September/October 2000

Making Money With Mirrors

Time to Reflect on Increasing Sales with Automotive Mirror Options

by Bill Castleberry


At a time when automotive glass replacement companies are searching for ways to increase sales and profits, some fail to recognize an unpolished gem they have had available for years: automotive mirror replacement.

Automotive mirror replacement has the power to generate significant additional revenue both with installations and marketing the core business of automotive glass replacement.

 Changing the Look

Replacing car mirrors used to be an extension of goodwill by the consumer’s local glass shop. This work was done for little or no money in hopes of bringing the customer back to the glass shop if he or she needed a windshield replacement at a later date. The shop often had a flat glass person behind a cutting table who could cut a replacement mirror from a sheet of household mirror.

While mirror replacement was a nice promotional service when margins on auto glass replacement were good, in today’s AGR market it is an underdeveloped add-on sales product. Glass shops should recognize that they can offer a unique service to the person searching for a way to fix his car mirror and that consumers are willing to pay for the service.

 What is a Car Mirror?

Automotive mirrors are first-surface chrome glass. This is essentially one-way mirror manufactured by a select number of North American companies. The purpose for using this type of mirror is to allow headlight glare from behind the vehicle to be absorbed through the mirror into the mirror housing. This allows the driver to see reflections from activity on the sides and behind the vehicle without becoming impaired by bright headlight reflections.

Since the 1970s, passenger side mirrors have been convex with the standard “objects are closer …” statement sandblasted or lasered at its base. A convex mirror is used to increase the field of vision to the rear of the vehicle. Although some consumers find this distorted reflection difficult to use, it does increase consumer safety and helps achieve certain federal safety standards outlined in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS)111.

 FMVSS 111

FMVSS 111 is a specification pertaining to the rear vision parts of a vehicle. This federal standard is as much fun to read as are all other FMVSS listings that pertain to the AGR industry (see FMVSS 212, 216, etc.). However, it may not provide enjoyable reading, but it does outline very important safety requirements relating to automotive mirrors.

FMVSS 111 specifies the required range of vision that the driver must achieve utilizing rear vision products. These ranges are both horizontal and vertical angles from the side and rear of the vehicle. In addition, FMVSS 111 requires that rear vision products use low reflectivity mirror (40 to 60 percent reflectivity). As previously mentioned, this part of the spec is achieved through the use of special first-surface chrome glass.

From a shop liability standpoint, a customer’s mirror must be replaced with a product that meets FMVSS 111. If there was a convex part on the vehicle originally, it should be replaced with a convex part etched with the proper “objects appear…” statement. Household mirror should not be used in automotive mirror applications.

 Where do Customers Come From?

There is the typical chain of events that leads the consumer to his or her local glass shop for a mirror replacement. First, the customer contacts a body shop or some other place where replacement of the entire mirror housing is recommended as the remedy to fix his or her broken mirror. This could be quoted at $100 to $300 or more. If not satisfied with the quoted price, the cost-conscious consumer may then seek out a lower cost alternative.

That is the point when they become creative and think, “Maybe that glass shop down the street may be able to fix my broken side-view mirror.” They make the call to the glass shop, get quoted a better price, and that shop wins the business! Sound good? Sure, but it would sound a lot better if you could increase the number of these mirror replacement calls four or five times by implementing a few basic marketing initiatives.

 Marketing Mirror Replacements

Check your local Yellow Pages under automotive mirrors or automotive mirror replacement. Also, try looking for auto glass replacement companies that have a tag line incorporated into their Yellow Pages ad, such as “We Also Replace Car Mirrors.” Did you find anyone listed under those headings or any company that advertises automotive mirror replacement? The answer to both questions is probably no.

How many potential mirror replacement customers pass you by and never take that second step after they call the body shop or dealership for an entire mirror head? By taking the initiative to be one of the first in your area to include car mirror replacement in your print, radio and/or TV advertising, you will immediately see the results.

In addition, many glass distributors offer retail point-of-purchase materials highlighting the mirror replacement service you provide. This will help increase awareness with your in-shop windshield customers and maybe they will bring in their other car at home that has a broken mirror. The more times a person comes into your store, the more likely he or she will keep coming back to you for all of his or her automotive glass and mirror needs.

 Where Do I Find the Precut Mirror Part I Need?

Nearly every windshield distributor in North America carries a substantial inventory of precut automotive mirrors. Some distributors may have up to 1,000 different mirror shapes in stock (both flat and convex), covering the vast majority of the vehicles on the road today. In addition, they have heated/defrosting mirror parts, inside day/night mirrors, and other special side-view mirror products.

When an owner of a new Jaguar convertible calls you to replace his/her convex mirror, for example, the most cost effective method of replacement is to make a call to your distributor and have that part delivered to you on your next scheduled windshield delivery. This will save time and money versus trying to piece together a broken mirror, making a pattern, cutting the part and grinding the edges. These ready-to-install precut parts are made of first-surface chrome mirror and will give your customer a quality, OEM grade replacement.

There are a few select glass shops today that average 150 to 200 mirror replacements per month per branch location. These replacements bring in $20 to $30 net profit per installation. These companies long ago recognized the potential of mirror replacement and how it fits into their core business. If you are interested in achieving these types of returns, you can. Take your unique service of automotive mirror replacement, polish it up and start generating significant new sales revenue today.

Bill Castleberry is national sales manager for Burco Inc./Redi-Products located in Grand Rapids, Mich.


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