LAS VEGAS - Ford Motor Co. wants to expand its ties to aftermarket parts-makers while moving to grab a slice of their industry's lucrative business.
At the annual aftermarket industry trade show here, Ford said it will supply manufacturers of performance and appearance accessories with more internal technical information to help them design new parts faster and comply with federal on-board diagnostics regulations, known as OBD II.
However, Ford also spelled out plans to compete for their business by offering some popular accessories from the factory and through dealership sales campaigns.
The programs could give Ford more revenue from accessory sales, which the aftermarket industry's Specialty Equipment Market Association estimates at $7.5 billion for 1998. The recent growth of sales in this segment also have energized marketing efforts by General Motors' Service Parts Operation and DaimlerChrysler's Mopar division.
Like its competitors, Ford is poised to capitalize on the craze for customization. Sales of light-truck accessories alone totaled $2.2 billion last year, says SEMA, and Ford buyers played a large role.
F-150 pickup owners spend an average of $1,500 on aftermarket accessories such as wheels, electronics and body kits, said Kurt Kiser, one of Ford's Repair Product Planning division managers overseeing the program.
'With mass customization, we can offer features not available before from Ford and respond more quickly to changes in consumer tastes,' he said.
Ford, which supplied about 250 vehicles to customizers for exhibiting at the show, offers three accessory packages for the F-150 that are installed in the factory by Ford workers. They are called 'Top 3,' 'Diamond Plate' and 'Lariat Upgrade' and incorporate popular add-ons such as bedliners, running boards and rear storage boxes.
Within two years, Ford plans to open the first of several 'modification centers' in or near vehicle assembly plants that build the company's most popularly accessorized models. One vendor will own each center and install the parts packages to Ford's specification.
The accessories will be sourced from suppliers and grouped into packages to appear as option line items on the window sticker. The program is based on a model Ford uses in Europe to create vehicles such as the Ford Ka K2 edition, a subcompact commuter featuring a ski rack and snowboard supplied by the ski-maker K2.
The Ford-supplied accessories will have two advantages over those made by independent companies: They will be backed by a factory warranty and will be residualized automatically in Ford Credit leases.