ORLANDO, Fla. - A new consortium wants to make it easier for dealers to sell lucrative aftermarket accessories when they sell vehicles.
If the program goes as planned, consumers will be able to customize new and used cars and trucks in showrooms with a long list of certified parts. Dealers will get a new profit opportunity.
'This consortium is essentially removing the long-standing barriers between the aftermarket and dealer showrooms,' said Steven Alan Fry, CEO of MotorVehicle ATmarket, the Irvine, Calif., company driving the effort. 'Consumers will finally be offered the salt, pepper and many other spices with their entree.'
MotorVehicle ATmarket is working with the National Automobile Dealers Association and the Society of Automotive Engineers to develop the ATmarket Showroom Standards Program. The effort will track the engineering, quality, installation, warranty, residual value and performance of car and truck accessories.
Consumers will be able to design their vehicle with ATmarket certified parts and accessories either online or in the showroom and integrate the financing and warranty into their vehicle purchase.
The parts will be covered by a central warranty backed by a major underwriter, said Allan Brooks, MotorVehicle ATmarket's COO. He declined to name the underwriter but said a deal is imminent.
Warranty claims will be coordinated through a warranty service company. Consumers will call an 800 number. Most will be referred to a dealer to handle the service work.
The ATmarket name is a play on the goal of moving accessory sales from the aftermarket to the time of vehicle sale - the 'at market.'
The program was announced last week during NADA's annual convention here. Fry expects to be ready to launch the program in about a year.
'We need to keep people from buying poor-quality parts and add-ons from certain marketers,' said Jim Willingham, departing NADA chairman. 'The ATmarket Association program could go a long way in doing just that, and SAE certification is very important.'
Fry said research conducted by J.D. Power and Associates found that 85 percent of consumers want to dress up their vehicles when they buy them. But only 15 percent of dealers emphasize accessory sales.
Many of those who do make an effort to sell accessories have small boutiques, usually in their service departments. But most customers want to browse and shop for many add-on features such as ski racks and running boards, Fry said.
Traditionally it has been difficult for accessory manufacturers to gain access to showrooms because of dealer concerns about warranty coverage for parts that are not made by the car companies.
Accessories are big business, though. According to the Specialty Equipment Market Association, consumers spent more than $21 billion on aftermarket parts and accessories in 1999. Of that, 90 percent were sold somewhere other than a dealership.