Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2004   by Jim Anderton, Editor

Is the Future in Accessories?

This month's issue of SSGM features our annual roundup of the weird and wonderful from the SEMA/AAPEX shows held annually in Las Vegas. Trying to cover Industry Week is like drinking from a fire hose. Filling both major convention venues, the Sand...


This month’s issue of SSGM features our annual roundup of the weird and wonderful from the SEMA/AAPEX shows held annually in Las Vegas. Trying to cover Industry Week is like drinking from a fire hose. Filling both major convention venues, the Sands Expo Center and the Las Vegas Convention Center, it’s simply impossible to see it all. What you can see, however, are a mixture of parts and accessories from the humblest fastener to wild chromed CNC-whittled billet pieces that look like they belong on the Space Shuttle. Step back and view the show as a whole, however, and trends begin to appear. Some are uniquely American, like the hip-hop craze in vehicle customization and Flathead Ford salt-flats record racers. One trend that’s either a bright spot, or ominous depending on your point of view, is telematics. It was everywhere this year, from headrests with built-in speakers to DVD players built into customizable overhead racks. What’s happening is the aftermarket expanding on a trend that’s pushed harder than ever by the OEM’s, namely adding value to cars and light trucks with electronics. We all know that vehicles’ core systems are lasting longer and longer, and options of years past like A/C, power assists and cruise control are now standard on all but the cheapest econoboxes. How do you sell Caddies when Chevs come loaded from the factory? “Telematics” is the answer, both because of the perceived value for the customer, and for the extra revenue that comes from subscription services like OnStar and satellite radio. What does this have to do with you? There are three main reasons to take a look at adding this kind of service to your menu. One is that your customers’ cars will be loaded with the new gadgets, and when they break, they’ll turn to you just the same, as they will with any other vehicle problem. Another reason is the need to keep your loyal clientele away from competition that can service the electronics. Once it’s in their hands, they’re in an excellent position to get all the business, especially for time-strapped urban motorists who want one-stop shopping. A third is the most compelling: The bread and butter jobs of years past are disappearing as vehicles last longer. With low-cost entry level vehicles like Kia and Hyundai (among others) a rebuilt engine can represent one third of the total cost of a new car, with low monthly payments, too. High-value electronics like DVD players and built-in car phones may be exotic now, but shops that learn how to service these technologies may have an important edge in the future, and a new profit centre, too.


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