When it comes to aftermarket vehicle lighting solutions and wiper technologies, jobbers are the first point of contact for making the case for service writers and technicians to upgrade to higher-quality and higher-margin technologies. It needs to be kept top of mind that for most vehicle owners, lighting and wipers are something they rarely think about – until, that is, one of them fails or needs to be replaced. Then they are most often likely to try to go for the lowest-cost replacement. Patricia Lazzarotto, Canadian regional director, national accounts with Crowne Group – makers of Trico, Carter, and AVM aftermarket solutions – says that vehicle owners will turn first to technicians for recommendations when it comes to such things as wiper technologies. “I think it is really interesting that consumers today really rely on the recommendations of staff when it comes time to buy wiper blades,” Lazzarotto adds. “[However], staff will many times promote lower-cost wiper blades when they really should be assessing what kind of blades the vehicle needs.” What service writers and technicians often overlook is that many of today’s vehicles come equipped off the line with higher-end hybrid and beam blades as standard equipment, making it easy to move vehicle owners to high-quality aftermarket replacements for these technologies. In such cases, the upsell opportunities are relatively easy to make, as one is replacing an existing but worn blade technology with a high-quality aftermarket equivalent. “At many automotive trade shows right now, we are seeing more vehicles come with higher-end blades as a standard feature,” Lazzarotto adds. “At the recent Miami car show, our team saw that some 82% of vehicles showcased at the event either came equipped with a hybrid blade technology or a beam blade technology. Conventional blades are slowly dropping in sales, and we now tell people to move vehicle owners to a hybrid or a beam wiper design.” In 2015, some 81% of 2015 vehicle models came with hybrid or beam blade technology, most with arm technologies that only hybrid or beam blades can be used on. This is up some 56% from 2009. Alfredo de la Vega, vice-president and product management, NAFTA, Central and South America at Hella Inc., says he has seen this same trend as well. This presents a unique opportunity for service writers and technicians to move vehicle owners who currently use lower-cost conventional blades to higher-end blades. “The trend now is towards hybrid-type blades,” de la Vega continues. Hybrid blades offer several advantages in cold climates such as Canada that jobbers need to emphasize – such as aerodynamic designs and shields that cover the support brackets, which prevent ice and snow from accumulating and adversely impacting the performance of the blade. Jobbers need to remind service writers and technicians that while it may be possible to equip a vehicle with higher-end hybrid or beam blades, not all vehicles can use them. Lazzarotto says that wiper blades must be exactly matched to the type of windshield a vehicle uses. If it is curved or flat, only certain styles of blades can be used. This is where jobbers play an important role in helping in the upsell opportunity and in promoting the use of higher-quality wiper technology, when it is appropriate to the vehicle. “In a lot of cases, you may be able to upsell the vehicle owner to a beam-style wiper blade technology,” she continues. “But, if that owner’s vehicle came with conventional blades, for example, sometimes a beam blade is not as effective, because their vehicle may have a flat windshield. A beam or a hybrid blade will not work effectively on a flat windshield.” “Certainly the rubber edge has to be ideal [for the windshield], length, and [have] enough support brackets,” adds de la Vega. “You need to keep in mind that new vehicles have a more aggressive or aerodynamic design; not having enough support or pressure points will make the blade avoid certain areas [of the windshield] and not clean the windshield properly.” That is why jobbers need to emphasize to technicians and service writers that the blades chosen for the vehicle must meet OE specifications and be suitable to use with the shape and design of the windshield of the vehicle, de la Vega advises. Upsell opportunities are there, but only if the higher-end blade is suited for the vehicle. Putting the wrong blade on the vehicle will only result in comebacks as the wiper will not work efficiently in removing water and snow. To improve the chances of jobbers upselling service writers and technicians to higher-quality blades, wiper makers now have a set of improved POS and sales tools that can be used. Hella now has two kinds of wiper displays, one for 25 and one for 50 wipers. Trico offers, in addition to its own POS displays and sales sheets, online videos that can be used by technicians and service writers to upsell to higher-end hybrid and beam blades, and to make the installation easier for the technician. Wiper makers suggest that jobbers also impress upon service writers and technicians that wipers need to be changed on a more frequent schedule than is normally done. One suggestion is to recommend replacing wipers at each tire change, when the vehicle owner comes in to swap out winter for summer tires, and again when summer tires are swapped out for winter tires.
