Kings of the Hill

Jan 3, 2012

One of the noticeable trends at the 2011 SEMA Show was the increased presence of good-looking trucks. From the South Hall to the Ford Motor Co. exhibit to the project vehicle area outside, a variety of pickups-and particularly diesels-looked to steal the show.

While not always at the top of every speed shop’s list, there’s a lot to like about the performance truck market. For one, new pickup owners are among the most likely to accessorize their vehicles. And often, they use that vehicle to haul a race car or classic, opening up the possibility for repeat business.

We kick off each year with a look at diesel and gas truck performance, and for 2012 the market is as strong as it’s been in a while. Somewhat stable (for now!) fuel prices combined with exciting new offerings from the OEMs appear to be driving interest in pickups nationwide. Meanwhile, diesel competitions are also gaining in popularity.

If your shop is looking to establish, or increase, its presence in the performance truck market, here are some things to consider, courtesy of industry professionals interviewed for a recent Diesel & Truck Performance article.

Know your audience. First-time truck buyers need special attention understanding their new rigs, which means shops catering to the diesel crowd must have all the answers. Trey McFarland of MAHLE Motorsports recommends shops spend time identifying their potential audience, and then brush up on the opportunities available to improve a truck’s performance, durability and efficiency.

Replacement parts can lead to more business. Mark Craig of DPPI explains that performance shops set up to provide basic maintenance and repairs can become a one-stop shop for all things diesel. “An extremely big byproduct of being able to repair the OEM faults is that you will be the main source of performance products for those same customers as well,” he says.

Federal regulations are not something to ignore. Crackdowns on emissions violators-and conceivably shops that offer those services-are increasing everywhere, not just in California. “I would tell any dealers who are selling emissions equipment defeat devices that they know are going on licensed vehicles to be wary. Why risk it when there are heavy-duty fines for violators?” asks Brett Garner of Bully Dog Technologies.

Better emissions means newer technology. Diesel technology continues to become more sophisticated. For shops serving this market, notes Steve Jones of Gale Banks Engineering, the biggest challenge becomes “learning about how diesel products work and passing that information on to their customers. Knowledge is power! Take the time to educate yourself.”

No part is an island. Fairly simple upgrades can add noticeable power gains to today’s pickups. As a professional, one of your jobs is to know the “weak links” exposed by such horsepower gains. “Become a place where (customers) can go and talk with someone about building a vehicle with everything they want and have the confidence that it is safe, it will perform and not let them down,” says Bill Cummings of SSBC Performance Brake Systems.

The bottom line is trucks can be a big deal for shops willing to invest the time and effort needed to serve this important market. If that includes your business, then you may want to start the new year by digging a little bit deeper into diesel performance, so that you can become a king of the hill.