Do you know of any F&I product that boasts such high value that a mandate to have it installed on every vehicle in America would be a reasonable action? How about a product that easily bridges the offering divide between lease, cash and finance deals and stimulates the sale of other offerings? Can you think of a product that increases front- and back-end gross, brings car buyers back to the dealership’s service department and promotes customer retention and goodwill? If you can’t, you’re forgetting about windshield treatment.

I know what you’re thinking. If windshield protection is the “holy grail” of dealer offerings, why isn’t every dealer in America offering it? That’s a great question — and a simple one. The answer is somewhat more complicated, but it all comes down to a simple lack of education.

I lay most of the blame at the feet of my fellow agents. I just don’t think they properly communicate the benefits to dealers and their F&I offices. I also think the product is plagued by overpricing and, quite frankly, a history of hit-and-miss quality and affordability.

A Category Is Born
In 2001, I was among the first dealer agents to offer a product that used a hydrophobic coating that claimed to reduce glare and make windshields 10 times stronger. The coating lasted for years, but the installation process, called chemical vapor deposition, was cumbersome, dangerous and costly.

Then, when the product’s longevity was questioned, a maintenance solution was added. And when the coating’s ability to make glass stronger and less likely to break was called into question, a repair/replacement warranty was added. Unfortunately, these additions made many offerings prohibitively expensive for dealers and car buyers.

Advancements in coating technology have since corrected many of those early issues. The installation process, for instance, became as simple as wiping on the coating. The product category has also seen new entrants, allowing the protection to spread coast to coast. But for all the improvements made, the product is still plagued by overpricing and bad marketing.

The biggest issue is dealers and some agents still tout the hydrophobic coating as a glass hardener and glare reducer. Positioning the product that way reduces it to just another paper product on the F&I menu, and all that does is minimize the other benefits it affords dealers.

New Marketing Techniques
The good news is there are some very creative dealers, agents and product suppliers who are breathing new life into the windshield protection segment. They are breaking from the status quo by stripping the product of its hype and fluff and drilling down to its core benefit: It keep drivers safe when driving in the rain, especially at night.  At its core, windshield protection is not only a valuable safety product; it is extremely cost-effective. By that I mean you can offer it to your customers at a reasonable price and still enjoy profit margins that dwarf any other F&I offering. That’s a winning combination, and dealers and agents are catching on. And many of them are beefing up their marketing efforts as a result.

Many operations are enhancing existing advertising with an offer of a free application, while other dealers front-load the product with the goal of upselling customers to a lifetime annual treatment in the F&I office. Other dealers recommend the product to every service customer, while some stores will give it away with certain service work as a way of thanking customers for their business.

But again, the product’s greatest benefit is the added safety it brings. When customers see that benefit, they think of the organization responsible for keeping them safe. And as we all know, dealers can never get enough goodwill. Properly utilized, windshield treatments will always be the holy grail of F&I.

Martin S. Mason is the North American partner of Nanovations Pty Ltd., an Australia-based company specializing in glass, metals and textiles. He previously served as national sales manager for several hydrophobic coating glass companies. Email him at
[email protected].