On the road: It’s all about restyling

Oct 1, 2010

It was Labor Day weekend. I headed for the mountains for a little R&R. Up there, fall was in the air and beginning to turn a few of the aspen leaves golden (down on the Colorado plains it was still summer, hot).

After what had been a somewhat-sorry August report on new-car sales (a combined 21% drop compared to August 2009 – but that was the “Cash for Clunkers” sales boost phenomenon), it was good to just hit the road, get away.

But I really couldn’t get away from vehicles as I headed to and from the “hills.” On the mostly two-lane U.S., state and county highways winding through the mountain towns and mountain passes, where overtaking and passing the too many vehicles up ahead wasn’t an option even for the Harley riders, even the always-spectacular scenery where the deer and the antelope roam couldn’t fully distract me from looking at the cars and trucks before and behind me.

And so I really couldn’t get away from restyling, either. So many – so many – vehicles in the oncoming traffic lanes (and those that would appear in my rearview and sideview mirrors) paraded their restyled looks. Pickups (big pickups mostly), SUVs, too – we’ve a lot of them on the roads in Colorado – sported racks; grille/brush guards (quite a few with winches); running boards, nerf bars or steps; raised/boosted suspensions; trailer hitches; tonneau covers; sporty wheels; window tint (it’s bright in this part of the country); and more. Trucks with added lights on grille guards or above the cab must have comprised at least a quarter of the vehicles along the road that day.

I couldn’t even estimate how many rooftop or rear-mounted bike racks I saw – later in the year, skis and snowboards will go up on the racks. And those towed boats, ATVs and dirt bikes will morph into towed snowmobiles. People here in the Rocky Mountain Southwest are outdoorsy folks especially when they get a chance to play, no matter the season.

No telling what also might have been added inside the cabs or under the hoods, but it’s a good bet that if the exteriors have been restyled, some things I couldn’t see had been customized, too.

I really couldn’t get away from restyling because on the road it was all around me.

If you’ve been closely reading Restyling’s many market-targeted articles during the past year, including this issue’s focused features, you’ll recognize what looks like an aftermarket economy with pockets of strong sales, pockets of weak sales, pockets of flat sales and pockets of growing sales. Everyone has been trying to find those strong and growing pockets and fill them up with his or her own sales. That sales search applies to suppliers and shops alike.

Yet being on the road over just one three-day holiday weekend showed me the abundance of aftermarket products people have added to their vehicles – it was a constant advertisement for our industry. That tells me that people want, even need, these add-ons. And that tells me people always will customize their trucks, cars, SUVs and CUVs.

Next time you’re on the road, tell me, can you get away from restyling?

I bet not.