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Spray-on assets

October 11, 2010
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Many carwash owners can view an under-performing detailing bay or car-care service center as a burden to their bottom line, but consider the possibilities for making that space profitable by marketing for a specific clientele.

With an increase in demand for larger vehicles, American drivers have also looked for extra aftermarket add-ons for their trucks and SUVs in order to customize their mobile investments.

Wash operators and professional detailers looking to offer new services for such customers may consider servicing the truck and SUV market to create an increased draw.

A change of pace

With the help of qualified workers who can master the installations, the truck accessory market can help boost overall business with such offerings as:

  • Bedliners;
  • Tool box installations;
  • Running boards and side handles; or even
  • External visors and window deflectors.

For carwash owner Heath Davis, Emerald Car Wash, Greenwood, SC, the truck accessories market presented a way to not only save his business, but achieve his goal of expansion.

Davis now owns one wash in Greenwood, and another in Newberry, SC, and has used aftermarket add-ons as a customer incentive and joint service for his carwash.

After operating in a tough full-service market for five years, Davis started offering spray-on bedliners two years ago, and has seen his business double since then.

Poor weather and an even poorer economy hurt his full-service carwash and detailing shop, until he subdivided the Greenwood location's detailing center to provide enough space to perform detailing, but also install low-maintenance add-ons.

Out of this area, Davis said he can offer walk-in customers a large selection on aftermarket liners, floor mats for large vehicles, and he can also order tool box installation kits, as well as running boards for SUVs — all to be installed in this detailing/auto care space.

The art of the aftermarket

Aftermarket ancillary services at an established car-care business can be added by making an investment in the equipment itself, but there must also be a mastering of the craft chosen.

Jeff Stevens, founder and president of Steven's Car Care Products, Inc., Eastlake, OH, stresses the importance of advanced training on whatever extra services are offered at a carwash or detailing center.

At his business, Stevens offers items ranging from car alarms to detailing chemicals for the car-care industry, but said one of the easiest services often chosen by carwash operators are spray-on bedliners, and attachable protective covers for vehicle hoods.

Stevens said it's often easy for wash owners and car repair shops to push spray-on liners because they offer:

  • A cushioned surface;
  • Corrosion prevention;
  • Ultra-violet protection on the exposed surface; and
  • Sound dampening.

The costs for adding such services will depend on the color choices and materials purchased, but make sure to shop around before choosing a provider, since some product makers may provide better support for your business with the training or introductory packages they offer.

Although tool boxes, running boards and deflectors require very little advanced skill or tools for the task, spray-on bed liners do typically require a few days of technical training before going public.

Liner notes

Chary Gurney, marketing director of Perma-Tech, Cleveland, OH, a supplier of spray-on liners and a line of cleaning products for detailers, said their company often works directly with new customers before they're allowed to offer bedliners in order to support a standard associated with their company.

Gurney said most liners can be installed as a same-day service, but jobs can vary depending on the condition of the bed's surface prior to spraying the poly-based products with a chemical applicator.

The average spray-on bedliner process creates a 1/4-inch thick liner, and takes roughly three hours to apply for a standard pick-up truck.

In order to start offering the service, most bedliner providers will sell you a "dealership," which requires a purchasing agreement with the company.

If considering such a service:

  • Prepare to invest anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000, and enough space to provide the spray-on option: A specialized painting area is not required, but a bay-sized area with tarps for screening will suffice.
  • Cracks and rusty areas on the surface simply need to be treated before the installer sprays the area, but the surface becomes uniform after the service is completed.
  • Spray-on liners vary as far as the thickness and density of the material applied, which usually is determined by the amount of layers applied by the installer.

But making space for such a service can be beneficial in the long run: It is estimated that most liner installations can retail at $300 to $500 for a basic service, and some customers are willing to spend more than $1,000 for custom colors.