Lighting Trends and Opportunities In April 2015, Transparency Market Research released a study – Automotive Lighting Systems Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecasts 2015-2021 – that looked at the global market for automotive lighting. The report pointed to several interesting trends that jobbers should keep in mind, as these trends point to significant shifts in technologies and new profit centres opening up. The report finds that vehicle owners are becoming more aware of the importance of having a properly functioning lighting system. And new regulations across Europe and North America are moving automotive and aftermarket lighting technologies away from older and more energy-inefficient lighting to more energy-efficient lighting systems and even “smart” lighting technologies. Such technologies as LED, HID/xenon and halogen are now becoming standard lighting technologies on more vehicles, and growing in the aftermarket. Brian Noble, marketing manager with Sylvania Automotive Lighting says that the company’s LED lighting technologies “were developed as a result of automotive enthusiasts’ demand for high-quality LED technology… as a way to set their vehicle apart on and off the road. By expanding quality LED product offerings for the aftermarket industry, anyone can enjoy crisp, bright white lights like those seen on original equipment products.” According to the Transparency Market Research study, LED, HID/xenon and halogen technologies have caught on in the aftermarket not just for their energy efficiency, but also for their longevity. The study’s analysis of the market trends finds that halogen lamps were preferred because of their low cost and efficiency, but that LED and HID/xenon lamps, while relatively more expensive going forward, will eventually become the preference amongst vehicle owners. “Halogen, HID, and LED make up the demand for headlights in the North American market,” continues Sylvania’s Noble. “Halogen headlight technology makes up the majority of all lights on the road and has been around the longest out of the three. HID lighting equates to the majority of the balance, while LED headlights are still emerging in the market. In most cases, HID and LED lighting applications will be found on high-end vehicles and targeted vehicles as an option. “Although long-life products such as HID – with an average of 10 years of life – and LED, potentially lasting the life of an automobile, are on vehicles, there is still a high demand and opportunity for halogen headlights and opportunities to upgrade to premium headlights.” “The Big Three automakers are transitioning from halogen and HID to LED,” says Aubry Baugh, marketing communications manager, Lumileds, founded by Philips. “As a result, more and more new vehicles are coming into the market equipped with LED lighting, and this is expanding the awareness of LED.” The profit potential for jobbers with these new lighting technologies is tremendous, especially as vehicle owners today are receptive to both the improved quality and energy efficiency of today’s replacement lighting technologies, and the safety benefits coming from the improved lighting and distance these lighting technologies offer. Jobbers can help in the sales by making sure service writers and technicians ask a very simple question to the vehicle owner: do you want to see better when driving at night? “[This] can help consumers understand the benefits of upgrading their headlights for an improved on-road experience,” Noble says. “If there is an object on the road, high-performance headlights can help drivers react sooner. Any upgrade above a basic headlight replacement can help to create a better experience for the driver, a trusted piece of advice from the jobber and a higher sale overall. “Headlights dim over time, so if a customer can’t remember the last time they changed their headlights, now is the time to consider an upgrade.” “Jobbers should emphasize the need for regular lighting maintenance,” Aubry adds. “Lighting is still at the top of the list of underperformed vehicle services. Headlights dim and wear out over time, just like wiper blades, so they should be replaced. But drivers become accustomed to the reduced lighting and neglect to mention it to their technician when the car is being serviced. Jobbers should be aware that proper lighting maintenance creates a valuable opportunity for extra profits and helps boost driver safety at the same time. ‘Put more light on the road and you’ll put more cash in your pocket’ is a good motto to follow.” nJN