became available quicker than ever.

– Kevin Woodruff, SLP Performance Parts

 

The most successful manufacturers, suppliers and retailers are reacting to the reality that the automakers will never be the same as they were and, in turn, that the aftermarket will be changed forever. As the automakers transition to smaller, more efficient vehicles, the aftermarket must continue meeting enthusiasts’ and consumers’ needs for personalization, performance enhancements, electronics and accessories as it always has. Manufacturers that allocate engineering resources and R&D time to identify new markets and meet the demand for these products will survive and thrive.

– Mark Heintskill, Steffens Enterprises Inc./Fold-a-Cover

 

Absolutely. The kinds of cars impact the aftermarket supplier. The aftermarket suppliers that are able to react quickly will be the ones that continue to have success. We are continuously looking at the auto manufacturers, and are looking into new products for trends years down the road.

– Ryan Eilermann, Solutia

 

This all depends on availability of these new vehicles by the manufacturers in advance of their release for sale. If we have an opportunity to measure and fit up products in advance, we can have products available fairly close to the launch date. If, on the other hand, we are not able to work with these vehicles in advance, the time to market can me months longer. We will not put a product into production without doing an actual fit up on a production vehicle; this can make us appear to be a bit slower to market that some other competitors, but it usually ensures that the first products we release will fit.

– Bob West, Westin Automotive Products

 

As manufacturers enhance the appeal of hybrids and other fuel-efficient vehicles, there will also be a growing demand for aftermarket fuel-saving technology that can be applied to the vehicles consumers already have in their garages. Similarly, as “smart electronics” become factory options, an aftermarket demand for these products will build.

The newer smaller vehicles will need aftermarket help to do the jobs that active families used to ask of their full-size SUVs and vans.  This suggests a healthy demand for rack systems, pods and other solutions for carrying gear that won’t fit it the smaller vehicles.

The smaller, lower-powered vehicles entering the market are not the “all-purpose solutions” represented by full-size SUVs or crew cab pickups. We think this will encourage demand for second vehicles to provide the toting, hauling, offroad and specialized solutions consumers expect from the vehicles they own. In many cases, these second vehicles will be pre-owned, and driven only when needed. Still, they represent an additional opportunity for accessory sales.

Unfortunately, the growing complexity and variety of styling and materials used in newer vehicles makes it difficult for accessory manufacturers to provide quick, top-quality solutions for all vehicles.

It is likely aftermarket manufacturers will have to concentrate their design and engineering investments on the highest-volume vehicles.

– Paul Campbell, Truck Accessories Group (TAG)

 

 

Q: Do you expect more companies serving the aftermarket industry to merge or form strategic alliances with others, or be sold to other companies (competitor or other auto-related), or even go out of business? Or maybe even some companies coming into the marketplace? Why or why not might that occur?

Recessions always wring out the poorly run companies. Good companies may look to acquire struggling companies for their brand names, customer lists and perhaps their manufacturing capacity. Recessions also are a good time for new product launches because people are looking to spend money, but only on something new or of high quality. Recessions also provide opportunities for start-up companies that are well-managed and properly capitalized.

Strategic alliances such as the one formed with Katzkin and Webasto sharing their marketing and salespeople may very well be the way for other companies to go. Companies need to find common synergies and work together with others to share costs to bring products to market.

– Karl M. Stearns, KMS Marketing Solutions

 

I see a leveling in the markets far as merging, and even going out of business. If anything, I believe we will see an increase in new businesses.

– Mike Lozano, RKSport Inc.

 

Mergers and acquisitions are a natural part of the ebb and flow of business, and the changes we’ve seen recently in our economy provide an atmosphere for it.

– Jeffrey Boettcher, 3M Automotive Division

 

I honestly don’t know what to expect. It seems to me that we lost a few aftermarket installers last year – like many industries, it was an unfortunate cleansing. I think the next three months [through March] will tell the tale for those “iffy” guys that are left. If they haven’t figured out that you have to run a business well, and install well to make it in this market, they won’t fare well at all.

– Josh Rohm, Mito Corp.

 

Our industry is ever changing and companies that have survived will continue to find sales and marketing ways to differentiate themselves from the competition. Companies are starting to diversify in other areas or on vehicle platforms their customer base is not accustomed to as they see profitability in those areas. I believe you will see alliances of larger-named companies working with smaller businesses on specialty projects to promote their strong suits, ultimately helping their respective businesses grow.

– Kevin Woodruff, SLP Performance Parts

 

Truck accessory manufacturers particularly will continue to see consolidation. The drastic changes in truck sales and the effects of the economy on consumer spending habits have severely reduced the overall market for pickup truck aftermarket products. Competition for market share will ultimately force some companies out of business.

– Mark Heintskill, Steffens Enterprises Inc./Fold-a-Cover

 

In difficult economic times many opportunities for companies arise in terms of mergers and acquisitions; but, obviously, the flip side of the coin can lead to some companies exiting the industry.

