Paint protection systems, which guarantee to maintain paintwork at showroom conditions with minimum fuss, offer dealers a chance to exploit the British public's love affair with their cars.
Several systems have been available for years, but dealers, while recognising the benefits to display cars in the showroom, have been reluctant to promote the products to new and used car buyers.
One salesman said the trading environment was so volatile that he dare not attempt to sell additional products for fear of irritating the car buyer, which could scupper the deal.
Others believe the effort would be futile as they have already prised as much money out of the customer as they could expect.
Experts believe the best time to sell paint protection is during the period between order and delivery, while the customer is still heady with anticipation of their new car.
Amazing Glaze, initially supplied by Jorell UK but now independently sold, underwent a two-year trial with 20 franchised dealers, who were encouraged to sell the product during this period. More than half (51%) of new car buyers purchased the product.
Dealers received, on average, a 49% return on sales: one Amazing Glaze application costs £30-£40, but can be sold for £150-£200.
Supaguard this year enhanced its Dealer Profit programme, which it claims generates profits worth £10m for dealers, with a revamp of its protection system and the launch of an aftercare protection pack.
It believes dealers can make £180 profit on each paint and fabric protection pack sold.
John Orrick, Supaguard joint managing director, said a number of leading dealers, including Pendragon, CD Bramall, Ryland and Peugeot's Robins & Day network, had approved the system.
“We have the proven expertise and logistics to manage large accounts and as a result, a number of car manufacturers have expressed an interest in working with us,” he added.
Rival product Diamondbrite from Maidstone, Kent-based Jewelultra was recently approved by Ford and is seeking further manufacturer endorsements.
The system, which has been around for a number of years, achieved sudden popularity in 2000 when dealers suffered lost sales due to the car pricing issue.
Sales and marketing manager Lance Boseley said: “Diamondbrite offers an excellent opportunity for supplementary sales. It is designed for customer retention – to maintain the six-year warranty, the customer must visit the dealership once a year to have the car inspected.”
Diamondbrite, applied by dealership staff, covers the car with a thin film to maintain the showroom finish and protect the paint. Consumers simply need to wash down the car to maintain the shine – no polish is necessary.
During the annual inspection, dealers can exploit supplementary profit opportunities by selling cosmetic repairs for any dents or scratches – Jewelultra is one of many companies offering 'smart' repair systems.
The company recently revamped Diamondbrite, adding an aftersales kit which is given to customers when they collect the car.
“At the end of each year, the customer needs to repurchase another aftersales kit to keep to the terms of the guarantee,” said Mr Boseley. “This means that not only is there significant profit to the dealer in the initial sale of Diamondbrite, but the aftercare kit ensures customer retention in future years.”
He claims Diamondbrite, which is used by Reg Vardy and Hartwells, achieves an average sales penetration of 25%. The recommended sale price is £199, on which dealers can expect to make gross profit of £122.
Splash, a newcomer to the paint protection business, offers a Teflon-based sealant called Tough Seal, which is coated onto cars to shield the paintwork.
The company claims it offers greater protection than its rivals because it is wax-based and “virtually impossible to remove”.
Sales director Karen Betteley said: “Tough Seal is an acrylic Teflon product that is applied to the paintwork. It bonds chemically to paint, which makes it extremely hardwearing – once it's applied, it is there to stay.”
She claimed several dealers had changed from rival products to use Tough Seal because it was so hardwearing.
“We have around 30 dealers on board, including Arriva, and several Mercedes-Benz and Lexus retailers. Autoclenz is distributing the product,” said Mrs Betteley.
Tough Seal comes with a five-year guarantee and retails for £25 a kit. Dealers sell for £200.
Splash also supplies a shampoo and dry wash top up every six months, which maintains the Teflon build up and shine. “Dealers are finding that Tough Seal is a great opportunity to boost their income,” said Mrs Betteley.