Hot Rod Council Extends Reach Under New Leadership
John McLeod of Classic Instruments became the HRIA chair in January.
In January, the Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA) transitioned to new leadership, with John McLeod leading the charge as chair. McLeod is the owner of Classic Instruments in Boyne City, Michigan, a manufacturer and seller of custom instrumentation for automobiles and boats. Before entering the automotive industry, McLeod was a police officer for 16 years.
“I had a perfectly good career in law enforcement. I loved being a police officer. I still miss it to this day. But I really, really have a passion for cars and I had an opportunity come up so I just jumped in and things worked out very, very well for me because of a lot of dedication and hard work,” he said.
McLeod’s right hand for the next two years will be Tammy Holland, who was recently appointed chair-elect. Holland has been with the COMP Performance Group for 17 years and is currently in sales communications for the company. She also has several years of council and network experience with SEMA, having served previously as chair of the SEMA Businesswomen’s Network.
When reflecting on what first drew her to the automotive industry, several experiences come to Holland’s mind.
Tammy Holland of COMP Performance Group was appointed HRIA’s new chair-elect.
“I grew up a little bit of all over as a Navy brat,” she said. “One of the things that we used to do is go mudding. My dad always worked on cars. Probably one of the bigger influences was a date who took me to a drag race. That was the first real drag race I’d ever been to.”
McLeod and Holland both believe that it’s important to make the group open and inviting toward newcomers, be they recent graduates or someone getting a later start in the automotive industry. McLeod described this outreach as an information bridge.
“We call it Futures in Hot Rodding, because it’s not just the youth,” he said. “It’s anybody who is interested in our industry and wants to be part of it. We still need people on the floor, but we also need owners, accountants, sales staff, janitors, assemblers, etc. It really is big, and if anybody has an interest in vehicles, we’re interested in you.”
Holland echoed that sentiment.
“We both want to get rid of the stereotype that you have to be over a certain age to be a part of the HRIA,” she said. “Hot rodding is for every age group.”
Education Day and Builders Panel in Detroit a Success
Education Day is one of the council’s longest-standing events, consisting of 24 sessions led by hot-rod parts manufacturers. These experts, from some of the biggest names in industry, teach attendees about product features, benefits and installation guidelines in a casual, small-group setting. The 2015 event took place Friday, March 6, at the Detroit Autorama. This year, the council also added a room where additional questions and conversations could continue between manufacturers and retailers, even after the presentations concluded.
Education Day will continue to be a priority for the group, and McLeod hopes that the event will continue to grow—in attendance and in the digital space. HRIA plans to explore mediums for online access to the seminars in future. In this way, members will be able to access the information regardless of their physical locations. Though the look and feel of the event may change over time, HRIA remains committed to providing access and information that will contribute to the growth of the segment.
HRIA also hosted a builders panel at Autorama this year for individuals interested in joining the industry. Attendees heard straight talk and stories from hot rodding veterans Bobby Alloway, Jesse Greening, Dave Lane, J.F. Launier, Andy Leach and
“They were very candid and very open about the different ways each one have found to be successful. Some worked 9:00–5:00, not on weekends. Some work around the clock, seven days a week, 12 hours a day. Some have one employee. Some have 20 employees. What people got to learn is it’s hard work. It takes dedication and some sacrifice,” said McLeod.
While each of the presenting builders shared a different perspective, two common themes were the importance of excellent work and prioritizing relationships. The conversations continued long after the panel’s scheduled end time.
McLeod reflected on the successful event and what it means for the industry.
“I know that there’s someone out there who is thinking about joining the industry,” he said. “If we just spark that interest, he or she could be the next president of SEMA. That’s what we’re trying to do—just create opportunity.”