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Posted: January 05, 2014

Lighting Up Cap And Tonneau Sales

LEDs Provide An Upgrade Manufacturers Are Using To Their Advantage

By Dan Sanchez

Cargo protection, security, and ease of use, have always been a top priorities for cap and tonneau manufacturers. But many have begun to offer 12-volt accessories with their products, which are making a big impact in overall sales. The most recent, and perhaps the most prevalent to be utilized, is LED illumination.  Manufacturers have discovered various ways to incorporate LED lights into their products with impressive results. “Over the last few years LED technology has become more readily available,” says Bryan Baker, A.R.E.’s Director of Marketing. “The cost for the product has decreased to where it can be offered at a price point that will appeal to many customers.”

The increase in sales has shown that truck owners like the LEDs, because they find it more convenient to see what they’re reaching for in the bed of their trucks. For this reason, LED lighting has quickly become the hottest convenience option offered by most all cap and tonneau manufacturers. “You roll a tonneau cover closed, and you can’t see so well inside the bed,” says Amy Wobbema, Marketing Manager at Access Covers.  “It wastes time to unroll a cover just so you can use the light on the back of the cab, so we looked into adding some lights in the pickup box. We went with LEDs because they are more energy efficient.”

Aside from being more affordable and efficient, LED lighting also has several benefits that cap and tonneau manufacturers have embraced. For example, LED lights are available in long strips, or can be grouped together in small tubes to replace any incandescent bulb, no matter the size or shape. The LED strips are perhaps one of the most popular, as they can be flexible, extremely bright, and don’t require lots of power. These features allow them to be used in a variety of ways that best suits each individual product. “LED lighting has vastly improved over the years and has allowed us to incorporate attractive aerodynamic lights into our advanced truck cap designs,” says Hartmut Schroeder President of Snugtop. “LED strips and tube lights are also gaining popularity in toppers for commercial applications.”

With LED lighting offered as a new option, there’s a greater potential for increased profits if truck accessory retailers can spot the right customers to up-sell.  “The best way to up-sell a customer on this option is to have the lights installed in a truck cap for a company truck, or in the showroom,” says Baker.  “Once the customer sees how bright it is, they are hooked quickly. The cost is reasonable and most customers won’t think twice about spending the money, once they see what they are getting for it.”

Looking at the truck owner’s lifestyle and hobbies is another way to identify their need for additional lighting. “Anyone who is active in the low-light hours can benefit from adding lighting to a pickup bed,” says Wobbema.  “It’s not just hunters, anglers, construction workers or farmers who might have to reach into the bed or do some work on the tailgate while it’s dark out. If you own a pickup, it’s only a matter of time until you’ll need to get something out of the bed at night, and having this light can save you from wasting a lot of time fumbling around in the dark.”

With an array of LED lighting options available to cap and tonneau manufacturers, the types of LED lights, and how they are incorporated, can vary.  For example, Truck Covers USA uses lighting systems that can appear to be built-in to the company’s popular American Work Truck Cover, which incorporates a center tool box. “By combining 3M’s Light-by-Wire technology with our innovative design, we provided the industry’s first high-end custom feel to toolbox interiors, while adding task lighting for these hard-to-light spaces,” says Nils Forssman, President of Truck Covers USA. Manufacturers such as A.R.E. also find that they can add lighting to key areas of their truck caps to provide better visibility when accessing cargo.  “A.R.E. offers a three-LED, 12-volt light above the rear-door, and a four-foot LED rope lighting to illuminate the interior of truck caps and toolboxes,” says Baker.

But for manufacturers like Snugtop, LED lighting can also be used for more than just illuminating the interior of the company’s truck caps. “All of our CHMSL (Third brake lights) are LED. They are brighter, illuminate quicker than incandescent bulbs and have a more modern automotive look,” says Schroeder. “We also offer an interior LED light that can be ordered as a 12-volt system that’s connected to the vehicle's battery or runs off of four AA batteries.”

While some manufacturers offer LED lighting as an added option, others progressively incorporated them into their unique systems. “The built-in LED lighting system on our American Work Covers is low profile, waterproof, and is operated via a fingertip depression switch that is all inclusive,” says Forssman.  They come pre-installed into our toolbox, mounted behind a specially designed and angled light shield.  They appear to be originally built-in to the box, even though they aren’t.”  Snugtop also believes LED lighting should be standard equipment. So they also incorporate them into a variety of their product line. “Snugtop customers expect top-notch performance from their customized truck cap, and therefore well designed LED lights are part of the package,” says Schroeder.

For manufacturers offering LED lighting as an option, or available separately, the question of installation and overall performance comes into play for truck accessory retailers.  “Our LED light options are wired directly into the vehicle’s electrical system,” says Baker.  “They are rated for 100,000 hours, far outshining the 25,000-hour rating for incandescent lights. With an optional prop switch, the lights are conveniently turned on and off when the door is opened and closed, or lighting can be controlled with the manual on-off switch. Truck owners can also opt for a single LED rope at the center of the cap, or use two parallel ropes, with one on either side of the cap roof. LED ropes can also be placed inside, above the cap’s windows and inside toolboxes to illuminate the entire chamber.”
Access also uses rope style LEDs with its products, allowing them to be easily installed in the company’s truck caps and it’s Truck Bed Rack. “Our lights have a sealed strip of LED emitters and connects to any 12-volt source with negative and positive leads,” says Wobbema. “We offer it in 12, 24, 39, and 60-inch lengths. It uses a strong 3M adhesive that bonds to any clean surface. The light is completely waterproof, too. The integrated switch lets you push once to turn it on and push again to turn it off.”

While Truck Covers USA adds lighting at the point of manufacture, they also offer auxiliary LED lighting systems so the truck owner can add more illumination where they think they need it. “These LED kits are available for either direct 12-volt wire-in, or operation with a unique battery pack,” says Forssman.  “Our effortless installation simplifies set-up for the dealer/installer.  To wire them in, you simply find the positive and negative ends, and your lights can be up and running.  They have reverse polarity protection, a built-in lens, and over-molds that fully protect all the LEDs.”
As new technologies become more affordable and easy to use, you can bet most cap and tonneau manufactures will incorporate them into their products if they are applicable. For the truck owner, any product that uses technology that can offer greater functionality and more convenience, typically end up being top sellers in the truck accessory market.

Access/Agricover Inc.
3000 Hwy 281 SE
PO Box 508
Jamestown, ND 58402
800 233-4655

400 Nave Rd.
PO Box 1100
Massillon, OH 44648
330 830-7800

1711 Harbor Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90813
800 768-4867

Truck Covers U.S.A.
8970 Crestmar Point
San Diego, CA 92121-3216
888 808-2872

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