If you’re anything like me, you’re curious about how certain automotive aftermarket businesses came to be. Whether it’s manufacturing veterans producing the same high-quality product for decades or newcomers setting the industry ablaze with a crazy new idea. Regardless of tenure, the automotive aftermarket is filled with individuals who took a leap, creators who turned their concept or vision into reality, and entrepreneurs turned success stories. This is the kind of information that needs to be publicized. I’m sure there are millions of hopeful creatives with concepts blossoming in their heads, and the motivation gained from one of these tales could jumpstart the next automotive revolution. So we reached out to a few of our favorite partners to explain how these industry giants became the names we all gravitate towards. We started off with Aeromotive Inc.
For those unfamiliar with the name, Aeromotive Inc. is a dedicated high-performance aftermarket manufacturer specializing in fuel delivery and fuel delivery components. They pride themselves on implementing cutting-edge technology to help the racing world generate more powerful and reliable vehicles. We caught up with Aeromotive Inc.’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Johnson Barrick, to discuss the company’s history and the origins of its name. We hope you enjoy the story as much as we did.
Johnson Barrick, Aeromotive Inc. Vice President of Sales & Marketing: The founder, Steve Matusek, technically started the company in 1994, but it was about a two-year project before then. He was working for a company that is now part of Boeing, and he just had an idea. Then, Steve was writing a business plan for the following two years, trying to get investors involved, and was also in grad school. He had a vision, had a plan, but wasn’t quite ready. In 1994, the pieces came together, and he moved his family about a four-hour drive from Kansas City, MO, to St. Louis, MO, not knowing what was going to happen, and the rest is history.
It all began with fuel system components, just like what we do now, only a little more limited. Aeromotive private labeled for another company at first, but it took off from there. The first physical product we made was a Fuel Rail Mount Regulator for the ’86–’93 Ford Mustangs. The second product on the shelf was what our A1000 fuel pump is now. Obviously, the A1000 has gone through 26 years of variations and improvements, but that was one of the original products.
He didn’t want the company name to be his last name. Something he learned through grad school was that venture capitalists did not like that. So, coming from the aerospace market — what he was doing before — that was the aero. Then, going into the automotive industry is where he got the rest. It’s not some huge elaborate thing, but the name took where he was and where he was going, and just kind of mixed those two together for Aeromotive.
Initially, everyone wanted to call them “Arrow,” so they needed to spell it A-E-R-O each time. It took years until it was a household name, and kind of backfired on him at first, but it’s been good for us ever since. People will just Google something similar in aerospace, and our name will pop up. We get some lucky leads off of that — haha!
The First Milestone
The first milestone was just closing the deal. Steve’s always been somebody who wanted to start a business, and he didn’t come from much. The fact that he was doing it and had investors was great, so the second he signed that deal and started it all was the best day of his life — minus his kids. Here 26 years later — and why this is crazy timing — we were just acquired by PerTronix Performance Brands. Aeromotive has been a family-run company with Steve, and he brought in Jack Hylton, another partner, but 26 years of blood, sweat, and tears were so successful that an investment group wanted to buy us. It was a great opportunity, and we took it, so it’s kind of full circle. But the day he signed all of the paperwork to originally start the business was in the top company moments that he remembers.
How Aeromotive Remains On Top
I think just in the general business strategy. If you enter our building, everything is on wheels. Steve’s big thing is we’re always moving, things are always changing, and we have to be ready in a heartbeat to change, to move. Everything is always changing and adapting; 2020 has been an excellent example of that. We’re always on the move. We’re always looking at changing. Is this person in the right seat? Do we need to move them around? Is this marketing strategy working? Whatever we do, we’re always constantly evaluating, and that’s why everything is on wheels because if we need to pick up and move it to something different, we’re going to do it.
After every year, we sit down and look at the marketing budget and say, “Here’s where we want to go. Who’s going to take us there? What’s working? What’s not working?”
I think it’s so important that you don’t get stuck in one mindset. We always say we have ten ten-minute meetings a day because everyone has so much going on. But you really have to always be on it. Especially this year, talking to our customers and understanding what everyone is hearing, what the trends are, and being ready to shift in a different direction. Because of that, I think the company has been wildly successful, and we never turn the cruise control on. New products and innovation is everything that we do and why we are who we are. We believe that’s why we continue to grow because, with that new product, we’re continuing to solve problems. We’re always at the forefront of everything.
I won’t go too in-depth because we have big stuff coming, but the brushless pumps have been crazy for us. I think brushless technology is something we’ll have to continue to make advancements on. That’s the world’s trend right now, and I think we’ll continue to build on it in everything that we do. I’ll say, by the end of this year or the beginning of next year, we’ll come out with a new product around the brushless line that I think will be a game-changer. So, people should definitely keep an eye on that.
Even just moving into different markets. If you’re looking into a fuel system, you might think Aeromotive, but we get people who don’t know what we do. Typically, in the sport compact space. Something that we’re going to focus on is diversifying ourselves and making sure we’re reaching everybody. Our goal is to be on everyone’s minds every night when they go to bed and for everybody to be familiar with us. That’s just something we’re always working towards, and that has everything to do with new product. Obviously, we have a drag racing background, so it’s almost out of sight out of mind, but I think that other markets are going to be a big focus moving forward. That, and how we can continue to come out with technology around that brushless product line and with things that people have never done before. I think we’ll do that and be the first to market here shortly. Just doing what we do best: solving problems.
We’d like to thank Johnson Barrick for taking the time to explain a little bit of Aeromotive Inc.’s history to us. If you’re interested in more details on the company’s history, its products, or any new updates, please check out the links below.