– Ryan Eilermann, Solutia

 

This all depends on availability of these new vehicles by the manufacturers in advance of their release for sale. If we have an opportunity to measure and fit up products in advance, we can have products available fairly close to the launch date. If, on the other hand, we are not able to work with these vehicles in advance, the time to market can me months longer. We will not put a product into production without doing an actual fit up on a production vehicle; this can make us appear to be a bit slower to market that some other competitors, but it usually ensures that the first products we release will fit.

– Bob West, Westin Automotive Products

 

We think the sort-out of the aftermarket industry will continue, due to the economic stress of lower sales and the increased costs of tooling for the greatly increased complexity and variety of new vehicles. New entrants into the market might include well-established international players who benefit from overseas production, and computer technology firms who have extremely popular brand names, but little or no presence in vehicle accessories.

– Paul Campbell, Truck Accessories Group (TAG)

 

 

Q: What is a good sales strategy as companies try to get a more solid footing especially during this spring and summer?

…for restyler retailers/jobbers to attract retail customers?

Start building up a database of customers now. Use e-mail marketing, participation in local events and more frequent sales calls to stimulate business. Clean up your shop, replace aging signage, keep your mobile route vehicles looking their best. If you look successful, people will be drawn to your business.

– Karl M. Stearns, KMS Marketing Solutions

 

New products and a solid marketing campaign.

– Mike Lozano, RKSport Inc.

 

Deliver confidence and reliability to your customers with proven brands. Take advantage of products that are backed by solid, reputable brands because people are more likely to trust them. And sell the idea of investment protection since people are retaining their vehicles longer and may be more fiscally conservative in this economy.

– Jeffrey Boettcher, 3M Automotive Division

 

For us it’s going to involve a more strategic push to have the right local distributor handling our product. When that right WD has it in a day or two, it can make the difference in a deal or not.

– Josh Rohm,  Mito Corp.

 

Since most retailers/jobbers are not stocking many products during this economic turnaround, keep ample inventory of top-selling products on the shelf for the selling season; do not get caught short or disappointing the trade account or the end consumer. [Be ready to say,] “Yes, I have the product in stock and can ship it promptly.” When consumers are ready to purchase, you need to ensure you can supply them with product in a timely fashion; they will continue the relationship and think of you first when they need product.

– Kevin Woodruff, SLP Performance Parts

 

Diversify your product line and try new, creative ways to attract new customers.

– Ryan Eilermann, Solutia

 

I think the same basic strategies are good for any business:1. continually evaluate your expenses and cut wherever possible; 2. offer value in your products; 3 find ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

– Bob West, Westin Automotive Products

 

Diversify your product line and try new, creative ways to attract new customers.

– Ryan Eilermann, Solutia

 

Provide retail salespeople with the tools, information and training they need to answer customers’ questions and meet customers’ needs.

Make sure customers find good values when they drop into the market for accessories: Offer discounts, promotions, percentage reductions, etc. to spur them to buy.

Use showroom tools, posters, brochures, displays and demo vehicles to show prospects what you offer as attractively as possible. People buy what they see.

– Paul Campbell, Truck Accessories Group (TAG)

 

 

-¦ for suppliers to attract restylers to their products over that of competitors’?

Stress value. Keep SKUs to a minimum. Offer only the highest-quality products, provide fast service, don’t make excuses. Remember that you’re going to have to earn every single order that comes in. You cannot afford to take any customers for granted. The customer who never really bought a lot from you but is still buying, may very well be the only restyler left in their market. As business bounces upward, they may very well turn into a big customer. They will stay loyal to you if you don’t take them for granted.

– Karl M. Stearns, KMS Marketing Solutions

 

New and innovative products. 

– Mike Lozano, RKSport Inc.

 

Offer your customers technical support, application testing, product knowledge, expertise, OEM experience. Sell your ability to understand their needs, stand behind your products and offer consistent performance. 

– Jeffrey Boettcher, 3M Automotive Division

 

We’ve been doing a free freight program for about 18 months now with great results. It makes sense to reward a guy that manages his inventory correctly -” it makes it easier for us to take care of him.

– Josh Rohm,  Mito Corp.

 

Offer trade accounts incentives/specials to purchase your products; make your products and specials attractable, attainable; and, most importantly, keep it simple. Offer your trade accounts the necessary tools for them to sell your products: training, if necessary; catalogs; banners; descriptions and photos of all your products. Make your product line easy to work with, which will in turn make your product line easy to sell.

– Kevin Woodruff, SLP Performance Parts

 

Suppliers need to show their value now more than ever. Value beyond just being a manufacturer of a good.

– Ryan Eilermann, Solutia

 

Offer – and deliver – consistent, reliable shipments, responsive, sincere customer service, and top-quality products that make retail customers happy.

Make sure your dealer/jobber website is a comprehensive source of information and support.

