The growing legacy of a company built and established by one of the marine industry’s long-standing engine building champions, Keith Eickert, KE Performance has evolved from a premier engine builder to a company focused on offering those same products to today’s boaters for their own powerboats. With nearly 40 world and national racing titles to its credit, the self-proclaimed “East Coast Power House” for marine performance parts and accessories also supports the next generation of professional engine builders. In an interview with OffshoreOnly.com, Joe Nardolillo, operations manager for KE Performance, took a few minutes to discuss what’s powering the growing business.
JASON JOHNSON: As of late, KE Performance has transitioned from race shop engine builder to leading performance products center. What’s changed?
JOE NARDOLILLO: Well for so many years we just specialized in race engines and race team support [and]it limited our ability to serve a number of customers who wanted our services, as well as our own proprietary products. That was always frustrating, as we knew we had so much more to offer. We were part of an acquisition in 2005 that invested a huge amount of inventory and operations resources into the company. It was at that time we recognized we could take our knowledge and products to the next level. Our affiliate relationships allow us access to more brands and more products than just about anyone.
JJ: What about all of the products that you’ve designed over the years, are you still producing those?
JN: Today Hardin Marine produces our original designs. Hardin’s reputation as a premier manufacturer seemed like the perfect fit for us. The company has an extensive design team and all of the latest 3D modeling tools that allow us to review designs before we ever go to production—a far cry from years past where patterns were originally cut from wood templates. We also are contracted as one of a few product designers for Hardin. Our years of racing experience seems to be invaluable to the company in ensuring it builds the very best products.
JJ: You’re still at the original facility located in Palm Coast, Florida. What changes have taken place to accommodate your current business model?
JN: Yep, we are still in the same 15,000-square-foot facility. We went through an entire renovation process as our inventory levels have grown by about 300 percent! Not only do we handle our own products but those of hundreds of other manufacturers such as Livorsi Marine, Hardin, IMCO Marine, Custom Marine Inc., Auto Meter and more. The renovations provided a number of additions—we still have the dyno rooms but we’ve added a large showroom, offices and an R&D machining center.
JJ: It seems like KE Performance has established some key components for growth, but how does the company plan to market all that it has to offer?
JN: The investments from the acquisition were huge. Our owners are extremely committed to this industry and its health and survival. They are deeply entrenched and behind numerous strong brands—we’re lucky to be one of them. When other companies pulled back, they continued their investment into KE Performance and it shows incredibly. They didn’t just stop with product and facility renovation, they have also invested thousands upon thousands into the web and IT development. We have a comprehensive website that I feel is second to none. The consumer’s options are nearly endless with a choice of products or accessory kits that you can’t find hardly anywhere else. While we have some crossover brand-wise, KE Performance continues to be the most focused on the engine performance spectrum and hard-core product development.
Photos courtesy KE Performance.
Former Powerboat editor Jason Johnson was an integral part of the magazine staff from 2005 through 2011, utilizing journalistic integrity and experience in and around performance boats to report on all aspects of the go-fast lifestyle. The award-winning writer resides in Southern California and is the executive editor and co-publisher of speedonthewater.com, and writes for Sportboat and Powerboating in Paradise magazines.