Ford Motor Co. is trying to help dealers increase accessory sales.
Ford will announce that it is launching a nationwide program under which dealers can offer a virtual showroom of Ford-authorized aftermarket parts. The company has completed a test of the program with 20 dealers in San Francisco and Texas.
The computerized showroom, which was designed by Macro Systems Inc. of Portland, Ore., has an on-screen listing of all parts available for each new vehicle in the Ford, Lincoln and Mercury lines. It even shows what the consumer's vehicle will look like with the add-on parts.
When all the parts are in place, a price tally pops up. The parts numbers are sent automatically to the parts department, and a work order is sent to the service department.
The program can track how quickly certain parts are sold and which salesperson sold what parts, and even tracks closing ratios for each part and salesperson. It also automatically splits the revenue between the sales, parts and service departments, said Jeff Divine, executive vice president of Macro Systems.
Car buyers typically spend $600 on aftermarket accessories, while truck buyers spend $1,500 in chrome, light bars and custom wheels and other items, according to the Specialty Equipment Market Association. But NADA numbers indicate that dealers only pull in 13 percent of that $20 billion business. Pep Boys and other chains, plus many independent shops, have most of the market.
Leasing the system costs $800 a month. But many dealers sell upward of $100,000 a month in accessories, Divine said. What's more, new accessories are created all the time, and the system downloads them into dealers' computers. Waiting for an accessories manual can take months.
'This is a real-time catalog, complete with regional options packages,' Divine said. 'Plus, there's a real entertainment value when the customer can see his car up on the screen, complete with all the accessories he could put on it.'
The Ford dealers in the pilot program averaged $150 more in per-vehicle net profit with the Macro system, said Jim Neal, Ford Customer Service Division accessories product manager.
Neal expects the system will help boost Ford Motor's accessory sales by 40 percent.
'It's hard enough for a salesman to know the complexity of the whole vehicle lineup. Then we're asking them to know all the accessories too? This takes the mystery out of it,' Neal said.
Although it is online through the dealers' computer link with Ford, the system will be put on the Internet, Divine said.