By Ashley Reyes
This week’s SEMA Truck and Off-Road Alliance (TORA) Volunteer Spotlight Member is Joel Ayres of the Automotive Aftermarket Charitable Foundation (AACF).
As TORA's most recent Hall of Fame award winner, Ayres is recognized for his many leadership roles within the industry and active volunteerism within the community, where he dedicates much of his time to multiple education outlets and youth outreach programs. His prior leadership roles include serving on the SEMA Board of Directors, past chairman of the SEMA Memorial Scholarship Committee, and founder and first chairman of SEMA Cares.
It’s members like Ayres who keep the industry strong. Get to know more about Ayres in his Q&A with the SEMA Truck and Off-road Alliance.
SEMA: What inspired you to pursue a career in the truck and off-road industry?
Joel Ayres: I grew up in a car enthusiast family. An older brother who was a race car driver, another older brother who collected and restored classic cars, a family who attended races each Sunday night and finally a father who started one of the first fiberglass truck cap companies in the United States. I worked for the company during high school and college summers before joining the family business full-time.
SEMA: Why did you decide to volunteer for TORA? How has it or will it impact you?
JA: I served on the first SEMA Truck Cap Industry Association (TCIA) board and encouraged truck cap members to make us stronger by embracing the accessory manufacturers. TCIA later became the Truck Cap and Accessory Alliance (TCAA), and while on the SEMA Board, I encouraged the name change to the SEMA Light Truck Accessory Alliance (LTAA) to recognize our entire segment at that time. Regardless of the group’s name, which recently changed to TORA to acknowledge off-road members, the council has impacted my professional career, friendships and my desire to make a difference through charitable efforts.
SEMA: What advice do you have for someone pursuing a career in the automotive aftermarket?
JA: Get involved in associations and events. Whether it's TORA, the SEMA Professional Restylers Organization (PRO), SEMA Businesswomen’s Network (SBN), SEMA Young Executives Network (YEN) or any other council or network, raise your hand and volunteer, it’s one of the best things you can do for your career. You will meet peers, mentors and others who can help you as you grow professionally and as a person. Remember to give back and pay it forward. It is important to help others along the way in life.
SEMA: What is your dream truck or off-road vehicle? Where would you take that vehicle on any weekend?
JA: I have driven every model, including El Camino, Ranchero, LUV, Scout Terra, Subaru Brat, Dodge Rampage, Suzuki and VW Rabbit (yes, Volkswagen made a truck). The ’73 Chevy 427 was fun for speed. But my favorites were Tacoma four-wheels. I had three. I like the outdoors, especially the golf course. When I was with LEER, I drove a Tacoma we did with Callaway Golf, complete with the Callaway plaid interior and golf bag carrier on a BEDSLIDE.