Volume 17, Issue 6- November/December 2013

The Top Misconceptions
Surrounding Automotive Films
By Casey Neeley

The most difficult part about educating someone is overcoming preconceived notions. For automotive window film dealers, several fallacies surround the industry and may even prevent some consumers from considering window film as a restyling option.

From warranty claims to performance ability, legal issues and place of manufacture, there’s no shortage of confusion, both for consumers and industry members. Window Film magazine took a look at some of the top misconceptions in the market to help you get a feel for what consumers may think about “tinted windows,” and what you can do to educate them.

We also spoke with several industry members who had thoughts about some misgivings within the trade, and the need to change our own thought process.

The Top Three
Window Film magazine asked its 2013 Top Automotive Window Film Dealer, Tommy Silva, president and CEO of T&T Tinting Specialists in Honolulu, to tell us the three most popular misperceptions he encounters.

There are several widespread misconceptions regarding automotive window film and its application.

1)  All automotive films are the same. It’s the idea that “film is film,” with the only difference being pricing. We try to provide consistent education in our showrooms, on our website and in expos (face-to-face) that all window films are NOT created equal … You really do get what you pay for with window films.

2) Window film lasts forever. I don’t know why, but consumers will spend $5,000 on a custom paint job for their vehicle and won’t expect that to last forever, but they’ll spend $400 on a good tint job that supposed to outlast the car itself! This, by the way, is a widespread misconception that began long ago with our film manufacturers.

3) Window films stop fading completely. This one, again, requires more education geared toward consumers to properly inform them of exactly what causes fading and how much protection we actually can provide with our films.

Is It Better to Be Born in the USA?
It’s a label that has been sold on products for decades—Made in the USA. But is this marketing device a harmless advertising tool, or a promotion that may actually breed product prejudice?

Willy Choi, sales director for NDFOS, says the past mistakes of other manufacturers have reflected poorly on all Korean film manufacturers. In fact, Choi claims that many Korean-manufactured window films are now held in lower regard because of their origin.

“I believe people think all Korean manufacturers are the same. It’s a difficult issue. The idea that every Korean manufacturer only produces low quality films with price-based products and never improves their quality is not true,” he says.

Choi does admit that the current misunderstanding may be based on past experiences with early Korean manufacturing.

“There are a lot of issues with some Korean manufacturers, though,” he says. “They include quality, support, delivery, location and domestic support among others. In the past, Korean manufacturers did make a lot of mistakes, such as only copying appearance and not understanding the products and quality. Another issue is poor customer support.”

Rather than lumping all Korean-based films into one category, however, Choi says double-blind tests could prove a successful tool for removing predetermined notions about a particular film.

“Any place in which we can have our high-end quality product shown against our competitors, without name brands being shown, is a good opportunity for us … Tests such as this, which remove the brand power, can help Korean manufacturers gain further trust and as well as offer smaller companies the chance to compete as well. It allows us both to show our products in a manner that doesn’t play into the misconceptions,” says Choi.

Though Choi says the films have improved, he admits it’s a continuing struggle to compete.

“Korean manufacturers do need to continue working to improve their films. And, we know, USA-based brands will continue to lead the market, but a lot has changed from the old idea of Korean films …We no longer produce on color-copy films. We know what the important issues are, such as clarity, color stability and shrinkage, and are making our products a better quality,” he says.

Open-minded product comparison could be the key to finding the true quality of a film.

“If our product is good, or comparable in quality, we want to get fair opportunities from distributors or dealers,” Choi adds. “Keep an open mind. Check the quality and customer support compared to the current product you use. Having this attitude will serve as a starting point for ridding this misperception.”

Think You Can’t Change the Law?
If you answered yes to the above question, Arthur Meeker, manager of Xtreme Grafx in Albany, Ore., would say you’re wrong. In fact, he recently worked his way up the legislative channels of Oregon’s legal system to battle what he thought were unfounded laws based on misconceptions surrounding perforated automotive graphic films.

