This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of THE SHOP magazine.
When a shop has been in business for more than 26 years and continues to expand, chances are the owners are doing something right.
BDM Customs has a strong presence in and around Tempe, Arizona with its lifted truck packages for dealerships, combined with offering off-road accessories, vehicle repair work and the services of a newly acquired tire shop. Owned by brothers Marc and Mike McCombs, the shop originally performed a variety of automotive tasks but soon gravitated toward the truck market, which has always been a strong segment in Arizona.
The brothers grew up watching their dad work on old cars and trucks while also being the general manager for a string of auto repair shops in three states. Over the years, Mike developed some contacts in the wholesale market and at local car dealerships before launching BDM Customs in 1996, and soon Marc joined him in the business full-time.
A BOOST FOR BUSINESS
Having built a reputation in the off-road and accessory segments, BDM Customs (short for Building Dream Machines) moved to its present location, which encompasses nearly 25,000 square feet, about two years ago.
Half of the space is dedicated to repair and upgrade projects, with four bays and room to accommodate seven vehicles. The balance of the shop is used for storing inventory for its wholesale work.
The group recently bought a tire shop in nearby Chandler called Tire Pros as well.
Marc McCombs explains that wholesale work mainly focuses on installing basic truck lift kit packages consisting of new tires, rims and a suspension lift for vehicles at both new and used car dealerships. With plenty of experience and inventory on hand, the shop prides itself on turning jobs quickly.
Presently, BDM Customs works with more than 20 used car dealerships and a handful of new car dealers.
The other portion of its wholesale division consists of delivering parts and equipment to other shops in the area. The team typically has one or two drivers a day out filling orders throughout the Valley of the Sun, McCombs explains.
Wholesale business spiked when the shop became a distributor of BDS Suspension products about six years ago, and McCombs says plans call for adding more lines soon.
At one point, the shop also had an active online sales presence, but when COVID impacted supply issues, that business slowed. The brothers determined it was better to distribute what little product was available to their own customers and local accounts rather than chase a one-time sale over the internet, McCombs explains.
The good news, he adds, is that supplies seem to be ramping back up.
As an example, McCombs reports that at one point only one foundry in the United States was making steering knuckles—obviously a big factor in lift kits. So, the shop would place large orders with its vendors whenever it had the chance, not knowing when the next opportunity would arise to get the parts it needed.
That type of crunch has subsided, though presently the shop still has a two-week waiting list for basic installs.
MAKING IT WORK
Unlike many shops nationwide, McCombs notes that employee turnover has not been a big concern for BDM, thanks to a commitment to treat employees and vendors like family and to listen and respond when issues arise. The company’s talented technicians have a combined 60 years of experience in the market.
Meanwhile, the heart of its customer service interactions is to “take care of the customer, be fair and treat them like you would want to be treated.”
One way BDM does this is by taking the time to educate customers about what works, what fits and what the vehicle will look and feel like when completed before starting any job. Financing support is also available.
Once completed, the shop offers a lifetime warranty on its workmanship and will work with the customer and the manufacturer if parts ever fail.
While BDM Customs has modified trucks that ended up at SEMA and other big shows, the business generally focuses specifically on suspension lifts while letting others do the remaining portions of the build. Lately, those projects have included more Chevy Silverados and Ram trucks, which are favorites in Arizona, McCombs observes.
Interesting and noteworthy projects are highlighted on Instagram (@bdmcustoms).
While still going strong, the shop hasn’t been immune to recent economic challenges. While there is still a customer segment that has the funds readily available to outfit their pickups as desired, other clients have become a bit more frugal with their builds, McCombs reports.
A basic, simple build for a lifted truck used to be around $3,500, for example, but now comes in at about $4,500, with no additional profit for the shop, he explains.
For budget-conscious customers, the shop has a Garage Sale tab on the website highlighting “Cheap Lift Kits” for certain Chevrolet/GMC, Ford, Ram, Subaru and Jeep applications.
Meanwhile, the brothers have an eye on expanding their business on several fronts, including an added emphasis on overland van kits, suspensions and accessories, and are optimistic about the future of the industry. With their track record, it’s sure to be a success.