For years, cars and trucks rolled off the LaFayette (North Carolina) Ford lot looking shiny and new - then came back for service looking even shinier. Chrome wheels, grilles and two-tone paint jobs weren't on the vehicles when they left the lot but were added at auto accessories shops, according a report on Fayettevillenc.com.
It started the dealership's managers thinking: If customers were tricking out their cars elsewhere, why not trick out LaFayette Ford to keep them here?
The 56-year-old car dealership opened an accessories department in February 2005. Since then, it has accessorized about 50 cars and trucks, adding everything from bug deflectors to "ground effects," which make a car appear lower.
"What we're trying to do is grow our business," said Tim Price, the service and parts director. But the new department didn't just keep customers' accessories business at LaFayette. It brought business in off the street.
Last year, Mr. Strickland took a silver Mustang GT on a test drive on his way to lunch. The car had been fully accessorized with 20-inch wheels and tires, ground effects and gray stripes. As Mr. Strickland pulled out of the restaurant, a man did a U-turn to follow him back to LaFayette Ford.
"His first statement out the door was, 'Is this car for sale?'" Mr. Strickland said. It was. The man took delivery on the GT that afternoon.
The dealership keeps about five to 10 accessorized cars on the lot at all times, Mr. Price said. The visual examples help to sell accessories. Often, the accessories help to sell the cars. "We have noticed more people are looking at the accessorized vehicles," Mr. Strickland said. "That's what stops them. It's a very large part of our business."
Improved front-end gross
One car's accessories package includes two-toned paint, stripes, 20-inch wheels and tires, dual exhaust pipes, two-tone leather interior, a satin-finish overlay on the dashboard, tinted windows and a chrome grille. The package added $7,995 to the price of the car, which is typically between $25,000 and $28,000 without accessories.
Fords aren't the only cars the dealership will accessorize. Customers watch television shows such as TLC's "Overhaulin'" and come in to turn their own clunkers into classics. Mr. Strickland said he's a fan of those shows at least the way they help his business.