Auto Laundry News - August 2011

Profit Center — Paint Protection Film

By Sharie Sipowicz

Retailers are always looking for new ways to generate revenue in today’s competitive market. One such opportunity is paint protection film (PPF).

PPF is designed to protect the most exposed painted areas of the vehicle from rock chips, insect residue, and road debris that can cause paint damage. The areas include bumpers, front of hoods, edges, fenders, backs of side mirrors, air dams, aftermarket body kits, door handle areas, around key holes, doorsills and edges, and wings.

Contrary to common belief, PPF was not developed for the automotive industry. It was developed originally to protect helicopter blades during the Vietnam War. Anyone familiar with PPF is aware of the unbelievable profit potential this new cosmetic car care service presents to the detail industry.

BIGGER SURFACE, BIGGER PROFIT

While passenger vehicles represent the major revenue base of PPF, there are also recreational vehicles, motor homes, and towables that offer an excellent market too. Many motor homes cost nearly as much as a house, and owners are meticulous about the care of these luxury vehicles, some sporting custom paint jobs that can cost upwards of $25,000. At one trade show I attended, a motor home on exhibit had an asking price of $1.5 million. On roads all across the country, these large rigs are exposed to an inordinate amount of potential paint damage.

Besides covering and protecting the front ends, you will also find additional areas for the application of PPF
that are not exposed to road debris, but still experience impact or abrasion. These would be door handles, backs of mirrors, and the rear end of vehicles where racks are located. If you are creative, you can find places on the interior where PPF can protect too.

Think about fifth wheel RVs and live-in livestock trailers that also offer opportunities for surface protection. These expensive vehicles feature high-profile front ends and lower body panels that receive considerable exposure to road debris and require large quantities of PPF material. There is synergy from these projects: RV owners often own trailers, off-road vehicles, ATVs, or other PPF candidates. Generally, people travel in a group with their RVs and the word of mouth can result in referrals for your PPF.

HOW ABOUT BOATS?

What vehicle is crawled and walked around on more than a boat? Boats experience more surface traffic and wear than most any other vehicle.

With motor vehicles, it is about appearance but with boats it’s about durability.

The marine industry is unique compared to the automotive business because boats make intentional contact with docks, marine hoists, ropes, anchor equipment, and trailers, as well as the road debris those boats in-tow experience. All of this contact increases the potential for damage to the boat’s surface.

On the exterior of a boat, outboard motors are particularly exposed to hazards during the boat’s use, and towing that can cause paint chipping and dings. In addition, the areas around cleats — where ropes and lines are fixed — will experience wear.

Many niche markets present opportunities for PPF.

OFF-ROAD AND RACETRACK

Well-equipped pickups, SUVs, and specialized vehicles like dune buggies and sand rails are additional sources for PPF.

A racetrack is loaded with PPF potential. While NASCAR race teams have the money to replace body panels on demand, the weekend racers have to preserve what they have.

The smaller tracks provide a better opportunity for PPF installers to protect race teams’ graphics on cars.

Classic and restored vehicles are another market. You can easily reach these markets by contacting car clubs in your area to build an awareness of what you do.

OTHER AUTOMOTIVE MARKETS

Commercial and fleet accounts offer opportunities that differ from retail customers, and can be quite lucrative.
The commercial segment is really important. PPF, previously marketed to new-car buyers by the dealer, has
an application on the commercial side, especially fleets and rental agencies.

With commercial accounts, PPF is a financial decision, and less about pride of ownership. It is all about how much the fleet’s resale value will be impacted.

EMERGENCY VEHICLES

Another opportunity within the commercial market is emergency vehicles.

There is a great deal of pride of ownership for the decision makers in the emergency fields. Fire chiefs are very proud
of their vehicles, keeping them washed and waxed, and spending money on touchups. Police are the same way. Protect and serve to them also means they want to represent their community with good-looking equipment.

THERE’S MORE

What about PPF for computer screens and iPod’s?

The non-traditional PPF applications like these are considered sacrificial in their role as protection against abrasion resulting from storage, transportation, or just typical use. The sacrificial use means repeat business and demonstrates the effectiveness of PPF.

SOME SALES SUGGESTIONS

To be effective and profitable in the PPF business, you need to know what you are doing and have a good film material distributor to work with. Use the distributor as a go-to person for help. Call and ask questions. Make use of their training seminars.

This kind of communication can ease the learning curve in new and unique applications, and inviting a distributor’s advice will connect you with a valuable knowledge base.

One key to a successful PPF-installer program is having a dedicated sales staff. As is often the case in detailing, being able to install PPF does not necessarily mean you can sell it. Be sure you have a motivated sales force that calls on auto dealers, marinas, etc. to present your service.

Sharie Sipowicz is aftermarket sales manager with Detail Plus Car Appearance Systems Inc. She has been involved in the detail industry for over 20 years, both as a vendor of products and equipment and as a hands-on operator in a retail detail environment. You can contact Sharie at sharie@detailplus.com.

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