Business

A Look At The Racing and Performance Powertrain Market

A Ford 408 engine by Blueprint Engines. Just one of the broad varieties of crate engines available from the engine builder.By Mike Imlay

Racers, street performance enthusiasts, four wheelers, restorers and boat owners all need engines, which means that, at some point, they tap into the performance niche occupied by engine builders and, more often than not, the specialty shops that install replacement engines. It’s a segment composed of small businesses, not-so-small businesses and by OEM crate-engine distributors—all offering powertrain solutions.

In fact, use of ready-made drop-in crate engines with known horsepower and torque specifications has become a driving force in the marketplace in recent years. In particular, the GM LS series has become...

Racing Update

Some Hot Segments to Watch

For many businesses in the automotive aftermarket, racing remains the lifeblood. This industry was founded on passion and performance, and automotive racing continues to drive product research and development and retail sales, inspiring manufacturers, retailers and consumers alike. After taking a hit from a rough economy over the past several years, racing is seeing a resurgence. While many motorsports segments are trending upward, there are a few in particular that merit watching in the coming year. Following the trends in these hot segments can lead to greater marketing success for all levels of the industry.

RETAIL SPOTLIGHT: Kings Tire & Wheels Crowned by Service and Referrals

Kings Tire & Wheel owner Sam Batanian (right) and his son “Junior”—who manages the current chain of three retail outlets—in their original store in El Monte, California.“I was about 26 years old at that time and didn’t know very much about the area,” laughed Batanian. “I soon found out that within a block there were at least a hundred mechanics. There are really no customers in El Monte. They’re all mechanics and workers here. You can’t even do an oil change on a car because everyone is doing his own.”

Nevertheless, Batanian has managed to build an extremely successful wheel and tire business over the years—so successful that he now has two additional stores in the greater Southern California area, one in Palmdale and another in Camarillo. In fact, he envisions a chain of 10 to 15 outlets throughout the Southland within the next few years.

Fresh Faces, Fresh Ideas

What’s Driving the Industry’s Young Entrepreneurs?

A lot has been said and written lately about the “aging” of the automotive specialty-equipment industry. Built over roughly six decades by hands-on parts and hardcore speed and performance innovators, the automotive aftermarket is now an industry topping $30 billion. However, questions currently abound over whether it will continue to attract younger enthusiasts—not only as consumers but as entrepreneurs.

Tire and Wheel Trends Update

Dozens of wheel and tire companies exhibited at the 2013 SEMA Show, displaying everything from fullsize trucks to power-sports products. Combinations mounted on 20-in. and larger rims were common throughout. Courtesy of Vossen Wheels Keeping an Eye on the Evolving Marketplace

Dozens of companies displayed tire, wheel and related products at the 2013 SEMA Show, providing concrete proof that the tire and wheel segments are among the most prolific within the automotive specialty-equipment industry. As always, however, evolution is constant, so SEMA News once again canvassed wheel and tire professionals for their insights into design, construction, marketing and sales trends as we enter the new year.

Retailer Spotlight

In the Family Way With Chuck’s Truck Accessories and Line-a-Bed Sales

Many of the most famous names in the history of the automotive specialty-equipment industry started as family endeavors. Chuck’s Truck Accessories and Line-A-Bed Sales exemplifies that type of familial heritage. In fact, one of the joys of doing business for owner Chuck Vaughn comes from the fact that his wife, father, son and several cousins work at the retail and installation store.

Trends for 2014

SEMA Council LeadersA Look to the Future With SEMA Council Leaders

SEMA News annually turns to the leaders of the association’s councils and networks for the December issue to seek their views about how the industry is shaping up for the coming year. The chairs or chairs-elect of each group provide responses based on what their organizations and their companies are seeing within their marketplaces. Their responses provide helpful insights for businesses in every segment of the marketplace.

Product Data: If You Build It, Sales Will Come

Jon Wyly

Think of it as the selling Field of Dreams. Much like the enthralling Kevin Costner movie, it all starts with a lot of convincing, believing and perhaps a small leap of faith as you struggle to understand this challenging new requirement. This uncertain phase is followed by a period of ups and downs, ultimately creating some hard work that, at times, can feel like a hopelessly endless task. But man, oh, man: When you finally get to play, it’s suddenly all worth it!

I can’t stress enough how an ongoing regimen of product data gathering, expanding and quality control is critical to the success of your business. Own the process, understand its importance and seek help when you get confused or sidetracked.

Product Packaging

It’s All Wrapped Up in Protection, Branding, Economics and the Environment

A package for an automotive product serves multiple purposes, the most important of which is protection. Whether a package contains highly durable grade-8 fasteners or a fragile electronic tuning device, its main mission is to get the product to the end user in pristine condition. But a package can also serve sales functions, provide branding and inform consumers about an entire product line.

“Our products can be expensive,” said Joe Dussol, marketing director for Powerteq, which is the parent company of Superchips and Edge Products. “Depending on the product, some people might spend $600–$1,000, and we want the customer to feel like he’s holding something worth that kind of money when he picks up our package. That’s why our packaging might be a little bit more costly than doing a cardboard box with some print on it, but we really want it to stand out.”

Selecting a Public Relations Agency

Matching Companies With Marketing

Until fairly recently, advertising and PR were two distinctly different functions in the marketing of automotive specialty-equipment products. As with so many other aspects of modern commerce, the Internet has created some blurring of the lines. Getting products in front of potential customers is the lifeblood of marketing. Whether through straightforward advertising placed in pertinent outlets or through creative ventures handled by public relations (PR) agencies, getting the word out is key.

We included an article on best practices for selecting an ad agency in our February 2013 issue (“Finding the Right Advertising Agency,” p. 60), and this month, we’re taking a look at selecting a PR firm.

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