Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2009   by Andrew Ross

Power Up Your Battery Sales

Knowledge Building:


Batteries are often mistakenly thought of as a low-tech commodity item, but the proliferation in types, the various technologies inside the case, and the growing opportunities that exist outside automotive applications, say otherwise.

In fact, while the majority of battery sales are straightforward, understanding battery options is still important for counterpeople faced with customer needs even slightly off the beaten path. There are also important everyday considerations that, if overlooked, can lead to customer dissatisfaction, and even unwittingly cause a counterperson grief.

As with most sales, a battery transaction starts with a call and a catalogue lookup. In the battery category, most catalogues list a straightforward application guide, giving the size and maybe little else.

Many catalogues list the battery ratings separately, forcing you to refer to the part number to get the specs. And, to make matters just a little more complicated, not all listings give you all the information you might expect to see.

We’ve provided four samples of real catalogue listings and you can see that they do not all line up the same way. When looking at them it is helpful to know which numbers are most important.

Generally, most people focus on the CCA number, which stands for Cold Cranking Amps. This number, which can range from below 500 to more than 900, is the amount of power that the battery can deliver at minus 18C. This is what gets you started on those cold winter nights. The number below this one, CA or Cranking Amps, is the power delivered at 0C. This number will always be higher than the CCA rating, so don’t confuse the two. A battery’s ability to supply power is halved by every 10 drop in temperature–of course, at colder temperatures you need more power to turn the engine over.

Usually, there are several CCA-rated batteries available for a given Battery Council International (B. C.I.) Group Size (e. g., 41), which means you will have several options to offer the customer.

A third number is Reserve Capacity (RC). This may not be on the battery, but it should be in your supplier’s catalogue. It is a particularly important rating for marine and heavy-duty truck applications, as well as anyone who may have a large accessory power drain on their vehicle especially while stopped or idling, when charging capabilities are compromised. Reserve Capacity is the number of minutes that a fully charged battery at 80F can be continually discharged at a 25-ampere load–this is substantial– and still maintain a voltage of 10.5. This is such an important consideration for marine applications that you may find it used in place of CCA or CA in a marine application listing.

Marine batteries are required to withstand special conditions, such as the jarring associated with boating, and are constructed to include an accessory hookup. Another number used on marine batteries is Marine Cranking Amps (MCA). This is similar to the CA rating but is a rating of the discharged load (in amperes) for a new, fully charged battery at 80F for 30 seconds, that will still maintain a voltage of 1.2 volts per cell or higher. Usually, the cranking power of a marine starting battery is lower than that of automotive batteries.

Marine Deep Cycle batteries must undergo severe discharge before being recharged. Often these batteries are specified in Amp Hours (Ah) rather than RC.

You may not be selling too many marine batteries over the winter, of course, but the last few months of the boating season subject them to the same drop in temperature that automotive batteries do, so you should be aware of this potential demand.

There are many options for battery sales at your disposal. While it is true that most batteries you sell will be simple to look up, providing the best battery available for an application may provide the store with a higher dollar sale, but it will also provide the customer with the assurance he won’t run short of power when he can least afford to.

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Maximize Your Battery Knowledge Power:

Catalogues and Price Sheets

Catalogue listings and price sheets can be a wonderful source of information beyond just application data. A price sheet can also include performance data by CCA, RC, etc., but also warranty information such as how many months a battery is covered for a free boost, and prorating data for replacement–all in addition to pricing. Every counterperson should know how to calculate prorating, and should also be able to quickly address the advantages of one battery over another (CCA, warranty, OE fit).

Know Your Options

Even when the exact battery is not coming up as in-stock, you may be able to complete the sale. Your catalogue may list “possible fit” options that may have a slight difference from the unit specified, but will work in some applications.

This may not be a selection the customer wants as his first choice, possibly due to a price difference or terminal location, but in an urgent situation it can provide an option he can accept. Any of these options should be checked carefully for fit, but could help a customer when timing or location might limit the options.

Accessory Sales

Not every battery failure is really a battery failure. Especially on older vehicles, corrosion at terminals and failing cables can severely limit the amount of power a battery can deliver. Particularly in comeback or early warranty situations, but on any retail sale as a matter of course, try to determine what the condition of the cables might be. Sometimes hidden deterioration may be the real cause.

Inventory

Keeping batteries charged when stored is just good advice, as is adhering to proper stock rotation procedures (first in, first out). A proper recharging schedule is important to prevent overcharging. Ensure charging is conducted in a well-ventilated area.

Transportation

More than one counterperson or delivery driver has run afoul of Transport Canada in his zeal to get a battery shipment out without the proper training, documentation, or placards in place. The Automotive Industries Association of Canada has an excellent program in place to make compliance easy. Ensure your facility is aware of it and complies with the regulations.


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