Been there, done that
As I read your article on Ford Motor Co.'s new concierge program, certain phrases seemed very familiar.
'Clients get convenience, time and peace of mind.'
'We are attempting to reach a segment of the market that tradi-tionally has not shopped at Ford.'
And the services: 'arrange for a test drive ... car washing, routine fueling, scheduling service ... temporary transportation ... aftermarket accessories.'
All seemed very familiar.
It sounds as though Ford is attempting to duplicate the services that have been available at indepen-dent leasing companies for years.
The attempt to form 'one-on-one relationships with customers' and the idea of 'customizing automotive-related products and services' and even 'looking for other distribution channels' - all are worthwhile.
I would suggest to Ford, however, that it would be far more efficient to form alliances with the more than 1,000 independent leasing companies across the country than to develop those strategies in-house.
Incentives to the independent leasing companies would secure even more incremental business for dealers at far less cost.
National Vehicle Leasing Association
The writer is with the Leasing Services Division of Jefferson Bank in Crofton, Md.
Accessories: A profit center
Keith Crain's Aug. 9 column, 'An opportunity,' touched on the latent potential in the dealership environment. A dealer, in essence, is a retail merchandiser. The quality of display and the quality of service rendered will dictate the customer's buying experience and the dealer's success.
The vehicle makers and dealers have many initiatives to produce results that meet those criteria and, as Crain indicated, accessorizing or restyling is one that bears more scrutiny.
For 20 years, our company has specialized in dealer business solutions through accessorizing. It can be a significant profit center and can be an answer to product and dealer differentiation.
As restyling lies in the fickle area of fashion, it can be risky, but utilizing reputable firms with reputable products and a solid track record can eliminate the dangers.
Vogue Tyres, which Crain mentioned, is one of our key lines, and its heritage, dating back to 1914, exemplifies the security that a dealer should seek in selecting products and partners.
As the information age levels the playing field, it is more and more difficult to find an edge. The prudent use of restyling answers that challenge and builds long-term value for the consumer and the retailer alike.
The captive finance arms of the vehicle makers defend their position on residual values by saying that the aftermarket add-on items have no value unless they are factory-supplied. That protectionist policy is pregnant with self-interest.
I thank Crain for turning the spotlight on a matter that has been under heavy fire recently, and for re-establishing that in the marketplace, the customer - not the manufacturer - is king.
Executive Vice President
Prestige Products Corp.
Blame the dealer, not the lender
Regarding Keith Crain's Aug. 9 column, dealer-installed accessories drying up the past few years has nothing to do with the finance companies not buying them. It is a matter of dealership apathy toward offering them.
Most new-car sales are figured from the invoice up, not from the sticker down. The unfortunate byproduct is unhealthy grosses. And that leaves plenty of legroom for the finance companies to lend money toward aftermarket accessories and the additional income the dealer desperately needs on new-car sales.
As for dealers in the past not caring whether those 'paint programs' worked, they had better care now. From Porsche to Hyundai, nobody warrants their vehicles against environmental damage, i.e. acid rain, tree sap and bird waste.
Customers will buy products that make sense, but they have to be offered. Dealers must refocus on the value added by aftermarket products now, because what is 'drying up' is the finance reserve.
MARK W. TRAHAN
Simoniz Specialty Market Division,
The writer is also a finance and insurance consultant.
Let's hear it for Mercury
Every paper I pick up has a half-page Volvo ad. I bet Ford has spent more money advertising Volvo than it has spent on Mercury since the car was introduced in 1939.
The Mercury Grand Marquis is the best buy and the best car in America today.
JAY A. ARCHER
The writer is a retired locomotive engineer.