TOLEDO, Ohio -- Most Jeeps come off the assembly line here and queue up for the delivery trip to dealerships.
But a growing number of Wranglers, Cherokees and Grand Cherokees -- along with some Dodge Durangos -- now take a detour on their way to the showroom floor.
Tens of thousands of Chrysler Group's best-selling SUVs are sent each year to a huge industrial building a few blocks south of the company's Toledo Assembly complex. Inside, workers add dealer-ordered Mopar accessories, such as Katzkin leather seat covers, tubular sidesteps or custom hood appliques.
After a few minutes work, the SUVs go to nearby marshalling yards, awaiting a train or truck ride to a dealership likely to make extra money from selling accessories already included in the sticker price.
"It's a big incentive to have the car on display with the accessories already on," said Pietro Gorlier, head of Chrysler's Mopar brand. "It's very tough to sell accessories based on a display. It's much easier when you can see the accessory on a car."
The accessory strategy is a way for Mopar and dealers to increase revenues and margins. By ordering accessories from the factory, their cost can be included in the vehicle's sticker price, making the items easier for customers to finance.
Since 2011, Mo- par has added eight such customization shops near North American assembly plants. In 2013, the custom shops added accessories to almost 150,000 new Chrysler Group vehicles.
The Toledo shop customizes the Wranglers and Cherokees assembled next door, as well as Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Durangos shipped from Chrysler's Jefferson North Assembly plant in Detroit. Last year the Toledo shop customized 21,700 Jeeps and Durangos for Mopar.
For Chrysler, the off-site customization shops are a way to offer accessories without adding manufacturing complexity to assembly plants. But if a certain accessory package grows in popularity above 10 or 15 percent of vehicles ordered, it usually is added to the assembly line, Gorlier said.
Not all accessories available through Mopar are installed before shipment, however. Some continue to be available only through dealerships, which install them.