Grille Guards and Front End Accessories 101December 13, 2015
Adapted from an article by Ellen McKoy at Trucking Times.
Truck Surge, New Products, Design Trends Fuel Sales Of Grille Guards and other Front-End Treatments…
Quick. What’s the first thing you’re likely to notice when a vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction? Or, when looking in the rearview mirror at the vehicle behind you? If you said grille guards, you’d be right! Whether it’s a seven-slot Jeep® grille, a crest on a Cadillac Escalade, or BMW’s kidney-shaped grille, automakers have been embellishing the front end of their vehicles for decades. Though OEM grilles actually serve a function by admitting cooling air into a vehicle’s radiator, they’re primarily cosmetic, designed to make a vehicle more attractive and build an automaker’s brand identity.
Because a vehicle’s front end is a focal point, it was only a matter of time before customizers would seize the opportunity to develop their own distinctively styled front, enabling vehicle owners to personalize their vehicle.
One of the earliest innovators was E&G Classics, now E&G Corporation. Founded in 1972, the company first made its mark producing custom Cadillac grilles and nowadays offers applications for cars, trucks and SUVs.
In recent years, as light-duty trucks have become a favored mode of transportation for both personal- and commercial-use owners, front-end treatments have proliferated. From replacement grilles, grille overlays and light bars to grille guards, bumpers and bull bars, applications for pickups, SUVs and CUVs abound.
From all reports, manufacturers are bullish on the market. Of course, there’s the style or appearance factor. But more important than aesthetic appeal alone, is the surge in truck sales. Lower gas prices, improved fuel efficiency and their inherent versatility have made light-duty trucks the vehicles of choice for countless truck owners.
“The biggest factor contributing to the state of the market is gas prices,” said Bob Wolf, president of Innovative Creations Inc. “Now that gas prices have dropped and automakers have developed more gas-efficient vehicles, (people) can justify (buying) a pickup truck that can become a family car. That’s contributed greatly to the success of all aftermarket accessories.”
According to Westin Automotive Senior VP Bob West, sales of front-end products remain strong. “We are seeing growth in front-end products, which includes full-size grille guards, bull bars and light bars,” he noted. “Strong truck sales are definitely contributing to the overall growth. Some of our products directed toward the commercial market have been doing very well.”
While BJ Leanse, North American sales manager for Go Rhino/Big Country, said demand for grille guards for small-to-mid-size SUVs has declined, he sees growth in fleet and lifestyle segments. “The demand for heavier-duty grille guards has been driven largely by commercial and sportsmen, who want to mount winches or have the look. Sales of our heavy-duty grille guards and full front-end replacements for full-size series trucks are strong.”
Some products, such as grille guards, bumpers and bull bars, also add a layer of front-end protection. According to Bob Orth Jr, Go Industries’ president, “Fleet business is still a big part of our grille guard sales. Strong SUV and heavy-duty truck sales (and) the desire for grille guards made in the USA that genuinely protect the front end” account for the company’s growth.
Adapting to evolving vehicle designs, spotting trends, and developing unique products is crucial to success in the marketplace. At T-Rex Truck Products, “Strong truck sales and the major automotive manufacturers’ redesigns have necessitated new products,” noted Director of Sales Tom Ameduri. “We take great pride in being first to market with the newest designs and model-year applications. Our ability to quickly respond to these new designs has allowed us to capture even more market share.”
Inventive design also plays a big role at ICI, said Wolf. “Our sales are growing as a result of being relatively new to the (bumper) market. One of the big reasons is we chose not to cookie cut the different types of bumper designs we have. We’ve created a completely new and fresh look for our bumpers and recommitted ourselves to redesigning some of the existing product…and consumers are finding them very attractive.”
Wolf also noted that, while grille guard sales remain “fairly steady,” designs are evolving. “Grille guards are becoming more angular; they aren’t as tubular. And even those that do use tubing are using sharper bend angles and putting wire mesh behind it, which gives it a more edgy look.”
Changing consumer tastes, as well as fit and finish, also influence product design. According to West, “We are seeing a shift in demand (as) some older style grille guards and bull bars are beginning to decline in favor of our newer front-end products. We pay particular attention to the aesthetics of the products we design. Consumers are looking for a more updated look that better fits today’s vehicles. We are designing products that are much more fitted and contoured to the front end of an SUV and CUV, and our Contour Light Bars are much more appropriate for these vehicles.”
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