Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ accessories arm, Mopar, is well-known for making parts and accessories for the Jeep Wrangler. The vehicle’s rugged capability and distinct style make it an ideal canvas for consumers looking to modify an off-roader.
Mopar now finds itself amid a parts and accessories groundswell, thanks to increased thirst for pickups, SUVs and crossovers. Through September, sales of new light trucks accounted for nearly 68 percent of the industry, according to Autodata.
Earlier this year, FCA launched the new 2018 Jeep Wrangler JL. The market demand for larger, more capable vehicles fueled its sales, which topped 190,000 through the first nine months of the year, a 27 percent lift from 2017.
FCA also launched the new 2019 Ram 1500 pickup. Its chiseled look and improved capability also give it aftermarket appeal.
Mopar’s business model depends heavily on customization of vehicles like the Wrangler and Ram 1500 at the dealer level. When the new vehicles launched, however, the company didn’t have enough supply to fuel demand. Customers were left waiting.
Trucks.com sat down with Steve Beahm, newly appointed head of parts and service for Mopar North America, at the 2018 SEMA show in Las Vegas to discuss the launch and the burgeoning aftermarket industry.
Here is an edited version of the interview.
How important for Mopar are the Ram and Wrangler nameplates?
They’re our top two. [Ram and Wrangler] represent today close to 50 percent of Mopar’s business. Will it grow another 10 percent? That’s probably what we would foresee today.
Describe the recent rollout of new-generation Ram and Wrangler accessories.
If I had to grade us, I would give a B. We underestimated a few of the parts in terms of volume, and maybe a delay or two. I would say 80 percent of parts were ready day one. That’s better than it was historically so moving in the right direction, but still room to improve. We’re full-bore right now. We’ve got some other products that are coming, and I challenged the team to be ready 100 percent.
What are the emerging trends among Wrangler owners?
Number one is lifestyle. There are people who drive their Wrangler every day and never get it in the dirt. They want it customized to fit them in terms of interior and comfort features. That [trend] is growing with our new Wrangler, especially with its wider audience. Second, we’re starting to see a lot on the off-road side, and that’s what you see on the show floor today. Our running boards, rail protectors. Lift kits, naturally, are key. Those are the key things we’re seeing from a growth standpoint. I would also tell you lights. We’re playing with light concepts a lot. We’re seeing other competitors doing it, and we want to be on the forefront on how to light the vehicles.
Mopar is a global brand. What sets the North American market apart?
What’s unique is the combined performance and off-road. When I look across the other regions I see more off-road and not as much performance, or vice versa. I think it’s a good blend here in the U.S. and North America, so we’re trying to serve both moving forward.
What is Mopar focused on moving into 2019?
The first priority is we’re built to serve our customers. I want to continue to reinforce that at every touchpoint, whether it’s someone on our website trying to make an appointment, trying to accessorize their vehicle or trying to repair their car.
Beyond that is how do I expand our offerings, and make sure we have the parts and accessories necessary to fit someone’s personality.
Goal number three is to continue to grow our custom shops. We’ve got 14 custom shops today – that business has been very good for us. I think we make it convenient and easy for our dealers to do accessories just by pushing a button. This year we’ve already customized 300,000 vehicles through September.
And the final thing for Mopar is how do we do a better job on what I call outside sales. Getting to the small shops on the mechanical side and accessories as well. We do a nice job on the collision side already. I think it’s more on the mechanics and accessories that we can do a better job.
How are you reaching a new breed of younger customers?
I think those people that say the younger generation is not into cars are completely off the channel. There’s a group of them that love cars and want to do nothing more than customize. The way we reach them is through social media. Dodge is the most active social brand in the U.S. It has the most Facebook followers, most Instagram, most Twitter – that correlates well with the youth.
I’ve already hooked the teams together to replicate and share those ideas. Dodge can probably teach Mopar a little bit, and I think Mopar can teach Dodge about how they go to market. So, I think on the youth and social media we can actually accelerate that.
With the growth of the aftermarket and increasing interest in the outdoors, is off-roading more accessible to drivers than ever before?
It follows what we see. We’re fortunate at Mopar to have a couple of brands like Ram and Jeep for the off-road adventure person. We’re going to try to take advantage of the fact that we’ve got some good brands to allow people to do this customization. It’s growing. Accessories and customization is going to exceed $100 billion this year in North America. And $43 billion of that is going to be in accessories. This is an area that is growing and I think will continue.