By SEMA Editors
The SEMA Truck & Off-Road Alliance (TORA) named COBB Tuning as the council's newest member spotlight company. Get to know their story in the SEMA News interview with COBB Tuning's Kirstin Backes below.
SEMA News: Tell us the story of COBB Tuning. How did the company start?
Kirstin Backes: COBB Tuning is an automotive engineering company founded in Rockwall, Texas, by Trey Cobb in 1999. COBB started as a performance shop in the back of Trey's dad's tire shop and saw a few evolutions (and a few cross-country moves) along the way. COBB was a performance shop with virtually no funding, a distributor of other brands' products, and had brick-and-mortar stores before finally settling into our sweet spot. Today, we're proud to engineer and manufacture performance tuning products made for both professional use by the performance shops that make our industry spin, and the driveway DIYers that make it fun.
In 1999, the roots of the company were strongly planted in the Subaru market; like most people in the business, Trey wanted to support the cars he loved to drive and race. We're grateful for those roots and the strong footing they gave us, but we've expanded well beyond Subaru in the years since.
These days, we're stoked to serve a huge range of applications--from sport compacts to euro performance and, obviously--domestic trucks--all from our home base in Austin, Texas.
SN: What was COBB Tuning's breakthrough moment?
KB: There are at least two. The first, and certainly the most consequential to our success over the last 20-plus years, was the introduction of the Accessport in 2004. The Accessport is a handheld ECU tuning device, and it quite literally put horsepower in the hands of drivers and tuners. We've gone through a few revisions and have a newer version than we did back in 2004, but the Accessport is still critical to the success of COBB today.
The second breakthrough was the truck market, with our move to support the Ford Raptor with both ECU tuning and supporting mods (like intercoolers, intakes and exhaust components) was critical. Thanks to the early success with Raptors, we broke into the truck business and haven't looked back. In the years since, we've added coverage across tons of the most popular trucks and SUVs on the market, and we're adding to that lineup every day. To do all of that, while staying on the right side of emissions-compliance is a breakthrough I don't know that we could've anticipated 20 years ago.
SN: Tell us about COBB Tuning now and projects you are working on.
KB: In our world, tuning is the easy part. Thanks to our incredible engineers and calibrators, we've been able to set our sights on expanding the supporting packages we offer. Talking to our customers (in the truck business, especially) to learn what parts they are most interested in is a big piece of the puzzle this year. We're excited to be rolling those insights straight into actively developing game-changing emissions-compliant tuning and parts that our customers are going to love--in the truck market and beyond.
SN: Tell us about a product that you are proud of.
KB: The COBB Accessport will likely remain the crown jewel of our product lineup for as long as we're lucky enough to be in the automotive industry. We've been producing the Accessport since the very early days of the business, and it changed the shape of the tuning market altogether.
We're happy to be working with the Accessport in the truck space today, but it also keeps us tied to our roots and helps us remember why we all got the start in this business --cars and trucks should be fun to drive. Like everyone else in this business, we get to help people have a blast when they're behind the wheel, and in our case--that's because of the Accessport.
SN: What advice do you have for young professionals contemplating a career in the automotive aftermarket?
KB: Jump in if you love the aftermarket, but remember, it takes more than passion. Learn to network and hone your skills--whether that's in sales, CAD design or accounting--and lean into it every single day. This industry is moving fast and quickly evolving these days. When you put the work in, this career path will give you back 110%.
Fill out a TORA-member spotlight form to highlight how you or your company are contributing to the truck and off-road specialty-equipment industry. Selected candidates are eligible to be featured on TORA's social media, SEMA News and future TORA member updates