SEMA Member News - May/June 2010
A Look to the Past, a Look to the Future
This Toyota Tundra, on display in the 2009 TORA SEMA Show booth, shows off many accessories that transform the basic pickup into a highly sophisticated and stylized commercial vehicle. The vehicle also represents the innovation and resiliency of the light-truck accessories industry.
TORA, and the industry its members represent, has a long history of innovation and adaptation. Many people mark the introduction of the first steel truck cap as the beginning of the entire light-truck accessories industry, and G&M Manufacturing was around at the beginning.
G&M produced steel gutters and downspouts on the West Coast after World War II. In 1951, company owner Hank Geisler made a steel cap for the company truck, replacing a canvas tarp of the type that was typically used on pickups at that time. A local U-Haul dealer soon requested similar caps for his fleet of pickups. Demand grew quickly, G&M became Gem-Top in 1963, and the company set many standards for manufacturing and distribution that are still in use today. Other truck cap companies sprang up around the country, manufacturing caps from steel, wood and aluminum.
As the pickup was transformed from strictly utilitarian to a personal-use or dual-purpose vehicle, the truck cap industry was quick to adapt. Fiberglass found its way into cap manufacturing during the ’60s and ’70s. Not only could fiberglass match steel or aluminum for durability, but it could also be shaped into different forms more readily. This versatility allowed manufacturers to accommodate hard-to-fit applications, such as the El Camino and the Ranchero, and fiberglass tops could be produced in smoother, more rounded shapes. Just like the cap manufacturers, other innovators quickly introduced accessories for all manner of truck enthusiasts.
In the early ’90s, several cap manufacturers formed the Truck Cap Industry Association to network and collaborate in the best interests of the truck cap industry as a whole. In 1992, the organization changed its name to the Truck Cap and Accessory Association (TCAA) to better reflect the ever-expanding variety of aftermarket accessories for light trucks. As the only association truly dedicated to the light-truck aftermarket, membership opened beyond manufacturing to retailers, warehouse distributors and manufacturers representatives, and membership approached the 1,000 mark by the late ’90s. In 2000, TCAA joined SEMA as a council to further enhance its ability to promote the industry. Shortly thereafter, the name was changed one more time to the Truck and Off-Road Alliance (TORA), which it remains today.
From its inception, TORA leaders strived to remain true to the council’s mission statement, working together to provide useful tools and resources for their membership. They have developed several reference CDs in recent years, providing information on vehicle height regulations, electrical tap locations for the third brake light on vehicles with a cap, and on why paint colors vary. TORA also has a reference sheet that gives inside dimensions of popular pickup beds, and another that
pinpoints the best location for an electrical tap when installing a keyless entry system in popular trucks. All of these tools are used by members regularly.
Most recently, the TORA Select Committee has been working closely with the SEMA Education Institute (SEI) to develop an TORA-specific learning track. SEI is a true learning management system, where member companies can track an employee’s progress through various classes and training. These and other programs can be counted upon to help the alliance chart its way through the current economic doldrums.
“The truck industry has experienced lows in the past,” said TORA Chairman Kelly Kneifl of TruXedo. “But it always finds a way to come back, and this time will be no different. There will always be a demand for the light truck, whether for commercial use, personal use or dual purpose. As long as there are light trucks, TORA member companies will be there to provide the proper accessories to personalize the vehicles. TORA will continue to work hard as well, to give our members opportunities and resources to conduct business into the future.”
Complete Your Profile
TORA invites all TORA members to complete their profiles on the new MySEMA website. Once a profile is established, members can join an TORA group and enter discussions with other members.
“The new site is designed to be more interactive, just like Facebook or LinkedIn,” said TORA Chair-Elect George Lathouris of Keystone Automotive Group. “One of TORA’s major strengths throughout our history has been the networking among our members. We really feel that the new MySEMA website, coupled with the SEI, will be a great step in this regard. But we need to have all members get on board. It’s easy to do. Sign on to My.SEMA.org
using the e-mail address that you use for your SEMA membership. The password is also your e-mail address. From there, it’s just like setting up any other profile. If you have any problems or questions, e-mail our liaison, Jim Skelly, at email@example.com; he can help you get on board.”