A Few Words With George Lathouris

SEMA Member News - September/October 2009


The TORA Chair-Elect Offers His Thoughts on the Industry and Its Future

 SEMA Member News-September-October 2009-TORA
George Lathouris, a 31-year veteran of the automotive specialty-equipment industry, has been chosen chair-elect for the Light-Truck Accessory Alliance and will succeed Kelly Kneifl when the latter’s term expires. Lathouris is currently the senior category manager for Keystone Automotive’s wheel and tire division.

George Lathouris has been chosen chair-elect for the Light-Truck Accessory Alliance (TORA) and will succeed Kelly Kneifl when the latter’s term expires. Lathouris is currently the senior category manager for Keystone Automotive’s wheel and tire division and has spent the past 31 years in the automotive specialty-equipment industry.

Lathouris began his career working in a warehouse for American Speed Equipment on Long Island, New York, and worked his way up to the position of national sales and advertising manager. He opened warehouse distribution in Colorado for Dick Cepek in 1992 and became the company’s purchasing manager in Los Angeles in 1994. He then moved back to the east coast in 1995 and became the eastern regional sales manager for Deflecta Shield and, eventually, Lund Industries. He took a position as national satellite sales and outside sales manager for Keystone Automotive in 1999, which led to his current position.

Lathouris was approached several years ago by Ron DiVincenzo and Charley Holden to get involved with TORA, since lifted trucks and Jeeps had long been his passion in the business. He has served the TORA for the past four years and is proud to have been selected as the council’s chair-elect. We recently spoke with him about his goals for the coming term.

SMN: What do you see as priorities for TORA this year?

GL: We need to give retailers more options and values. There are fewer trucks on the road but, in actuality, there are millions of trucks on the road that need our special brand of expertise. The glass is actually half full. We need to take more varied products and approaches to our member base that they can embrace with vigor and enthusiasm.

SMN: What are your priorities as TORA chair-elect? What specific things do you want to accomplish?

GL: We need to develop the proper value proposition and live by that proposition in order to make our association a more vibrant part of the light-truck aftermarket. One of my objectives is to make this association so important that it becomes an essential tool for suppliers and retailers alike. We must be the catalyst that people look to for leadership in today’s stormy market. With a strong base that people want to be a part of, our membership and participation should grow. Additionally, I expect to obtain the participation of manufacturers and retailers outside of our core group and get them involved. This will give all of us a greater menu of services and products to choose from, therefore expanding the market. All of this can happen if the member community pulls together and defines the values and services that they need in order to grow their collective sales.

SMN: In this current economic crunch, why should companies join SEMA and TORA?

GL: Without taking advantage of the services we offer, fewer opportunities will be available. Potential mistakes and waste cannot be avoided. Additionally, without active participation, new products and services would not be utilized by hundreds, therefore leaving money on the table. In today’s environment, every item that can be sold should be sold, and it’s our duty to help millions of people to find those items.

SMN: Is there anything else you would like to emphasize?

GL: Show up at the shows; fill out the questionnaires; start asking questions and help to provide the answers that we can all take advantage of. Now is not the time to stand on the sidelines and watch the world go by. Those who roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty are typically the ones who remain successful. We need hundreds of additional active participants in the TORA.


New Select Committee Members


A s a result of annual elections, TORA is also proud to welcome the following members to the select committee:

Bennett Jackson of Husky Liners/Winfield Consumer Products has been in the automotive aftermarket industry with Husky Liners for 12 years—nine years in manufacturing and three years in his current capacity as sales representative. He was chosen as YEN Member of the Month for May 2008.

Shawn O’Neal of Agri-Cover won his first election to a SEMA select committee, and he is anxious to be a part of TORA’s and the industry’s future.

Chris Ripper is the current V.P. of sales and marketing for Chux Trux Inc., with over 15 years in the automotive aftermarket. Ripper previously served two terms on the TORA select committee from 2003-2006 and also serves on various SEMA and TORA task forces and committees.

Mandi Woodell of Weathers Auto Supply is another second-generation volunteer who literally grew up in the industry and with SEMA. She already has five years of experience on the YEN select committee, during which time she chaired various task forces that contributed to YEN’s incredible membership growth.

Nick Gramelspacher of Meyer Distributing has been a part of the light-truck accessories industry and Meyer Distributing for more than 10 years. He is eager to utilize his insight and experience with manufacturers, distributors and retailers to help TORA and the industry move forward.