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Custom Cars at the Click of a Mouse

It’s easy to picture a rear spoiler on a Ferrari, but would that same accessory look right on a Ford Taurus? Without seeing for themselves, customers might be leery of handing over their cash – and their cars. How do you convince them which restyle accessories will turn their sedate sedan into a screaming machine?

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Use the Internet


Not every customer has the ability to visualize. Many of them are probably interested in adding a rear spoiler, ground effects or body decals to their mundane vehicles, but without knowing what the accessory will look like on their car, they may be leery of spending hard-earned cash. Just because you like a rear spoiler on a Ferrari doesn’t mean you’ll like it on your Ford Taurus.

How can you help customers over this hurdle and make selling accessories easier for you? By using the Internet. Technology enables you to show your customers exactly how their vehicles will look with any number of restyle products installed before they make any final purchases.

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The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) launched www.enjoythedrive.com last August. Using the site’s Vehicle Customizer, consumers can view how different accessories look on their vehicle. The Customizer features actual images of about 100 late-model vehicles (more are being added), along with photos of accessories installed on those same vehicles. At the click of a mouse, consumers can see whether they prefer to add a rear spoiler, a sunroof or window film.

"[Through research and focus groups], we found out that the products by themselves don’t have a lot of value [to a potential customer]," says Chris Horn, vice president of consumer affairs for SEMA. "You can’t show someone a running board and expect them to get excited about it. Seeing their vehicle and seeing what a specific product looks like on their vehicle provides context."

In addition to showing people their customized vehicle on-screen, the site also lists the accessories that have been installed and the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for each. If consumers want to see more detailed information on a particular product, they can simply point and click to view a close-up photo along with additional information.

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"In discussions with [potential] consumers, we found out that many of them had no idea of the products that were available for their vehicles," says Horn. "[Our research also showed] if those consumers were given an opportunity to find out what was available, they’d be inclined to buy those products."

For those customers who have to get permission from their spouses before buying accessories and turning their sedate sedan into a screaming machine, the program allows users to print a quality image of their customized vehicle. Then they can show the printout to their wives – I mean spouses. The printout also includes the list of accessories installed and their MSRP.

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Does Horn see the Web site as a major selling tool in shops offering restyling products? "Absolutely," he says. "[The site] is a great way to educate a consumer on all the products available. For instance, what’s the difference between a stainless steel tubular running board versus one that’s chrome plated? The site allows the consumer to find out the difference as well as the features and benefits of each product to make an informed decision about what to buy."

More than likely, you’re already using the computers in your office and estimating stations to show customers vehicle damage reports and other information to sell them on the repair. Why not use those same computers to convince them how good their Suburban will look with sideboards?

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Writer Melissa McGee is managing editor of BodyShop Business.

Elvis and the Pork Chop Box
If Elvis were alive today – many say he is! – he’d probably own a number of vehicles, including a few Hummers, a few Cadillacs and a few big trucks. Guys like big trucks and the King was no exception. With all his extra dough and his taste for extravagance (have you ever been to Graceland?), Elvis probably would’ve been inclined to add a few accessories to his less-than-flashy vehicles. Since they don’t make sequin-studded white polyester tonneau covers, Elvis might have considered a pork chop box for his pickup instead. The problem is, the pork chop box Elvis likely would’ve envisioned in his mind (or his stomach) wouldn’t have been anything close to what a real pork chop box is.

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Using www.enjoythedrive.com, you could set the hound dog straight. The site features an Auto Glossary at the bottom of the home page. Clicking on the glossary takes you to a window where you can type in any word, and the site will search through its database of more than 1,000 terms to find a definition and often a photo.

Grateful for your help – and to know a pork chop box is a term used to refer to a wheelwell box for a pickup truck’s bed rather than a mobile storage unit for your pork chops – the King would’ve likely curled his lip and said, "Thank you, thank you very much."

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