You check the oil, why not the paint?

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing Automotive News
Just the other day I was chatting with a general agent who’s big on appearance products like fabric care and paint protection. I asked him if he knew any dealers who were selling these aftermarket products from the service lanes.

He surprised me when he said no. These products were almost always sold on new vehicles in the F&I department and rolled in with the new-vehicle financing.

But dealers are hawking extended service contracts and prepaid maintenance plans out of the service lanes, so why not paint sealant? I saw some interesting promotional possibilities, such as asking customers to come in to weatherize their vehicles for winter or to restore glossy finishes that were faded by the hot summer sun. The shop could do a service walk-around to assess what appearance products the vehicle needed.

Still, the agent said no to all of the above. There’s extra prep work involved in putting a new finish on a vehicle with more mileage. The surface is rougher on an older vehicle, he explained.

And dealers make a much higher labor rate on mechanical work than they do for applying surface coatings — as much as double, he said. You just don’t need the pricey master technician that you do for engine work.

Besides, there’s only so much you can sell a budget-conscious used-vehicle owner, he said.

But in a weak economy, more consumers are leaning toward buying used vehicles. And people are hanging onto their cars longer these days. They might want to spend the money to improve the vehicle’s appearance if they’re going to keep it for a while.

Maybe selling appearance products from the service lanes isn’t such a bad idea.