The Digital Skeptic: Disrupting is for Schmucks

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.

"I am very happy being the fingertip of GM ( GM)," Jebaily told me here in the corner of the lower floor of the New York International Auto Show.

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."

If you liked this article you might like

Your Guide to Making a Lot of Money on the Driverless Car Boom

How to Live Just Like Billionaire Warren Buffett

Driving This Beastly Cadillac CTS Reminded Me That Sexism Is Alive and Well