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How to Tell the State of the Hot Rod Parts Industry - Commentary 7

How to Tell the State of the Hot Rod Parts Industry - Commentary 7


By LeRoi Tex Smith

Those of us who watch our hobby/sport and related industry never fail to bewail the state of affairs anytime we gather. One of the barometers I watch closely are the fiberglass parts people. They are a direct indication of what is going on across the board.

As an example, for years I have watched the ads from Wescott. If they are advertising complete bodies, the hobby is doing well. If Wescott is advertising parts, things are not so good out there in street rod land.

I explained this one day to Dee, scion of the Wescott brand. He replied that the bodies were (at that time) a really big ticket item, and that was why his company was at so many runs. The customer would read about the bodies in magazines, but they would want to touch and feel and get an eyeful of the real thing. They would then go home, think about the purchase, and finally after several months (or years), they would step up to the plate.

When bucks would get tight, the waiting time would stretch by years rather than months. Now, we are seeing some really high ticket items on the offer, and we are seeing some really shakey business deals going under. Not because the products are of a lesser quality, but because the perception of value for money is playing a much bigger role in American hot rodding.

Add to this some poor quality products failing the user tests, and you get a skittish buyer waiting longer before making a leap of faith. This is playing out on the swap meet fields as well. It is now a buyer’s market, which to me seems what it should always be.

Since I am several time zones removed from American shores, I get the advantage of monocular vision regards the hot rod industry. Most of the haps have already gone down by the time I hear of action rumblings. Amazingly, some of my U.S. sources of information are often well behind me in gaining insight into a problem area.

Anyway, other than watching magazine and electronic media advertising, consider what happens at trade shows (such as SEMA) and at rod runs/drags where trade product alleys prevail. Marginal bling takes a back row to hardcore mainline products as companies struggle to survive. The purveyors are desperate for sales, any kind of sales, rather than rave reviews of big ticket items that are going to take years to repay investment.

Right now, those low-key services operations are where the dollars are flowing. How long until there is the inevetible upswing? Haven’t a clue.