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semanewsNo Turning Back: Mass Marketers Embrace the Specialty-Equipment Industry

“It’s about the styling,” said Myles Kovacs, president and co-founder of DUB Publishing, publisher of DUB magazine. “We’re the plastic surgeons. We take a base car, lower it, fix the proportions.”

The specialty-equipment industry has shed its image as street-racing outlaws or dangerous thrill seekers in the eyes of most Americans, including some of the largest old-money American brand names that have turned to the industry for a slice of cool—and a slice of its audience’s wallet.


 

Members of the specialty-equipment industry have seen this business go both Hollywood and small screen. Movies ranging from The Dukes of Hazzard to The Fast & the Furious and TV shows such as “Unique Whips” and “Overhaulin’” feed mainstream America the images and language of our industry and demonstrate to them that they don’t have to settle for the same car or SUV that their neighbor has.

Now the specialty-equipment industry has reached even deeper into the discussions of creative teams that lead America’s largest advertising agencies. Mass-market brands, products and services increasingly tap into this industry’s ability to spark trends and set the tone of automotive style. This is as mainstream as it gets: Mass-market products seeking legitimacy through an association with this industry, all hinged on a single principle—personalized cars are cool. “It’s about the styling,” said Myles Kovacs, president and co-founder of DUB Publishing, publisher of DUB magazine. “We’re the plastic surgeons. We take a base car, lower it, fix the proportions.”

With a deft cosmetic surgery analogy, Kovacs captured the essence of why corporate America has rushed to grab a piece of the specialty-equipment industry’s shine.

“The next thing you know, the car looks much better with just these minor enhancements,” Kovacs continued. “That’s what actually resonates in the marketplace, and it’s why customization is so important.”

In recent years, the specialty-equipment industry’s profile has risen dramatically with advertisers and marketers, all of whom seek the age group and spending power of the industry’s enthusiasts. First into the water was Universal Pictures in 2001 with the first of its three-film The Fast & the Furious (F&F) franchise, a classic Hollywood treatment of the import-tuner niche. Universal’s success with F&F—the first film grossed more than $144,500,000—opened not only the tuner segment, but also the urban lifestyle market to more mainstream dollars. The latter market, sometimes called the “DUB scene” after the magazine that popularized the culture, was characterized by actors, athletes and hip-hop stars and centered on the flashy cars, homes, jewelry and wheels—especially the wheels—afforded by the rich and those who wished to appear so.

In recent years, the specialty-equipment industry’s profile has risen dramatically with advertisers and marketers, all of whom seek the age group and spending power of the industry’s enthusiasts.

Kovacs, who launched the magazine with two partners in 2000, said the impact of F&F was felt across many lines of car culture, for both better and worse. Part of the sport-compact market’s recent softening, for example, can be traced to exaggerated expectations fostered by the film.



 

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