Performance & Hotrod Business - January '15

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10 n Performance & Hotrod Business n January 2015 Parts and Accessories Sales Reach $33 Billion Sales of automotive specialty equipment products continue to climb, reaching $33 billion in 2013. The number represents a 6.7-percent increase over the previous year and marks the fourth consecutive year of growth, according to the SEMA Annual Market Study. It is the highest growth rate since the recent recession. Among the factors driving the industry's growth are: • Street performance products accounted for 26-percent of sales, thanks in part to a renewed focus on performance models by the OEMs. • Sales of specialty equipment for light trucks grew 8 percent in 2013 to post the market's best sales year since 2007. New truck sales continue to climb amid anticipation for major redesigns to several flagship pickups. • The U.S. economy continues to show positive signs for industry growth, with gross domestic product rising and unemployment rates dropping, the study noted. Forecasters are generally predicting sus- tained moderate growth for the U.S. economy over the next few years. Meanwhile, car buyers have shown renewed enthusiasm, pushing new- vehicle sales upward toward pre-recession levels. The specialty-equipment market includes products that enhance a vehicle's performance, styling, comfort, convenience and safety. Is Arizona Shrub the Path to New Tires? Bridgestone Americas Inc., Nashville, believes it is one step closer to its long-term environmental goal of develop- ing a new, domestic and commercially viable source for natural rubber. BSA, a subsidiary of the world's largest tire and rubber manufacturer, Bridgestone Corp., has announced the grand opening of its Biorubber Process Research Center in Mesa, Arizona. The 10-acre research and innovation campus is the center of Bridgestone's efforts to extract natural rub- ber from guayule, a shrub native to the southwestern U.S., according to a press release. Bridgestone said it expected to have preliminary gua- yule rubber samples produced at the Biorubber Process Research Center before the end of the year. Guayule rub- ber has qualities almost identical to those of natural rubber harvested from Hevea rubber trees, making it a potentially valuable source for tire-grade rubber in commercial appli- cations, the release noted. Currently, more than 90-percent of the world's natural rubber supply comes from Hevea rubber trees grown in Southeast Asia. "The opening of the Bridgestone Biorubber Process Research Center is a significant milestone in Bridgestone's journey to develop a new and domestic source of natural rubber," said Bill Niaura, director of new business devel- opment, Bridgestone Americas Inc. "Through this innovation project and others like it, Bridgestone is positioning itself to meet the constant, anticipated growth in demand for natu- ral rubber, while also moving closer to achieving its long- term vision of manufacturing products from raw materials that are fully renewable and sustainable by 2050." Home to more than 30 researchers and technicians, the Biorubber Process Research Center site includes an 8,300-square-foot single-story office and laboratory building; a four-platform, 3,500-square-foot shrub prep building; a 5,500-square-foot, two-level process building for rubber extraction, co-product and solvent recycling; and a 3,100-square-foot mechanical and electrical building, according to the release. Brake systems and components company Centric Parts, Industry, California, has appointed Paul Stewart to the newly created position of executive vice president of sales and marketing. Stewart will lead the sales and marketing team, overseeing performance, fleet, program group and medium-duty sales as well as traditional Qualis and Centric sales, according to a press release. He will report to Dan Lelchuk, president and CEO of Centric Parts. "Paul brings an outstanding track record of sales and marketing suc- cess to the team," Lelchuk said. "His vast experience in the automotive aftermarket, particularly in brake and chassis, will benefit the company in many ways, and his intimate understanding of our Qualis operations, customers and product range will be invaluable." Stewart joined Centric Parts during the acquisition of Qualis Automotive in July, 2013. He co-founded Qualis in 1999 and most recently served as vice president, sales & marketing. "I'm very proud to be leading the Centric Parts sales and marketing team," he said. "Centric has a tremendous reputation in the industry for offering quality products combined with industry-leading customer support, which makes my job a lot easier. I look forward to building upon the tremendous growth Centric has enjoyed as we continue to strengthen our existing programs and expand into new product categories." Centric Parts manufactures and supplies aftermarket brake com- ponents and systems for passenger vehicles, light- and medium-duty trucks, and high-performance and racing vehicles under the Centric, C-Tek, PosiQuiet and StopTech labels, among others. Stewart to Lead Centric Sales & Marketing

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