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  • Writer's pictureMarc Ebinger

How Vintage Air Steered Through the Private Equity Takeover

In an episode of Let's Talk Business, hosts Marc Ebinger and Heather Boehme engage in a conversation with Rick Love, the President of Vintage Air. This Texas-based company manufactures performance air conditioning and climate control systems for classic cars, trucks, and specialty vehicles. Moreover, in this blog, you'll learn about the complexities of companies undergoing transitions, with a focus on Vintage Air's unique trajectory following its acquisition by a private equity firm.



Vintage Air and Rick Love


Vintage Air stands at the forefront, crafting performance air conditioning and climate control systems tailored for classic cars, trucks, and specialty vehicles. Rick Love shares his invaluable insights, offering a glimpse into his profound experience with the company.


Market Presence and Products

Vintage Air's impact on the market is profound, specializing in aftermarket climate control systems for the classic car and truck marketplace. The company's prowess extends to original equipment manufacturers, contributing to illustrious projects like the Ford GT. Their commitment to innovation is evident through accolades received for groundbreaking products, including the renowned Gen 5 system.

Background and Founder

Founded in 1976 by the visionary Jack Chisenhall, Vintage Air had humble beginnings in San Antonio. Initially focused on providing air conditioning solutions for cars lacking factory AC, the company transitioned its focus to developing systems specifically tailored for old cars, overcoming unique packaging restraints.


Transition to Private Equity Ownership

A pivotal moment in Vintage Air's journey unfolds with its acquisition by the Mangrove Equity Group from Florida. Despite this transition in ownership, the core emphasis remains on preserving the company's legacy. The challenge becomes ensuring a seamless transition for customers and avoiding any noticeable disruptions.


Passionate Workforce and Diverse Car Enthusiast Culture


The heartbeat of Vintage Air lies in its passionate workforce, comprising individuals who share a genuine love for cars. The company's culture extends beyond the workplace, with the parking lot resembling a perpetual car show featuring a diverse array of vehicles. The culture within the company mirrors the varied tastes of car enthusiasts.


Post-Acquisition Continuity

Post-acquisition, Vintage Air maintains a sense of continuity as the leadership, including founder Jack, seamlessly transitions with the company. The decision to retain experienced leadership is crucial in ensuring the company's successful trajectory. Jack retains ownership in a more relaxed capacity, contributing to a harmonious post-acquisition environment.


Preserving Company Culture and Employee Involvement

Central to Vintage Air's success is the preservation of a unique company culture. The organization maintains a familial atmosphere, fostering active employee involvement. Employees play a crucial role in the manufacturing process, creating a collaborative environment. Rick Love sheds light on the challenges faced in preserving this culture during periods of significant growth and change.



Pivots and Adaptations in Vintage Air's Business


Vintage Air demonstrates adaptability by evolving its definition of classic cars to include models from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Acknowledging the changing market dynamics, the company strategically adapts to new trends. Notably, trucks have become a substantial part of Vintage Air's market over the last decade, marking a significant pivot in their business strategy.


Trucks Dominate Classic Car Market

The classic car market undergoes a transformative shift, with trucks taking center stage. Vintage Air observes a surge in popularity, particularly for classic trucks like the Chevy pickups and Ford pickups, especially in southern regions.


Changing Economic Landscape

Despite historical associations with trucks in certain areas, there is a discernible shift in investment patterns. Enthusiasts are channeling significant investments into restoring or hot-rodding pickups, akin to the high-end cars of the past. Trucks, once utilitarian in focus, are now sought-after classics.


Value-Oriented Approach in Business

In response to economic factors and inflation, Vintage Air adopts a value-oriented approach. The company is committed to producing systems that provide the best value for customers. Vintage Air aims to maintain reasonable prices, typically ranging between $2,000 and $2,300 for a complete system, catering primarily to blue-collar enthusiasts.


New Product Releases and Return to Simplicity

Vintage Air continues its commitment to innovation with the introduction of new systems, including a recent release targeting Mustangs. This aligns with a growing interest in nostalgic cars from the 80s, as enthusiasts seek to upgrade and restore these vehicles for both nostalgic and practical reasons. The appeal of classic cars lies in their simplicity, allowing enthusiasts to tinker without the complexities of modern computerized systems.


 


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