Before Mike Barland launched MGP Caliper Covers a little over a decade ago, there were two common practices for beautifying a car’s calipers: either buy new ones that could cost thousands of dollars or paint them, although a caliper’s rough, porous surface tends not to hold paint very well.
Not excited about either of those options and shortly after purchasing a brand new highly-accessorized Chevrolet Suburban truck around 2003, Barland had a lightbulb moment: Why not create caliper brake system covers that clip on?
In 2008, Barland, who was in the golf equipment manufacturing business previously, launched MGP Caliper Covers, a company that makes caliper covers in aerospace grade aluminum for the automotive aftermarket industry. Today, the company manufactures over 3,000 sets of calipers per month, sold for $250 per set of four, and has licenses with Chevrolet, Ford, Jeep, Dodge, Honda and Acura, which “gives us legitimacy,” he said.
$6.4M in Revenue
Headquartered in Chula Vista, where the calipers are manufactured, and with 34 employees, Barland said the company’s revenue in 2018 was $6.4 million and is expected to grow by 10% in 2019.
Bernhard Schroeder, director of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University, said Barland has smartly tapped into the resurgence of cars from the ’60s and ’70s, like Mustangs and Camaros, which are known for having colored calipers.
“If you buy a GT, for example, you get colored calipers,” he said. “As part of the value of the car, the calipers come in a color, usually red… If you buy a midlevel version, you won’t get the high performance brakes, so, no colored calipers. What (Barland) figured out, if millions of these cars are being produced again in the last five or seven years… for whatever amount of money, these people can trick other people into thinking they have a more high-performance vehicle by adding color caliper covers.”
On the Road Again
Schroeder said these old school cars are being popularized again because of millennials, who think they are cool and nostalgic, and Gen X and baby boomers because they once had those cars and are excited they are available again.
MGP’s caliper covers are an aesthetic improvement, said Barland, and can be made in any color to match the paint of any car. It also has some safety-related properties, like it reduces the brake dust that gets on the wheels, said Barland, and helps keep the exterior of the car clean, which aids with driving visibility.
Barland funded MGP by auctioning off all the equipment he had left over from Manufactured Golf Products, the golf company he co-founded that specialized in creating the titanium sole plates for golf clubs and different variations of and components for putters. With the money, Barland said he immediately hired an accountant and marketing person.
“We had to start from zero — nothing like this existed in the aftermarket,” he said. “So, we built a website and started reaching out to other resellers to partner with to move the product and get market acceptance for this new product. That is where it started until we built momentum.”
The way the calipers work is they have a unique system called the clip system, made of stainless steel, that attaches the caliper covers to the caliper, said Barland. The clips allow the calipers to attach within five minutes without the help of a mechanic or car expert, and it comes apart just as fast, he said. The calipers come with the installation kit so car owners can easily and effectively install them, Barland added.
Currently, MGP Caliper Covers has a caliper option for nearly every car on the market, said Barland, adding that the company has over 5,000 fitments and about 40,000 part numbers in an array of colors. If a customer wants caliper covers that MGP doesn’t have in its assortment, Barland said the company can develop it. MGP also does custom work that includes engraving and other personalization options, he said.
“That is where we get to the custom part,” he said. “If you own a Cadillac Escalade, we can engrave the Escalade logo in their font because we have a license to do that… On top of that, if you have artwork that is specific to you, we can put it in our computer and do a complete custom design with it.”
While MGP Caliper Covers has been steadily growing the last 11 years, Barland said he has faced some challenges in running the business. Mainly, he said, the amount of inventory he has in order to have a caliper cover that fits every make and model out there.
“It’s hard to explain how complicated this is,” he said. “At the end of the day, 40,000 part numbers, all the different colors and engraving options… Every caliper is different… It is mind-boggling.”
Yet, business is good and Barland continues to keep up with the demand. He said the company is constantly launching new caliper covers to stay current with the industry and it has a new license, to be finalized in November, with a car company.