“It basically started about three years ago,” he says. “I was going to do a job in a neighboring city and I was pulled over by a police officer concerned about the window perforation on the back windows. He told me it was illegal and I couldn’t have it … I made it my mission to clarify why I couldn’t have it.”

Meeker contacted his state representative, Andy Olson, within several days of receiving the ticket to see what he could do about changing the law he thought was unfair to his industry.

“You can’t place anything upon the window that hinders the view in or out … The police officer even told me that he could pull me over for a bumper sticker he felt hindered his view,” he says. “We do two or three vehicle wraps a week out of our shop. Many of [my customers] were pulled over by the same office.”

Olson had no problem with the use of perforated graphics Meeker says, and drafted House Bill 2406 (HB2406) as a solution to the ticketing. HB2406 amends the law, removing the section about rear windows. The bill passed the House in April, was signed into law and will go into effect January 1, 2014.

For Meeker, this fight offered another opportunity to explain the benefits of graphics and films.

“When I was testifying at the transportation committee, I told them it was one of a number of methods of advertising for many companies,” he says.

The decision was a big win for small film shops, Meeker says, adding that his quest didn’t just focus on his local area, but changed the law statewide.

“The lesson for me is if you don’t believe in something, make a change. It can happen,” he says. “I feel that if there is something that you feel strongly about, stand up and make a change. Make some noise and see what can be done. There are good and bad ways to go about doing things but you can make a change,” he says.

Do Films Have a Bad Name Across the Board?
Automotive window films aren’t the only ones feeling the heat. Florida attorney general Pam Bondi recently claimed companies encouraging consumers to install residential and commercial hurricane-resistant films as hurricane protection are running a scam.

In a statement, Bondi says, “As homeowners prepare for hurricane season, they should be cautious when purchasing window films that claim to safeguard their homes from hurricanes. The Florida Building Commission must give approval before a company can advertise its product as a form of hurricane protection, and they have not approved window films for this use.” At the end of statement, the attorney general urges consumers to report any businesses making “fraudulent” claims about window film and hurricane protection.

Are these films a scam, or is their level of protection simply misunderstood?

“I think it’s wrong and the law is short-changing the public because window film still provides a lot of protection in the event of a windstorm or broken window,” says Kevin Millard, president of Accent Distributing in Sarasota, Fla. “Not every customer can afford to buy a piece of steel to place in front of every single window.”

“Safety/security window films applied to glass are tested to the same break-safe standards required of tempered glass, heat-strengthened glass, and laminated glass. Window film manufacturers have copies of the actual laboratory test reports validating that their products do, in fact, meet specific impact testing,” says Darrell Smith, executive director for the International Window Film Association. “Upon repeated impacts to the same area, films can begin to tear due to the edges of the broken glass fragments penetrating the thickness of the film. This means that, in general, although films can help greatly by reducing glass hazards upon initial impact, with repeated impacts they may not continue to perform as well.”

True or False?
Most window film installers just do this in their spare time as a hobby. False; as a professional industry, many window film installers are small business owners who devote their time and livelihoods to ensuring the success of their businesses.

All window films are the same. False; beyond pricing, films vary based on manufacturer, IR, VLT and color, among many other properties.

Window film laws are always changing. True; though allowable automotive tint levels may vary by state and come under frequent scrutiny, window film dealers have lobbying power to change tinting regulations.

A lifetime warranty means the currently installed film will last forever. False; the lifetime of a film is dependent on the quality of the film, weather conditions to which it is exposed, consumer car-care maintenance and technician installation, among other factors

Window film eventually bubbles and turns purple on car windows. Sometimes true; sadly, poorly installed window films may appear bubbled or purple on car windows. Not all window films are purple or bubble, however. The hue is dependent on the type of film selected and bubbling is determined by the quality of film and/or cleanliness of installation.

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