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Vehicle modification industry sees unexpected boom amid pandemic

Toilet paper, river tubes, home gym equipment and swing sets are in high demand. Custom Jeep modification shops are also thriving during this unique time.

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas — Toilet paper and river tubes have flown off the shelves during the coronavirus pandemic.

Other items, like home gym equipment, swing sets and backyard pools, are seeing big backorders from increased demand. And yet another industry with businesses in the Hill Country is thriving during this extraordinary time.

Drivers in Texas love their Jeeps. Demand for shops to upgrade those off-roaders is only climbing, even during a pandemic.

“Per capita, there's probably more Jeeps in New Braunfels than other cities across the state,” said Bubba Bryan, the owner of Exodus 4x4 in New Braunfels.

He and his team are the crew behind the magic of a lot of the “bad boy” Jeeps you’ll spot around town.

Credit: KENS
Bubba Bryan and his team continue custom work on a Jeep at the Exodus 4x4 shop in New Braunfels.

“We do a lot of custom Jeep modifications,” Bryan said. 

Over the last four years, he’s seen the off-roader culture grow—even more so when the coronavirus spread began.

“Aside from the negative effects of pandemic, the positive effects are people are spending more time together doing things as a family outdoors rather than being cooped up inside, watching TV,” Bryan said. “I think people have kind of readjusted and put their values into stuff that is altogether more important.”

Orders for custom work are being placed by all kinds of people.

“A lot more of the soccer moms (and) mall crawlers. They never go off road, but they like to buy stuff and accessorize their Jeep just like they would a lot of other things in their life,” Bryan added. “Then you get these guys that are very extreme and the budgets are limitless for them, and they end up with a completely different vehicle by the time we're done with it.”

Mod jobs range from $1,000 to some builds in the six-figures. Business was steady at Exodus 4x4 ahead of the pandemic and then it just started booming.

“Our sales started increasing dramatically; doubled, maybe even tripled our sales,” said Bryan. “We've doubled our staff. We've had to buy shipping containers to store inventory parts for builds that are being scheduled.”

As we’ve seen in other industries, with high demand comes longer wait times. Then the pandemic threw another wrench into things.

“We only sell American made products. A lot of the stuff that we build, higher quality products, are built in California,” Bryan said. “So those manufacturers (are) restricted to their workplace personnel capacity (and it's) really, really difficult for them to keep up.”

Bryan says other shops using imported parts are also experiencing delays at customs. Customers could see a six-month wait time.

The shop is tackling one challenge at a time and as the team meets more drivers, there seems to be a theme.

“There's just a ton of people that want to go off-roading,” Bryan said. 

Bryan shares his knowledge of SUV and truck modifications regularly on the Exodus 4x4 YouTube channel.