SEMA News—October 2013
By Mike Imlay
Evasive Motorsports Builds e-Commerce Through Event Participation
What does it mean to be brick-and-mortar in the modern aftermarket business scene? Does it mean having a shop with a traditional storefront filled with inventory and displays to attract walk-in clients? Or does it mean a building stocked with inventory, with items often previewed or even ordered online, with a simple reception counter for a cadre of customers who come through the door to pick up and install those items? And what about having a full-service shop for building and tuning cars, complete with two-post lifts, fabrication facilities and a dynamometer?
That’s the question that arises about a business like Evasive Motorsports in Santa Fe Springs, California—it defies traditional classification. And yet it clearly represents a growing trend in the way performance parts are sold from a brick-and-mortar facility.
Founded just over a decade ago by business partners Mike Chang and Tony Kwan, Evasive Motorsports specializes in aftermarket parts sales, race prep and tuning for a serious following of motorsports clients.
“Most of our sales are e-Commerce,” said Chang. “Obviously, we also advertise our address so that if people want to pick up parts from our web store, they can come on in. But there’s really not much to see when you come here, because we still want to keep things pretty much low key. We’re not trying to attract a bunch of people with a storefront. People who know who we are come to us.”
Added Kwan: “We sell everything across the board. There’s nothing in particular that we specialize in. Since we sell so many items, we can pretty much tell you the ins and outs of products that fit your needs. In the past, our parts skewed more Japanese. We’re exploring more European products now, too.”
Executive Summary Evasive Motorsports Mike Chang Tony Kwan Built on Passion
11829 Hamden Pl.
Santa Fe Springs, CA 90670
Built on Passion
For Chang and Kwan, the business began as a hobby while they were in their early 20s. Coming from motorsports backgrounds themselves, parts sales seemed like a nice little sideline back in 2009.
“It was a completely different market back then than it is now,” said Chang. “The business was definitely a much smaller operation. It was something we did on the side. We never thought we’d grow to this point. The most important thing is that we’re both enthusiasts ourselves, so a lot of time selling these parts or just talking to customers and knowing what we were talking about helped grow the company.”
“At first we operated out of a house,” recalled Kwan. “From there, it kind of snowballed. One thing led to another, and we slowly grew into a bigger facility. We realized that we had outgrown things in just a few years and just kept moving on.”
Today, Evasive Motorsports is situated in a 12,000-sq.-ft. facility in a relatively industrial area of Southern California. The shop features four two-post lifts for installations and working on vehicles as well as a four-wheel-drive dyno and a full fabrication setup.
“Basically, the only thing we’re lacking here is a paint booth,” laughed Chang. “Body work is the only thing we can’t do here for our customers, but our goal is to be a one-stop jobber for them. When they come here, they can get everything else they need done.”
According to Kwan, Evasive tends to attract a younger customer base, mainly 18 to 30.
“That may sound like a broad range,” he said, “but we consider it a pretty young crowd. The cars that come in fit that demographic, too. We relate really well with our customers. I think that’s one of our key advantages to being successful to this point. Customers see us as them—we’re talking about cars with them.”
Actually, Chang and Kwan are racing with their customers. This past year, the Evasive crew did the Pike’s Peak run for the very first time. A few years ago, they participated in the famous annual Long Beach Grand Prix. Evasive vehicles can also be sighted burning up the tracks at a variety of Southern California events. That, said Chang and Kwan, is the key to their success.
“It’s doing events like those that really sets us apart,” said Kwan. “You look at other companies or shops that make up our competition, and they might sell the same parts that we sell—they might even sell more parts than we sell—but not many of them can say they’re out there doing motorsports themselves. We earn customer respect that way.”
Chang agreed: “We don’t just sell parts. Every business is about money, so obviously we hope to make money. But we’re out there on the racetrack with our customers. We pride ourselves on building cars that set a standard.”
Like almost every recent industry startup, however, the initial ride was bumpy for Evasive.
“The recession that hit everyone was also tough for us,” said Chang. “Before that, things were great and everybody was buying parts. It looked like things were never going to stop. Then, all of a sudden, within a few months, we went from booming business to no business. But that was a challenging time not only for us, but for the whole industry. Making it past 2007 to 2008 was a big accomplishment for us. That’s when a lot of businesses had to close doors.”
“Luckily all the challenges that we’ve had, we’ve seemed to overcome,” added Kwan. “In general, the most challenging thing is the amount of competition in this industry. But I think we have a good team where our communication is good enough that we can stay afloat and try to keep the lead. It’s a challenge to always try to get to that next level. That’s why we went to Pike’s Peak this past year. We wanted to do something that was more challenging—something that we hadn’t done before.”
Chang and Kwan’s patience and approach to business have definitely paid off over time.
“We’ve been growing steadily ever since we started,” observed Kwan. “This year, we’re on target to reach between $4 and $8 million in revenue.”
As for advice to other retailers, the partners strongly believe in “playing by the rules.”
“People come into this industry thinking they can just list stuff on eBay and sell it for cheap and get a lot of customers, but that attitude doesn’t just hurt themselves—it hurts manufacturers and everybody in the whole chain, the whole network,” said Chang. “People should know that certain things are ethical, not just to your customers but to your fellow competitors. In the long run, unethical behavior only hurts yourself.”
Kwan agreed: “If you’re going to get into this business, it should be something that you love. The money will come later. You don’t just jump in to make a quick buck. You jump in because you love it.”