NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Jumpin' Joe Jebaily -- seriously, that's what his business card says -- is as certain as certain can be that, when it comes to manufacturing in the digital age, disrupting is for schmucks.
Jebaily's company, the 55-person
American Luxury Coach, offers mass-customized upfit manufacturing services, mostly to the truck divisions of General Motors. That's car-industry speak for serious modifications made to cars and trucks after formal production is over -- such things as fancy fenders, tricky trim packages and spiffy interior styling.
The Florence, S.C., firm's niche is to do these mods faster and more efficiently than a single mechanic -- and to a high enough spec that GM trusts Jebaily to cover his work with its full warrantee program."GM does 600 trucks a day," he said. "I can do 10. But I log a million miles a year making sure my trucks get sold at prices where the dealer can make a little money to keep the lights on." Jebaily -- who says he earned his Jumpin' Joe nickname because he never stops moving -- has pioneered a hustling, face-to-face design and sales style that captures almost absurd margins in a car business commoditized by the Web and giants such as Ford (F), Chrysler, Nissan (NSANY) and Toyota (TM). His secret? Jebaily ingeniously reverse-engineers the role of the manufacturer to include not only design and making of car parts, but also marketing directly to customers and building exactly what they want on-demand. You know: the whole Web, mass-customization, desktop manufacturing song and dance. But -- and this is a really big "but" -- he does it all without a serious Web presence or disintermediating General Motors or the car dealers, or anybody else in the drum-tight automotive supply chain.
"I don't need to sell a truck here to sell trucks," he explained. "I do not compete with the dealer. I do not compete with the factory. I'm here to see how people react to my trucks, then make a truck I know people want. And I go from there."
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