Volume 15, Issue 2 - March-April 2011


Let’s Make A Deal!
Paint Protection Film Installers Talk About Their Relationships with Car Dealers
By Katie Hodge

The buzz throughout the automotive tinting industry has been all about paint protection film (PPF). Tinters have flocked to trade shows to watch the product in action. They have asked countless questions about PPF to see if it is a good fit for their business. Those who have added paint protection film to their repertoire are now working on growing these lucrative product clusters as part of their businesses.

One of the most common ways to promote paint protection has been through relationships with car dealerships. Dealerships, especially high-end ones, receive hundreds of pristine cars and are looking for a way to keep those cars in perfect condition.

That was just what Trey Pappas, owner and CEO of Speed Specialists LLC in Addison, Texas found when he started calling around. At the time, Pappas was designing pre-cut patterns for paint protection film for another company and was looking for a dealership that would allow him to design the pre-cut patterns using its vehicles.

“I would go out and cold call at a dealership and meet with the sales manager or the general manager. I would tell them the need we had to make pre-cut patterns for automobiles,” says Pappas. “Obviously, I would have to explain the material to most people because it was still not a very popular product.”

Sometimes it would take some convincing to allow Pappas to use the dealership automobiles so he started offering a free kit on one of its demo cars to sweeten the deal.

“I would go in and explain what we are doing and ask if we could use its cars to populate the patterns for the pre-cut library and the dealership would say yes,” says Pappas. “Sometimes I would have to offer a free kit on one of its demo cars and that was a great way to sell the film as well because the dealership then had the film on a car in the showroom. Usually after a few weeks of doing patterns there the dealership would be calling to do some installs.”

Once he proved himself as a skilled paint protection film installer, dealerships began sending referral work directly to Pappas.

“We have some dealerships that just send us referrals. We have some dealerships that actually bring cars to us and pay for the service,” says Pappas. “We still have others that do a combination of the two...”

For others, car dealerships provided assistance in launching their business.

“You have to start somewhere. You can’t just break out in retail with no following. You have to go sell a car dealership and do a lot of cars,” says Ken Schacht, owner of Teeter and Schacht in Marin County, Calif. Schacht, widely known as “Big Tint Daddy,” used dealerships to help grow his skills and business.

“Car dealerships got me started in paint protection, but now I mainly do customers who care about their car,” says Schacht, who rarely uses dealerships nowadays.

True Professionals
It wasn’t always as easy to get business from dealerships, which traditionally used its service departments to install a clear bra or paint protection film. With the complexity and continued technological advancements many dealerships recognize it as a job for true professionals. Pappas works directly with his local Porsche dealership and they have developed a strong relationship.

“This dealership used to do its own clear bra installations. The people who work there aren’t the specialists that they need to be in order to do clear bras,” says John Hamilton, a sales professional at Autobahn Porsche in Fort Worth, Texas. “You really need to be focused on that one specialty. For the dealership it became more of a hassle to keep up with it since we weren’t doing them back-to-back. So we dropped those installations. However, we still had the need from our customers to get clear bras done. It was a very strong need—someone is spending a lot of money on a car and they want it to leave here perfect. That’s where companies like Speed Specialists have been in touch over the years to get that business.”

Companies such as Speed Specialists can either do the cars on site at the dealership or install the paint protection film in their shop away from the busy car lot.

“Trey performed installations for a number of our customers and they were a tremendous benefit to the customer. The customer pays him directly and they are satisfied. It keeps his docket full,” says Hamilton. “He can come here and do it or he can go to his place and do it. It’s great for our customers because a car will come in from Germany to our house and we will do all of the pre-delivery inspections and cleaning and Trey comes in and puts the clear bra on so the car is perfect and protected when the customer leaves with their new car.”

“So many of the salesman don’t know what clear bra is or they don’t believe in it. They haven’t seen how strong it is and how great of a product it is. There is still tons of work for us to do with the dealerships to make it extremely lucrative, but the potential is definitely there.”
—Trey Pappas, Speed Specialists LLC

Widening Potential
While many still believe that a service such as paint protection film would only appeal to those consumers who buy expensive high-end cars, there has been a spike in average cars getting the protection they need.

“We do get a lot of run-of-the-mill cars. Last week we did a Volvo XC60. Before that we did a Mazda CX9. We do quite a few BMW’s, but we get regular cars like Volkswagon Jettas and every once in a while we get a Kia,” comments Pappas. “A lot of those cars are doing the real expensive packages that we offer. They are not skimping out.”

“When I first started we really targeted the import markets—Hondas, Volkswagons, Audis, Volvos. The import market buyer seems to maintain them a little better,” says Nuno Ferreira, president of Shadow Tinting in Calgary, AB. “However, we are seeing a complete turn around now. We do everything from a Toyota Echo to a Lamborghini.”

For paint protection film installers one of the major struggles has been educating consumers and car dealers about the benefits of the product. Some dealerships may not feel comfortable recommending the product to its customers without believing in it.

“I think the dealership business is increasing awareness slightly. There is so much more work to do with the dealership side,” says Pappas. “So many of the salesman don’t know what clear bra is or they don’t believe in it. They haven’t seen how strong it is and how great of a product it is. There is still tons of work for us to do with the dealerships to make it extremely lucrative, but the potential is definitely there.”

Representing the company and the product well will go a long way with car dealerships. Gaining the dealership’s respect will open it up to listen to what you have to say and show.

“You have to be consistent. The timing of the month that you go to the dealership is crucial,” says Ferreira. “You don’t want to go bug a sales manager at the end or the beginning of the month.”

Getting Your Foot in the Door
Paint protection film installers and dealers do have some tips for making sure that a dealership remembers your company.

Be confident in your skill: Appearing confident and self-assured will make the dealership aware that you know what you are doing.

Be professional: Show up on-time and do things when you say you are going to do them. Be reliable if the dealership needs your help.

Train, train, train: Even if you are confident and professional, technology and products are always changing. Continuous training will keep you on top of your game.

Be considerate of the dealership’s schedule: Be conscious of what days are busy for the dealership and work around its schedule. Don’t pester a sales manager on a busy day.

Don’t just ask; offer: Offer something to the dealership in return for their attention or meeting. Provide a free paint protection kit for a demo car or offer to help out if it is in a crunch and needs a car done quickly.

Piece of the Puzzle
While there are some mobile paint protection film installers who do 100-percent dealership work, most rely on dealerships for just a portion of its business and also do private installs or provide other services like tinting. However bringing in dealership work can give a company some reliable and constant work.

“Dealerships are a piece of the puzzle. The most important thing in the PPF industry is to be confident and very skilled at what you do,” says Ferreira. “You have one shot to go in there and you will either get a good name or a bad name in the industry.”

Relying solely on dealership work will present some struggles for a new company, especially es to bringing income in that day.

“As a business owner, it’s tough dealing with dealerships because they don’t always pay quickly,” shares Pappas. “Small businesses need cash fast and a lot of times dealerships are on a net-30 or net-60 cycle. You have to call a lot of the dealerships and stay on them. It definitely can be high-maintenance. It’s still lucrative because you can get pretty good volume out of it. It is really up to each business owner as to what they want to deal with.”

For some, car dealerships really have only been a small part of their success.

“It was definitely important at the beginning. We did dealership vehicles really cheap just so we could get a feel for all of the different paint protection films. I basically used the dealerships as my test ground,” says Schacht.

However, for some companies that have established a referral relationship with dealerships they can only benefit from the work that is referred to them. Nurturing those dealership relationships can prove just as “lucrative” as everyone seems to imply.

Katie Hodge
is the editor of Window Film magazine.

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No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.