Brian Downard Interview
(Lokar Performance Products)
For over 20 years Lokar has been manufacturing products of the highest quality.
There made in the USA policy seems to have given them an edge in the marketplace.
The marketplace includes a new series of products in their midnight series; the black stainless steel housing line some of which includes transmission and engine dipsticks, throttle cables, kick downs, and matching mounting brackets.
Brian Downard spoke with us about Lokar.
Q - Brian, what is your position with Lokar?
A – I’m the VP (Vice President) of sales and marketing.
Q - Who founded this company?
A - It was started by Skip and Debbie walls. Both of them together. They were in Walnut California. You could actually see the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) from their backyard. They started it as a husband-and-wife team and they’ve been at it truly, this is the 27th year in business. For all 27 it’s been the two of them riding the helm and directing the company.
Q - One of your biggest selling points if not the biggest is that your products are made in the USA is that correct?
A - That’s a fact. We’re not the cheapest parts, but between the quality and reputation we’ve grown our parts on and the fact that it’s made in America has really turned things around. It’s really helped them quite a bit now. People realize that’s the way to go.
Q - Don’t other companies manufacture the same products Lokar does?
A - Yeah. There is a bunch of companies that make the same stuff.
Q - Again, it’s made in America that makes the difference?
A - It makes a big difference for us being an American-made company and a US company. Debbie and Skip won’t tolerate anything less than perfection regardless of what they’re doing, if it’s building a car, having a car built, building a product or building a building, whatever they’re doing it’s going to be 110%.
Q - You have Ford and GM shifters. Do those companies have Lokar make their products for them?
A - No. Were actually the opposite. In the Hot Rod industry General Motors and Ford have cars that they build. Were the guys that help someone put a brand-new Camaro motor in a 1932 Ford. Were the guys that have shifters and drive by wire pedals that allow you to do that. We come in after the fact. We don’t do anything with the big three as far as an OEM supplier.
Q - What seems to be driving the interest in Classic Car Shows is not necessarily the Classic Cars or Hot Rods, but “ Rat Rods” have you heard about that?
A - Yeah. There’s Rat Rods out there. There’s whole new classes of things that are really hitting out now that hadn’t before. We had Muscles Cars and Street Rods and that was pretty much it. Then you had the guys that were into trucks. Now you’ve got this whole new, I guess you would call it a genre, for lack of a better word of the guys that want to be considered Rat Rods. You’ve got guys that want to be considered traditional. Then you’ve got guys who are considered model cruisers. Then you still have the guys who are considered street rod. It’s gotten so broken up because the specific builds for the specific genre are so different. It’s amazing to me what you do see out there. That’s one of the cool things about our whole industry right now. It used to be you had to figure out how to make it work. You had to figure out what’s going on. But, with the Internet now, in the amount of manufacturers that are out there including ourselves and the people who can make all kinds of products for you now, it’s not as difficult as it used to be.
Q - There is no end in sight as to what you can do with the car is there? Just your imagination.
A - That’s the main thing. It’s your imagination and of course budgets come into play if you’re looking at different things. The truth in all seriousness is it’s more of your imagination then it is anything else.
Q - Who is a Lokar customer? Sounds like it could be anybody and everybody!
A - Yeah. That’s where we’ve been really fortunate. You hear people talk about business is up or business is down. We are on the high end of $250,000-$500,000 cars. Were on the low-end $10,000-$15,000 cars. The $2500 car that the guy is working on in his backyard. We’ve got parts for everybody. If you’re putting a small block Chevy in a 1928 a model Ford. We’ve got the throttle cables and the little trinkets to help you get it running and make sure you get everything put together right. With our reputation for the quality and safety and of it, it’s kind of a no-brainer. It’s a buy at once and done which makes it perfect.
Q - You do those car shows like the Syracuse Nationals to remind people of the products Lokar makes? How much business is generated by being at one of those shows?
A - It’s a lot. We look at it a little differently than other manufacturers. We don’t sell direct. All of our distribution is done through our distribution network, through our dealers that we have. We go and we don’t take products on the trailer and we don’t sell stuff. If someone wants something, we know what dealers are at that particular venue and we send the customer to them. As long as our distribution is supporting us, that’s our goal. That’s all we want to do. Were perfectly happy to do that.
Q - The manufacturing is done where?
A - it’s all done in Knoxville (Tennessee). When we say made in America, everything is made in the United States. Our catalogs are made in Knoxville, Tennessee. Our products are made in Knoxville, Tennessee. The backing board for our shrink board is done in Knoxville, Tennessee. Our boxes are made in Knoxville, Tennessee. I mean everything is done in the United States.
Q - As the product or products grow in popularity so grows the company.
A - Yeah, we’ve been really blessed. We moved into 50,000 ft.² facility, three buildings. A total of 50,000 ft.². 10,000 ft.² for R and D (Research and Development), 10,000 ft.² for offices, and about 30,000 ft.² for manufacturing. We’ve got about 6000 acres paved on the property right now. We’re blessed. The segment that we’re in is growing. There again it keeps splintering off into other genres of the sport and that’s good. The owner of the company, Skip is we’ll say semiretired, but, he drag races. That’s part of the reason we do shows the way we do em as well. We want to be there and listen to what people need. We pay attention to what our dealers are telling us they need and what customers are telling us they need and we try to take that information home with us and apply it to the product line to help the product line grow in the right direction.
Q - Do you own a hot Rod yourself?
A - I own a couple. In one way you’re blessed in the other way it’s almost like a drug addiction. (Laughs). I want that. I want that. I’ve got a couple cars. I have a 66 Chevelle when I was 15 years old. I’m 48 now I just gave it to my 17-year-old son. I built three or four cars, but right now in the process of building a 28 model a roadster.
Q - Do you ever show your cars?
A - Yeah. We go to so many of them that I don’t mean to knock it, but to me it’s the fun of getting there. It’s way more fun than the going back and forth as far as the stories you tell from the travels there and back are so much more fun when you’re out on the road than when you sit by the car on a lawn chair. It’s just what we do. We love it. I take vacations so I can go to car shows. I’ve got the bug. I’m very blessed to have a wife and son that love the sport as well and we get to have a lot of fun with it and get to do a lot of things.
Official website: www.lokar.com
© Gary James All Rights Reserved