The folks at Fitzgerald Auto Malls don't leave the sale of vehicle accessories to chance.
They leave it to the accessory champions: employees whose jobs it is to show every customer the factory and aftermarket accessories that are available to trick out, personalize and enhance the comfort and security of their new car or truck.
About half of Fitzgerald's 18 stores -- those that sell at least 200 new vehicles a month -- have accessory "champions" who sell accessories all day, all the time. Sales managers double as accessory champions at lower-volume stores.
In both cases, the champions' goal, with assistance from other salespeople, is to sell accessories to every new-vehicle customer, says Larry Branche, aftermarket sales manager at Fitzgerald Auto Malls. He says the company sells at least one accessory to 40 to 50 percent of its customers. Those accessories include sunroofs, satellite radios, window tinting and body-side molding.
Nationwide, accessory sales is a $30 billion industry that can help dealers bolster dwindling margins, says Jack Fitzgerald, the group's owner.
"Manufacturers have taken what was a 25 percent discount and made it into as little as 1 percent,'' says Fitzgerald, who owns stores in Florida, Maryland and Pennsylvania. "The average is 4 percent. It shrinks a little bit every year. I don't know what they're going to do when it gets down to zero."