Deal or No Deal

March 29th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs

Auto Installers Talk Dealership Work

By Chris Collier

Car dealerships account for 20% of all projects at Mississippi’s Total Solar Control. Owner Jeffrey Cargile’s local partners include Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, Kia, Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Nissan and Ford. Proving vital during the company’s slow seasons, the connections flourished after a 2015 networking opportunity.

Pedal to the Metal

“Window tint is seasonal, and it gets slow in the winter,” says 36-year-veteran Cargile. “Doing the dealership work helped me keep the business going in the winter. The work was always there. In the last three years, we’ve had a lot of people cancel because of COVID. That [compels] us to run to the dealerships to get something to fill that void in the schedule.”

Cargile’s high school friend, a truck accessory business owner, arranged a meeting with a local dealership eight years ago. Cargile’s local Dodge and Kia dealerships pre-load window tint onto their vehicles before purchase, while other partners offer point-of-sale installations that customers can opt for.

“Trucks and SUVs are big in the South. It’s easy for dealers to make them more attractive to the customer by get ting the windows tinted,” Cargile says of pre-loaded window tint jobs.

Cargile offers dealerships a volume discount below standard retail prices. The discount is in accordance with volume and applies to any dealership or individual client. Dealership projects push his business forward, but he seeks balance and project diversity.

“If dealership work is 50% of your volume, you’re doing a lot of work and not getting as much money,” says Cargile, whose business reached $357,000 in sales in 2022. “ … [But] it is very beneficial for a new shop to obtain dealership work. If you approach dealerships in the right way and get enough work, you can make enough money to pay your expenses—rent, water and electricity.”

Misaligned Values

“I find that dealerships often are not loyal,” says Sharyn Volpe, co-owner of Frederick Window Tinting in Frederick, Md. “They care most about their bottom line, which, from a business perspective, I understand. However, I don’t feel like they look for quality. I feel like they look for the lowest possible price. They’ll drop you like a fly if they can find someone cheaper.”

Contrasting Total Solar Control’s approach, Frederick Window Tinting rarely works with dealerships to obtain business. The company offers nano-ceramic window film over dyed and metalized products, emphasizing quality over quantity.

“While we want to do as much business as possible, it’s not a quantity game as much as it’s a quality game,” Volpe says. “We’re not trying to bang cars out of thes fast as possible to move onto the next vehicle. We want to do a quality job on every vehicle we do.”

Automotive tinting drives 95% of sales at Frederick Window Tinting, which was founded in 2014.

“We had a good Mercedes dealership that we worked with in the past,” Volpe adds. “They were willing to pay our full retail rate. However, we started in [Germantown, Md.], and we quickly outgrew that little spot. When we expanded [to Frederick, Md.], it was no longer convenient for that dealership because they then became 25 minutes away.”

Volpe says her company completed primarily point-of-sale installations at its peak of dealership arrangements. She says that shops in the start-up phase shouldn’t shy away from such projects.

“There’s nothing wrong with being the one that takes on the lower-priced jobs; starting out, there’s nothing wrong with it,” she says.

New Work, Same Connections

“I started doing dealership work from day one when I founded my shop in 2018,” says Jason Vazquez, owner of Tailored Auto Salon in Orlando. “Prior to opening a shop, I worked in sales at a Mercedes Benz dealership. That dealership was part of the AutoNation network, so I made friends with GMs, sales managers and finance managers from my dealership and others. Building those relationships was paramount to my success in dealing with dealerships once I opened my shop.”

Vazquez worked for Mercedes for three years. Today, the dealership segment is responsible for 95% of Tailored Auto Salon’s sales.

“A lot of the salespeople will refer customers to me during their sales process,” Vazquez says. “They’ll hand them one of my cards. It’s a flyer that I created that bridges the gap, showing that I partner with that dealership. The customer trusts the dealer, so it’s not a cold transfer when they talk to me. It’s more of a warm transfer.”

Vazquez’s dealership ties span far and wide due to previous industry involvement, but he says the uninitiated can get involved, too.

“Create some sort of flyer or [business card],” Vazquez shares. “I went with VistaPrint and got Soft Touch Business Cards. A friend of mine is a graphic designer; we came up with a design that grabs attention. It briefly highlights tint, PPF and coatings. I printed a small batch, so I had something tangible to hand to a sales manager, finance manager or a GM. Say, ‘If you are ever in need of these services, give me a call. I’d love to help.’”

Automotive Anarchy

In Window Film magazine January/February 2022’s Running on Empty: The New Car Shortage Unwrapped, editor Chris Collier reported on the new car shortage and its impact on dealership work.

“An ongoing global shortage of microchips—critical components needed for today’s autos—also continues to slow down manufacturers’ production of new vehicles. Hawaii’s T&T Tinting Specialists typically averages 300 cars per month for a local Toyota dealer. That number is down more than 80% to 50-60 a month.”

In January 2023, Kelley Blue Book, a vehicle valuation and research company, reported that the tide may be turning.

“The supply chain chaos of the past two years broke every pattern and system in the American car industry, including how cars are priced. Some of the old rhythms, however, may be coming back. Car dealers are finally starting to build up a supply of unsold cars. That could lead to the discounts and rebates we were all once used to.”

Chris Collier is the editor for Window Film magazine.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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