DaimlerChrysler's Mopar Parts Division has quietly quadrupled sales of aftermarket accessories since 1992.
Mopar, located in Center Line, Mich., expects retail sales of accessories to reach nearly $400 million this year vs. less than $100 million in 1992, said Rich Rae, director of sales and marketing for Mopar. Parts are still the division's main business. Mopar's annual sales are about $4 billion.
A turning point came in 1992, when Mopar personnel began joining Chrysler Corp. platform teams, which develop new vehicles. First up was the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
'That was the very first platform on which Mopar worked with platform engineers as part of the vehicle. It assured that the accessories would be available at the same time as the vehicle and that the accessories had the same fit and finish,' Rae said.
Before that, Mopar began its accessory work three or four months before a vehicle was introduced. That lead time stretched to 15 months in advance.
Mopar has taken steps to improve its accessory business every year since then, Rae said. The redesigned Ram pickup was added to the program in the 1994 model year, with about 200 accessories.
In 1995, Mopar persuaded many Dodge, Chrysler, Plymouth and Jeep dealers to take accessories out of storage and display them in their showrooms. The following year, Mopar's Web site showed consumers an online brochure of accessories and retail prices.
In 1997, Mopar contacted the top 100 accessory-selling dealers to document their secrets to success. Mopar then gave dealers a brochure about the winning techniques of accessory sales. It produced a video in which successful dealers and parts managers explained how to improve sales.
Mopar customers spend an average of $140 retail on accessories per car and $350 retail per truck, Rae said. The most popular items vary by vehicle. Running boards are tops on the Grand Cherokee. Bedliners are No. 1 for the Ram pickup.
Rob Robbins, a Dodge dealer in Garden City, Mich., started selling Mopar parts and accessories in 1995. His parts and accessory sales have doubled since 1994 to about $6 million annually now.
Rae said the division is developing an online showroom on a database tied to dealerships and the corporation. Visitors can check retail prices and see how an accessory would look on a vehicle.