Article > Tech

Import Explosion

By Gary Garberg

It’s difficult to ignore the prevalence of imports today. From cars, to semis, to tools, to tires — they’re everywhere and they’re here to stay. Are you ready to benefit from this huge opportunity?

Because I’ve been involved in the automotive aftermarket for so many years, I’ve become a vehicle watcher. I notice all kinds of vehicles going along the roadways, in parking lots — even commercial vehicles and equipment around construction sites. I would guess that I have done this for a long time, but just never really noticed.

A few months ago on the news, I heard that Toyota had taken the number-two sales spot away from Ford, and was rapidly heading toward the number-one spot, which would replace General Motors as America’s number one vehicle seller. Wow!

In my observation of vehicles, it certainly came as no surprise to me. I’ve been watching this trend for years. I think that is partly why creating a group for import specialists around the country seemed like such a good idea. Today that group, the Society of Import Parts Specialists, is flourishing and the sales of import vehicles is experiencing record levels.

But have you noticed other areas where import manufacturers have impacted the vehicle industry? The over-the-road truck market has certainly been affected. During a flight several months ago, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Russ. Russ is a territory manager for Flambeau, Inc. Many of you probably have some type of Flambeau plastic case around your home, like a tool box, a tackle box or a traveling gun case. Flambeau is a supplier of many of these types of cases, but they also sell a variety of special application-formed plastic components to OE manufacturers. One of its many customers is Freightliner. Freightliner also builds the Western Star and Sterling series of over-the-road trucks.

There are many plastic components on these trucks, both inside of the engine compartment, as well as on the inside of the truck. The components vary from plastic shrouds, to vacuum boxes and even parts of the dash. You get the idea.

Well, the trucking industry, like the automotive industry, has felt the surge in import sales.
Several years back, on a trip from Las Vegas to Reno to experience the Reno air races, the son of the owner of the company I worked for was on an “over-the-road truck I.D. mission.” Every time a truck approached us from the on-coming lane, Josh would shout out, “Kenworth,” “Peterbuilt” or “Freightliner.”

But, as often as anything else, he would shout out, “Volvo.” Ever since that trip, wherever I travel in the country, I take notice of the brands of over-the-road trucks, as well as the smaller import vehicles. There sure are lots of Volvos!

If your company owns a forklift for its warehouse operations, there’s a very good chance that your forklift is either a Komatsu, Nissan or Toyota brand.

Now, back to my new acquaintance, Russ, the territory manager for Flambeau.

Russ explained to me that, his industry too, has felt the affect of change, as the new global economy impacts every industry. He went on to explain how he has noticed the diminishing sales of some over-the-road truck manufacturers like Kenworth and Peterbuilt. And, he is also aware of the fact that Volvo truck sales have exploded.

So, Josh’s observations of some Kenworths and Peterbuilts but lots of Volvos was pretty prophetic. Lots of Volvos, and to some extent, this comes at a cost to some of the most respected nameplates in the over-the-road truck business. Certainly, the attrition in Freightliner’s business has affected Russ too.

So, what’s the point? The point, is that all of us need to be mindful of the growing impact of import vehicles of every type, not only in our industry, but on our national economy too. Our entire country is embracing import- manufactured vehicles of all kinds, shapes and sizes from motorcycles to cars, light- to heavy-duty trucks, and construction and industrial equipment.

And, what does this mean? Opportunity. Opportunity for everyone who embraces this change, like so many other changes we’ve all experienced throughout our careers.

Russ explained to me how Flambeau was adapting to the new trend and how he was adapting too. They are challenged, but excited about how these new opportunities will ultimately become new growth for this company’s business, he explained.

Are you prepared? Are you adapting? Are you challenged by change? Are you excited about all of the opportunities that the influx of imports of all types will bring? It’s time!

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