February '20

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38 THE SHOP FEBRUARY 2020 Work truck and van projects are often about solving a professional's unique problem. (Photo courtesy Dee Zee) Once mocked for their unconventional body styling, today the Ford Transit and Ford Transit Connect are leaders in the commercial van segment, with the Chev- rolet Express, RAM ProMaster and Mer- cedes-Benz Sprinter establishing their own loyal following. The Connect and Express models are compact but nimble options for those navigating cramped city routes with tight parking—ideal for flower shops, small utility companies and caterers—while the Pro- Master has become an increasingly popular choice among professionals. Meanwhile, the Sprinter continues to win the hearts of those heading off-grid or living the #vanlife. All a bit quirky, yes; however, their size, styling, versatility and price points put them toe-to-toe as legitimate contenders against America's longtime favorite—the pickup. While data shows the medium and heavy-duty market dominated by Class 8 trucks as it applies to new registrations and vehicles in operation, the light-duty category (that includes commercial vans) is ripe for the taking with an aftermarket as diverse as its customer base. Perhaps more than ever before, profes- sional upfitters have the power of selec- tion—from a broad range of vehicles to the variety of aftermarket products to customize them. HIGH CALIBER MOTORSPORTS Cory Bride, owner of High Caliber Motors- ports in northeastern Pennsylvania (highcali- says approximately half of his business is dedicated to professional upfitting, including 10-15% fleet work. Earning the trust of professionals, he says, takes hard work and a willingness to take on as many aspects of a job as possible. What factors have contributed to your professional business growth throughout the years? Cory Bride: Something we pride our- selves on is always being the exception. Dealerships are so focused on a narrow line of work. Tire service centers just want alignments, wheels, tires, brakes and rou- tine maintenance. Many traditional speed shops home in on high performance. Our attitude is, "We like the oddball stuff. We'll take it all on." Since we cherry-pick that work, our showroom is more diverse, our service bays are bigger, our lifts are superior, and our tire machines can handle much larger wheel-and-tire combos. We've always taken the motor jobs that dealership techs didn't feel comfortable with because something wasn't stock or standard. Accepting a variety of business is what helped us get to where we are today, because the same concept applies. The ambulance contract that so-and-so didn't want, or thought was too much of a hassle, well, we took it. And guess what? Yeah, their needs are very specific, and their vehicles have complexities, but now we're servicing their entire fleet. Who are your main work truck customers, and which main product categories do they cover (racks, lifts, ADAS, bedliners, toolboxes, etc.)? CB: We still service a lot of oil field con- Quarterly sales performance for the com- mercial van segment in the United States. Source: GoodCarBadCar WORK IS ITS OWN REWARD From toolboxes, racks and bumpers to customized storage and electronics products, it takes a lot to serve the needs of professional customers. (Photo courtesy Horizon Global)

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