– Paul Campbell, Truck Accessories Group (TAG)

 

 

Q: Will/Should suppliers offer such deals as new discount programs or free/reduced shipping, etc., to help move product and to support their restyler clients? Is this important or necessary to do?

I have never felt the best way to compete is with price. In fact, it’s the worst way to compete. There is always a need for promotional discounts with limited life. However, when discounts become the norm, then where do you go? It leaves customers wondering why they paid so much for your product in the first place.

This may sound way out there, but I would rather see suppliers start restricting the sale of their products to restylers who have a proven ability to provide reliable installations, back up warranties, and be ready and able to take care of customers. Too many companies have thrown open the doors to anyone and everyone. As a result, you have 500 websites all selling the same auto/truck accessories and beating each other up over price.

By the same token, large WDs have taken away the relationship between product manufacturers and the restyling customer. Many manufacturing companies who have placed their eggs in the WD basket now find themselves at the mercy of the WDs and don’t even know anymore who their customers are. It’s pretty much like the Wal-Mart syndrome in the retail industry.

– Karl M. Stearns, KMS Marketing Solutions

 

I don’t believe it is a necessity as long as you are priced competitively. 

– Mike Lozano, RKSport Inc.

 

Companies need to find ways to differentiate themselves. Proven brands and products are preferred for long-term loyalty and can help deliver value and confidence to the marketplace.

– Jeffrey Boettcher, 3M Automotive Division

 

I think that programs like Pro Pledge through SEMA and websites like Integrity.com are going to be a key part of accessories taking a more accepted step at the dealer level. It’s been our bread and butter for three years, and we’re seeing success.

– Josh Rohm, Mito Corp.

 

Yes, discounts, sales incentives and reduced shipping rates on top of monthly or quarterly specials will ultimately be beneficial, resulting in plus sales. Your trade accounts are the back-bone of the industry and each trade account offers their own customer base in which they can expose your product line to.

– Kevin Woodruff, SLP Performance Parts

 

A supplier ultimately must meet the needs of their target market either with pricing, new product development or other customer support.

– Ryan Eilermann, Solutia

 

The answer to this question can be found above. You need to do anything, within reason, to differentiate your company and it products and or programs.

– Bob West, Westin Automotive Products

 

The ideal goal for suppliers is to find strong long-term retail partners so mutually profitable business can be conducted. Suppliers should be able to demonstrate how prospective dealers or jobbers will benefit from the relationship long after any short-term discount would last. Under this scenario, start-up promotions would be an infrequently used tactical tool applied on a case-by-case basis.

– Paul Campbell, Truck Accessories Group (TAG)

 

 

Anything else you’d like to add regarding how you see 2010 shaping up? Or, what is the most important piece of advice you can offer restylers for 2010?

The restyling industry has weathered many storms in the past. As an industry, we will survive the current economic situation, but it will not be without changes in the way we do business and the way we go to market.

If you’re in the restyling industry, are you operating a real business or just a way to earn a living? Nothing wrong with earning a living, but there’s a strategy to running a business that builds value and actually gives you something to pass on to your children or sell when you decide it’s time to buy that sailboat and sail around the world.

You need to ask yourself if you have the fundamentals to operating a good business: A marketing plan, a business plan, a website. Are you familiar with social networking? Do you realize that many businesses today have Facebook pages, including the major OEs? Are you aware that Ford has shifted its advertising money so it’s now spending 40% of its ad money for online advertising? Do you know that Ford is creating social networks to promote its vehicles? Please don’t tell me you’re too old to start doing any of this. It’s happening and it’s changing the way people communicate and connect with each other. You can either stay stuck in your ways or start utilizing these things in your business. It can make a BIG difference.

– Karl M. Stearns, KMS Marketing Solutions

 

Maintain customer relationships through loyalty programs and proven products that keep delivering on their promises. Brand and performance are key.

– Jeffrey Boettcher, 3M Automotive Division

 

[Suppliers:] Support your trade accounts; they believe in and want to carry your product line. Give them reason to come back for repetitive business. Make your selling experience fruitful for everyone down to the end consumer ultimately purchasing your product. A satisfied customer is a lifelong customer that in turn shares their experiences.

– Kevin Woodruff, SLP Performance Parts

 

Continue to challenge their business, and don’t be afraid to try new strategies to stay competitive.

– Ryan Eilermann, Solutia

 

While we don’t think the economic slowdown is quite over, we’re excited about the coming year. Our authorized dealers have made the sacrifices and the tough adjustments necessary to survive through the extreme economic difficulties of the past year. Out of necessity, they have learned how to cut costs, make tough sales and send customers away happy. And while aftermarket retailers don’t want to suffer, they do know how to run lean and manage their businesses better. As the economy recovers and business improves, they won’t forget the lessons they have learned, and they won’t just think of themselves as survivors – they will realize they are winners.

– Paul Campbell, Truck Accessories Group (TAG)