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Valley Companies Riding Auto Customization Craze

Valley Companies Riding Auto Customization Craze By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter On a popular new show on MTV hosted by rapper Xzibit called “Pimp My Ride,” a crew of auto mechanics from the West Coast Customs shop transforms an old, raggedy car into a fixed-up, glossy painted marvel to the exuberant celebration of the car’s teenaged owner. These days, aftermarket car accessories such as TVs and shiny car rims are a booming industry. While cars have been fixed up for a while, car customization is entering the mainstream pop culture quickly. For further proof, look no further than L.A. streets, where many cars display their owner’s taste for bling-bling with 20-inch chrome wheels. Capitalizing on the car customization craze a $3 billion industry are several Valley companies, including Galpin Motors, which already sells more Fords than anyone else in the world and has a number of other dealerships, including Volvo and the high-end line Aston Martin. The successful dealership is growing, and a large part of that growth has to do with aftermarket accessories. Beau Boeckmann, the son of Galpin owner Bert Boeckmann, is presiding over the development of Galpin Auto Sports center at the dealership, which is on track to open later this year. The center will enable consumers to get their cars customized on-site. “That demand has been there for a couple of years,” Boeckmann said. Galpin is investing $1.5 million to build the center and plans to have more than $2 million in inventory in the 7,000-square-foot facility. There will be eight service bays to start, but eventually another six, for a total of 14, will be installed. Products offered will include suspensions, lowering kits, wheels and tires, and a myriad of other parts that are becoming more and more popular with various demographics, not just young hipsters or wealthy athletes or Hollywood executives, Boeckmann said. “It’s like an explosion in the last couple of years in the industry itself,” Boeckmann said. “You see (TV) show after (TV) show that’s on today so there’s obviously a large interest in it.” Galpin is joining a pack of companies offering customization to the public, but Pacific Coast Motoring in Woodland Hills is specializing in a more narrow market. Celebrity customers Founded by Eric Rosenthal and Raschid Shah, the company specializes in complete customization for celebrity clientele that costs from $15,000 to $20,000 per car or SUV. They have outfitted the cars of celebrities including former Los Angeles Clippers star Lamar Odom, current player Quentin Richardson and even Cher, according to their official Web site. Business, in fact, has boomed in the last several years, Rosenthal said, to the tune of 75 to 80 percent total revenue increase. He credits the fact that technology is rapidly changing and more devices are installed inside vehicles than before. “We’re doing five to six monitors inside the cars,” Rosenthal said. “We’re booked one month ahead.” On the manufacturing end, aftermarket parts are also in demand. At Chatsworth-based Milodon, vice president of sales and marketing Ken Sink said business has jumped about 20 percent over last year. The company produces aftermarket head studs, main studs, and gear drives primarily oriented for street performance or drag racing market. With about 50 employees, the company sells its parts to wholesalers. Yet another local company on the aftermarket rush is Autotechnica, which is a distributor of parts. The Chatsworth-based distributor of parts such as steering wheels, racing pedals and chrome attachments for trucks and SUV employs 20 and is licensed with Dodge, General Motors and Chrysler and is growing its business. “I would say that annually we’re seeing anywhere from 10 to 20 percent increase,” said Jeffrey Redding, vice president of product development at the company. “We expect at least as much this year.” Broader market Redding said because the market is becoming more diverse, a lot more people are “interested in customizing their vehicles.” “The industry is one where products are constantly changing,” he said. “There’s always something new coming out.” Galpin’s Boeckmann also has seen the aftermarket accessories market become very popular. “A few years ago, having a TV in the car was abnormal,” Boeckmann said. “Now, it is how many TVs do you have?” B & M; Racing and Performance Products in Chatsworth is seeing business rise as well. The company, which manufactures shifters for performance cars, has had steady growth over the past five years, with the fourth quarter of 2003 notably best. The biggest growth at the company has taken place in the OEM supply, as more and more car makers including Ford and Porsche are ordering its parts. The “embrace of tuning and performance craze” meant the company is building shifters for about 100 different car companies, Applegate said. “What happened is things have changed. If you go back 15 years, it was a narrow market,” said Brian Applegate, the president of the 140-employee company that was founded in 1952. “It was an older, muscle car-oriented stuff. (Now) you got virtually every brand entering the performance arena.”

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