Chevy dealers, meet GM's accessories maven
David Sedgwick is the editor of Automotive News.
Hint: It isn't Rick Wagoner, and it isn't Bob Lutz. It isn't even Ed Peper, Chevrolet's general manager.
The mystery executive is Nancy Philippart, executive director of GM accessories. With her team of 200 staffers, Philippart has dreamed up 100 aftermarket accessories for dealers to peddle along with the new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-sized pickups.
This month, GM will deliver its first batch of a couple of thousand crew cab and extended-cab pickups. This is good news for canny dealers, who can make some real money selling running boards, toolboxes, iPod hookups, DVD players, tow hitches, ladder racks and chrome, chrome, chrome.
Dealers and other industry types will have a chance to eye this cornucopia of gear at the annual Specialty Equipment Market Association aftermarket extravaganza this week in Las Vegas.
Given the show's testosterone-infused theme, "American Muscle," it seems fitting that GM will unveil the Orange County Choppers Silverado, the Dale Earnhardt Jr. "Big Red" Silverado and the Silverado 427 concepts.
How much money is in the accessories business? SEMA estimates that consumers spend $10.6 billion a year to accessorize their light trucks. It's the fastest growing segment in the aftermarket business, and dealers get only a taste of it.
GM dealers snag only 10 to 15 percent of those sales, Philippart says, and for the past five years she has been trying to fix that. Her advice to dealers:
To help dealers, Philippart has developed a system designed to deliver accessories to dealerships within a day of the order.
"The old system was slow," she admits. "Under the old business plan, it used to take seven to 10 days to deliver the part. We want to get the impulse buyer."
What happens if the dealer can't fill an order quickly? "Chances are the customer will go down the street," Philippart says.
To speed up the system, GM has set up 42 independent distributors around the country to handle dealer orders.The survey says …
A recent consumer survey appears to justify Philippart's sell-it-right-now approach. This year, Foresight Research, a consulting firm in Rochester, Mich., asked 1,802 consumers about the accessories they buy.
Seventy-three percent of the respondents said they bought their accessories when they purchased their truck.
Message to dealers: Pitch your accessories before the truck buyer leaves the showroom. Otherwise, you'll lose them to competitors.
The survey also asked respondents where they bought their accessories. Dealers did a good job selling fog lights, drop-in bedliners, custom bumpers and trailer hitches. But aftermarket competitors sold more toolboxes, winches and camper shells.
From bedliners to bling
Philippart divides her accessory portfolio into two general categories: performance and bling.
The performance category includes useful gear such as storage boxes, towing packages, bedliners and the like. But the real fun begins with the bling.
If you like, you can order 22-inch wheels, fancy tube steps and sound systems powerful enough to deafen everyone in Texas.
And you can order all of it with enough chrome to make your truck look like a UFO. Philippart cheerily explains: "Some people love chrome, and some people hate chrome."
Philippart has a little bling in her heart. She owns a Cadillac Escalade with 22-inch chrome wheels and a chrome hood protector. Her husband drives a GMC Yukon with 20-inch wheels and chrome exhaust tips.
Pickup owners spend more money on accessories than buyers in any other vehicle segment, Philippart says, yet she believes some dealers are too timid to take advantage.
"Some dealers are afraid they'll blow the deal," she says. "They're afraid customers will try to negotiate the price of accessories as part of the deal."
But dealers must understand that light-truck accessories are not a "push," Philippart says.
She insists: "Customers want this stuff."
You may e-mail David Sedgwick at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can reach David Sedgwick at email@example.com.