A Cadillac dealer in Chicago, I think it was Mancuso, routinely replaced the tires on new Cadillacs with Vogue Tyres. That was probably just before the dealer gave that new Cadillac a Blue Coral treatment.
I was reminded of that last week as I wandered through the Concours d'Elegance at Meadowbrook, which is a world class classic car show in a suburb of Detroit. All of the wonderfully restored automobiles at Meadowbrook were loaded with what once were described as dealer-installed options.
The first car I ever owned, a 1951 Ford two-door sedan, had Van Auken grille guards and a visor, both installed by some inventive dealer. Back then, hubcaps, spotlights, floor mats, undercoating and even tissue dispensers regularly were added to the price of a new car. And, of course, there was that legendary Blue Coral treatment.
Somehow, it got out of hand in the 1970s and early 1980s when everyone started ordering cars without radios, and paint protection products began to proliferate. No one cared if the paint protection products worked, but they made unbelievable grosses for the dealers.
Now, except for F&I and some extended warranties, there aren't very many dealer-added accessories.
But it looks as if Ford Motor Co. wants to get dealers back into the business. Ford thinks that customers should return to the dealership for replacement tires. It makes sense, even though our sister publication, Tire Business, might argue that the independent tire dealer is still the place to handle a consumer's tire requirements.
Although dealer-installed accessories have dried up in the past few years, they once were a big deal and added substantially to a dealer's gross. There is no reason that they shouldn't always be a part of a retail sales strategy. Every year, consumers spend millions of dollars on aftermarket accessories for new cars. And car dealers have an inherent advantage - if only their finance companies would be a little more helpful.
How easy it would be to install the accessories and then add them right into the payment. Right now, it's not easy for dealers to get their finance companies to include those accessories, but that policy should change.
In a world of sameness in the car industry, adding aftermarket accessories is a great way to enable your customer to personalize his or her vehicle. Dealers should help their customers, not send them to someone else.