BMW of Austin sells tire-and-wheel coverage to 90 percent of its new-vehicle buyers and 65 percent of its used-vehicle buyers.
The Austin, Texas, store is part of publicly held Penske Automotive Group, of suburban Detroit, and was among the first dealerships in the Penske group to sell the coverage and to dedicate service bays to the tire-and-wheel business, says Josh Wheelock, finance director.
How does the store snag so much business? Wheelock says it helps to have the right sales tools.
BMW Financial Services provides a realistic-looking, 7-inch-diameter replica of a wheel that has the benefits of tire-and-wheel coverage printed on one side. The 3-dimensional merchandising piece was effective, but Wheelock dinged it to make it work even better as a sales prop.
The damaged wheel is a conversation starter, and it also helps finance managers explain the extent of the policy's coverage.
Wheelock dented one side of the wheel by banging it three times against a cement curb, then he scraped the other side against the curb. The dented side is covered because the wheel would no longer seal properly over a tire. The scraped side is not covered because it is just cosmetic damage and doesn't hinder operation.
"We have to make sure the customer knows what they have," Wheelock says. "If we don't, the service department will deal with some heat later when customers come in for repairs and expect scrapes to be covered."
Another tool BMW of Austin uses effectively is the tire-tread-depth gauge. Finance managers use this gauge to explain tire coverage to customers, and service writers use it to determine whether a customer needs replacement tires.
"When a customer pulls into the service drive, the first thing we do is measure the tire-tread depth," Wheelock says. "It's like a ruler that fits into the crevice. It has validity."
The service department also can tell customers whether their tire-and-wheel plan covers a tire repair or replacement. The policy doesn't cover bald tires -- those with less than one-sixteenth of an inch of tread depth remaining.
Says Wheelock: "We have to make sure we manage customer expectations."