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When an automaker introduces a totally redesigned model, as Ford did with the 2015 F-150 pickup, aftermarket accessory manufacturers sometimes have to do some serious sleuthing to get a sneak peak before designing, engineering and building products to match the new rig.
But, never in all of its 50-plus years in the aftermarket industry, did Westin Automotive face the daunting challenge of getting ahold of a new vehicle in order to gain the specs necessary to enhance it.
“Generally, we try to have the products available at the same time that trucks are hitting the showroom floor,” said Bob West, executive vice president of Westin Automotive. “The biggest hurdle for us is that we like to physically fit product up to a vehicle before we release it. You never know how it will be when it finally is produced. We want to make sure that it works for the customers.”
Typically that’s not an issue because manufacturers will provide early-release models to aftermarket shops with enough advance time to get the correct specs, but Ford was keeping the new, aluminum-bodied F-150 under wraps longer than usual.
“They were pretty guarded with the vehicle,” West said. “It was shown at SEMA, but then they took them all back to Ford. We were out there rummaging around looking for trucks to fit up to.”
Word came to Westin last year that some Ford dealers in Texas would be the first to get the truck. The company was prepared to fly a couple of engineers and products to the Lone Star State to sit on the dealers’ lots in preparation for the arrival of the highly-anticipated F-150. As it turned out, the vehicles were found closer to the company’s San Dimas, Calif., headquarters in mid-December.
“We bought the first truck that was available in California,” West said. “We bought the first one the dealer had and it was delivered to us the next day. It took a lot of stress out of our lives because the stressful part was trying to find the vehicle. Once we had one in our shop, the engineers could see it and work on getting all the information justified and everything set up.”
The result is that less than a month later, Westin has more than 55 new products available for the 2015 F-150. The product array includes everything in the company’s mainstay set-up products, such as six different types of nerf bars; the ProTraxx series of oval work bars in three different widths; four different running boards; a full line of bull bars for the front end in various finishes; light bars with different lighting configurations; multiple grille guars; and contractor products like overhead racks, bed mats, body shield products, wind deflectors and more.
“Everyone wants their truck to have their own signature, their own personal style to it,” West said. “That’s why it’s important to have products available when the truck goes on sale.”
The much-publicized new aluminum body for the F-150 doesn’t present much of a challenge to Westin’s engineers because the truck is still built on a steel frame, according to West.
“When mounting a product like a grille guard, it really doesn’t touch the body, it encases the body,” he said. “It attaches to the steel frame so it’s no issue at all.
“However, some of our step-up products are mounted from the rocker frame to the body, so whenever steel and aluminum are touching each other we developed a nylon washer to isolate and negate the corrosion issues that might evolve,” West added. “We found that nylon works best in those situations. We build tool boxes that are predominately all aluminum and there are no issues for us with those, so this was nothing out of the ordinary for our engineers.”
Other new product lines by Westin Automotive are available for the new Chevrolet Colorado truck and a new lineup of products to cover the wide range of Jeep models on the market.
Westin continues to market its products through all traditional distribution channels, including with major retailers like Pep Boys and Auto Zone, as well as a heavy dependence on its Internet sales.
The company houses approximately 75 employees at its administrative headquarters in San Dimas, and has manufacturing facilities in Indiana, Michigan, Salt Lake City and Asia.