Cameron Evans comes to his love of automobiles and the performance aftermarket industry honestly, though circuitously. In one way or another, Evans, his father and his grandfather have had their hands in the thick of things as far back as 1954.
First, his grandfather was the concessionaire at drag strips in Southern California and was involved with the San Gabriel Drag Strip. Evans’ father followed suit, in a manner of speaking, working as a commentator for many years in motor racing and before that worked in the aftermarket and in operating famed drag strips like Lions, OCIR, and Irwindale on the West Coast.
Evans himself is a “recovering journalist” whose love for the automotive industry landed him in the San Francisco Bay area with Red Line Synthetic Oil Co. It may not be the most traditional road to living and breathing automobiles and aftermarket performance, but it’s one Evans speaks to with passion and precision-qualities he feels Red Line brings to its customers as well.
PB: Hi Cameron. Thanks for taking time to talk with us, particularly while in the midst of the PRI and IMIS shows. What got you interested in the automotive aftermarket?
CE: My family. I’ve been very fortunate to see the automotive aftermarket and the racing business from a variety of different angles, and I have been lucky to work in many of those angles.
My career has benefitted from the perspective of media, manufacturing, tuning and racing.
PB: What’s it like working for Red Line and not being a journalist any longer?
CE: I was a magazine editor awhile back. I worked atPopular Hot Rodding from 1997 until 2003. Over that period, I became friends with Red Line founder, Tim Kerrigan, who reminded me that he wasn’t getting any younger and I would be a good fit to help him grow and organize his business.
Based upon my experience, I thought it might be good fun to work there and I was right. It’s great.
Red Line started slowly with me and I worked together with Tim to build a wide skill set. Given my unusual experience and the way I came to this position, it feels like I have met everyone you can imagine in the industry, but there’s still more to meet; I’ve got third- and fourth-generation family friends in the performance business.
PB: Tell us about your company and its place in the performance aftermarket.
CE: Red Line is in the business of making high-quality motor oils, gear oils and additives. We simply build the best product possible and have a very diverse audience-we’ve got a lot of markets across a wide scope, from racing performance and auto installer markets to powersports and marine markets.
Red Line is hard to put a finger on because while we’re making a popular line, we’re also buying the highest-quality raw materials possible to make these products. So the diversity of markets is very unique to Red Line.
The same gear oil that’s in a ’69 Camaro could be in a WRC Rally Car sequential transmission, for example. There’s a misconception that motor racing drives passenger car markets, but often passenger car technology is helping the racers.
PB: What’s a typical day like for you?
CE: Hectic. My day could range from solving IT issues to reviewing finances to setting up a race promotion. The manufacturing end has been a great challenge; it’s rewarding to get efficient.
All those various positions and tasks allow me to operate within many arenas here and I love it.
PB: What’s the best thing about your job?
CE: I get to see the world. Red Line has been very successful on a global level, so our relationships in the international aftermarket community are always growing. We’re always learning.
We have customers in Russia, Sweden, and Japan, for example, and all of that exposure brings us a unique and ongoing, big perspective about what we ultimately sell in America.
I get to travel and I get to see the world from the eyes of business and from the eyes of car enthusiasts, but it’s a lot of work. It’s not as glamorous as one would think, but it’s very rewarding.
PB: What’s the biggest challenge?
CE: The changes in distribution are by far the most challenging aspect of our business today. Competing and staying ahead of the online retailing and purchasing aspect of the business is a challenge.
We are committed to sustaining sales across the board, but particularly within traditional markets. We want distributors and jobbers to make a fair profit, but we still have to make sure product is available in the channels where the end users want to shop.
PB: How do you see the current state of the performance aftermarket?
CE: It’s very strong. We’re concerned about the youth markets and kids not being as into cars as they were 20 years ago. However, we all hear the doom and gloom coming from government, yet there are many successful companies that are growing and succeeding.
For the smart and hard-working companies, the market is not as bad as the government would like to suggest.
Where do you think the industry will be in 10 years?
CE: Hopefully, we will still be allowed to drive these great cars! Issues like climate change are already having a significant effect on the lubricants that oil companies have to turn out.
Red Line, however, did not have to change anything for the latest road car GF-5 motor oil specs because Red Line is already that efficient. That is unlike a lot of big companies that have to change their ways and invest in raw materials that we used years ago.
PB: Which professional accomplishment are you most proud of?
CE: Helping Red Line diversify its reach. However, I admit that I miss a lot of the creative processes from my TV show and magazine experience.
I learned a long time ago that the most successful people I ever met actually made things; they were manufacturers, and I really enjoy trying to emulate that success.
PB: What’s your next big goal to achieve?
CE: Our next goal is to better-educate our current and potential end-users on just how effective Red Line products are. We feel that when they learn how all lubricants work, they’ll come our way. We know, from experience, that they’ll recognize the benefits from the products.
PB: As a final question, what’s your advice for speed shops seeking long-term success in the performance aftermarket?
CE: Pay attention. We see some really sharp folks in retail and some that are still trying it the same way it was done 20 years ago.
But that doesn’t work. The automotive business has changed so dramatically that we hate to see established shops get left behind.
I feel that it’s critical that shops recognize the potential of their customers and offer products that benefit their cars.
And lastly, it’s good to understand that people are constantly finding new ways to buy and learn. You’ve got to stay on top and figure out what they want next.
More with Cameron Evans
What was your first car?
A 1979 Volkswagon Scirocco. I went to the local European car tuning shop and modified it with any spare dollar I could gather. There was a Pinto and a Fairmont before that, but neither got any mods!
What’s your dream ride?
I’d like to race a Porsche 1962.
What’s on your computer/phone wallpaper?
The latest logo for my beloved San Diego State Aztecs.
Person you’d most like to meet.
Mel Brooks. He’s the source for more than half of my family’s jokes.
If I wasn’t in the performance aftermarket, I’d probably be…
Somewhere in transportation. I’ve always been fascinated with trains and public transport, so I’d be interested to work in that industry and to help create solutions.