In the header of its website, Mercedes-Benz of Westwood proudly declares, “No fine print, no gimmicks!” Finance Manager Trisha Winski says this straight-shooter approach is at work in the Westwood, Mass.-based dealership’s F&I department, where the profit per retail unit (PRU) is $2,000, more than $1,200 of which is generated by product sales.
Customers here are purchasing an average of two or more add-on products when they buy a car, Winski says. One of those products is often an offering from Dent Wizard: Ding Shield Plus or the more extensive Ding Shield Ultimate. The products currently penetrate at a 24 percent clip on lease deals, and 31 percent on finance transactions.
“We present it very straightforward and to the point,” explains Winski, who has spent the past nine years at the store. All it takes, she says, is some strategic product bundling and a clear presentation of the product’s features.
Best With Highline
Dent Wizard has experienced a spike in demand in sales the past two years, says Aaron Cooper, the company’s director of finance and insurance. “I think demand industrywide for similar products would be the same,” he says.
On average, the company sees product penetration at between 18 to 20 percent across all its dealership clients. For highline stores, that number is even higher — as is the case at Mercedes-Benz of Westwood.
“At our highline stores, because of that customer, pride of ownership is a really big thing,” Cooper says. “People like their vehicles looking as good as the day they bought it. And they take pride in that.”
Winksi’s dealership has made nearly $90,000 in profit so far in 2013 selling Dent Wizard offerings. “When you’re purchasing a car, especially a new car, the first few years are when you care most about the car looking pristine,” she says. “It’s like purchasing your first piece of jewelry or new sunglasses; you’re constantly polishing it, babying it.
“A normal ding can cost anywhere from $100 or more per dent,” she adds. “For around $500 to $600, you can have unlimited dings removed for years.”
Mercedes-Benz of Westwood’s success with the Ding Shield product is the result of common-sense tactics and straight talk. Winski says she’ll often mention standard situations that could result in a dent, while pointing out the areas the program covers on a model car that sits on her desk.
“It’s really not a matter of if the customer’s going to have a ding or dent happen on the vehicle, it’s just really a matter of time and a matter of how many,” Cooper notes. “So that’s a great selling feature of the program.”
The key, though, is bundling the product with other services. While Ding Shield Plus offers unlimited paintless dent repair, Ding Shield Ultimate adds coverage for interior rips and tears, as well as head lamp windshield chip and cosmetic wheel repair. Cooper says many of the company’s dealer clients are having luck packaging Ding Shield products with a maintenance program or road hazard tire and wheel.
“What Ding Shield does is really give the consumer the ability when they are getting their oil changed to have the vehicle checked over,” Cooper says. “If there are any dings or dents, or if there’s curb rash that occurs … at that point in time they can have all the services done.”
Typically, Winski couples Ding Shield Plus with Resist All, a protective coating from Cal-Tex. “People who care about the paint no doubt care about dings as well,” she says.
Tire and wheel protection is also popular due to road conditions in the New England area, but the protection’s hefty price tag deters some customers. In that case, Winski will offer Ding Shield Ultimate’s cosmetic wheel repair. “All stores don’t couple them like we do,” Winski says. “I don’t know why they don’t, because I can tell you that definitely increases how much of it we sell.”
Before Winski can even pitch a product like Ding Shield, Mercedes-Benz of Westwood’s salespeople have to get the customer into the F&I office. Winski eases the transition by conducting a meet-and-greet with the customer while he or she is still with the salesperson. “I really think it helps them kind of put a face to a name so you’re not completely fresh to them when they walk into your office,” she says.
The dealership’s salespeople will mention relevant products to the shopper. Winski also conducts an initial interview to determine which products could benefit the buyer. Lease customers, she says, typically don’t purchase Ding Shield Plus because the Mercedes-Benz lease program covers dings the size of a credit card, making it redundant.
At Huffines Kia Denton, however, the opposite is true. There, Finance Manager Grant Wilson offers customers the Ding Shield Preferred plan, which adds cosmetic wheel and windshield chip repair to the basic product. “[Dent Wizard] really, really honestly works the best when we do leasing,” Wilson says. “Because it just kind of goes hand in hand … [a customer can] make sure that when a car gets turned in, there are no blemishes.”
Dent Wizard penetrates at a 20 percent rate at the Denton, Texas-based dealership. Average PRU on the back end is at $1,200, with the F&I department averaging 2.5 products per deal.
Like Winski, Wilson tries to maintain the rapport the salesperson has already established with the customer. He’s also careful not to come off like a salesperson when presenting product. “It’s my duty to make sure they are aware of all the options that they have,” he explains. “And that’s how I present it to them: as options, not obligations.”
Ding Shield Preferred offers Huffines Kia Denton more than just added profit on a lease or finance deal. The product also funnels customers to the dealership’s service department, a goal the operation’s founder J.L. Huffines Sr. stresses to producers.
“When the customer calls the 800-number on the service contract, that will start the claim process and they will be directed to us,” Wilson says.
“I tell the customer, since Ding Shield is paintless dent repair, if a big rock came up and hit right in the middle of the hood of their car, Dent Wizard will remove that ding for them. But they are not going to paint that. Our parts department would carry paint pens that can color that in with the correct color-coded paint as well as a clear coat to cover that up for them.”
Winski advises her customers to schedule ding repair while their vehicles are undergoing regular maintenance. This opens up an opportunity for more dollars in the service bay, a fact backed by a study conducted by San Ramon, Calif.-based Performance Loyalty Group. Of the 48 dealerships the firm surveyed that offered a prepaid maintenance plan, 85 percent of plan holders purchased additional services beyond those included in the plan.
“Most people aren’t going to schedule an appointment for just one ding,” Winski points out.
Another selling point is that Dent Wizard’s technicians are trained by the company, as opposed to being sub-contracted. Each of them carries a $3 million insurance policy, Dent Wizard’s Cooper says.
“We typically try to do the repairs back at the selling dealer,” he adds.
“Certainly, customer retention is a big part of our program that we try to drive. And Plan A is always to get the customer back to the selling dealer for the repairs, parts and service.”
Winski says that’s her game plan as well, adding, “We understand that our service department is what’s going to bring the customer back.”