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Posted: March 08, 2013

Converting Challenges Into New Business

Jeff Fink of Advantage Truck Accessories Looks At OEM's Intrusion Into The Aftermarket As An Opportunity

By Jeff Fink

From my perspective, the OEMs are trying to get more involved in the accessory business, either through their after-sales channels or through their inplant installs, because they know they’re
missing part of the market. But I think that as aftermarket providers, we should be looking at what opportunities the vehicle manufacturers are giving us by putting accessories on limited-run vehicles, which actually helps drive the market.

Years ago, when Ford put step bars on the Explorer, everyone thought the nerf bar business was over. Instead it exploded into all different variations, ideas and concepts. So whether you’re an aftermarket manufacturer, restyler or truck-accessory installer, you’ve got to look for the opportunities the OEMs are giving us and go after them.

We always get mad at the OEMs when they dip their toe in the accessory pool. But we’re  dependent on them to provide a product. Without them, we’d have to be in some other business. So I think people need not worry so much about the OEMs and start being enthusiastic about every new model that comes out and what the possibilities are.

The economy is still a challenge. And because the OEMs are making few cars and trucks, I think some people assume there will be less business. That’s not necessarily true. Truck production is up a little, but still not up to what it was. But, by and large, the tonneau cover industry is up, and our sales have never been better. That’s just by looking at opportunities and seeing what’s  available.

The opportunities for restylers or truck-accessory installers are really right in front of us. It’s back to basics — being involved in your community, learning about social media, and having a website. The costs are low, and you can get your message out to drive customers to your store. Once you have their information, you have it forever, so why not use it to your advantage?

We all tend to get mired down in the minutiae of each day. I think people have to dig deep inside to find their passion. We got into this business because we’re passionate, and this is one industry that’s cool. We sometimes sell ourselves short as to our experience, passion and knowledge.

That enthusiasm is huge. So let’s not worry about the OEMs and what they’re doing to hurt or help us. Just look at where our passion for the business lies and where the opportunities are. Attack those and remember you’re the expert.

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