Dealer Ops

The Full-Service Appearance Department

If a dealership can justify establishing a full-line body and paint shop, why not a full-service detailing department?

This is probably a question that most dealers have never even considered. They feel that detailing is a necessary evil due to its importance to profitable used car sales.

In the last couple of years, detailing has become even more critical to profitable used car sales. To enjoy increasing profits from used car sales, the cars have to mechanically fit and or in top shape cosmetically. With auto manufacturers offering extended warranties on many late model used cars, quality detailing is a must.

Enter Retail Detailing

Apart from the dealer's in-house need for detailing and other cosmetic car-care services is a growing demand for detailing and cosmetic car-care services from retail customers.

In 1980, there were 4,000 detail shops listed in the USA Yellow Pages. Today, that number is 12,000. Over 80 percent of the carwashes in the USA offer some type of detailing service. Over 11 percent of the 5,000 quick lubes in the country are offering detailing. Nearly all of the over 55,000 body shops also offer some form of detailing service. Finally, many auto dealers are now recognizing the consumer demand and offer detailing services, also.

Unlimited Potential & Profitable Business For The Dealer

If the dealer has an in-house need for detailing and cosmetic car care services, and if the public has a need for the same; the question is: "Why shouldn't dealers offer these services?"

Why do you operate a body shop? Certainly for your in-house needs, but body and paint work on used cars is required on a consistent basis. The major reason stems from the fact that the public is willing to go to a dealer they trust with their vehicle, and because it is profitable.

At this point please ask yourself this question, and then honestly answer it. Why don't you set up a full-service detailing (appearance) department in your dealership?

If you want help with your answer, don't hesitate to call me because I believe that if every dealership sets up an in-house appearance department, the dealership would enjoy profits beyond wildest expectations.

The Full-Service Appearance Department

What I am talking about is a department that can provide every cosmetic service that a dealer now requires for used car reconditioning. Today, you either do some of this in-house or you contract with outside vendors to perform the service.

Then, think of the public! They too need detailing, as well as many of the other services the department offers.

What are the services involved in a Full-Service Appearance Department?

  • Complete Auto Detailing
  • Rock Chip/Scratch Paint Touch-up
  • Windshield Rock Chip/Crack Repair
  • .24 KT Gold Plating
  • Vinyl/Leather Repair & Dying
  • Dashboard Repair & Dying
  • Pinstriping
  • Door Edge Guard
  • Window Tinting
  • Carpet Plugging & dying
  • Paintless Dent Repair

These services can be performed by quality employees you can hire for $7.00 to $8.00 per hour and can be trained on the job.

And, with the exception of paintless dent repair, these employees will be able to train others to perform these services.

Best of all, you can get the training from any company that offers equipment and products for any of theses services. In fact, in recent years associations have cropped up to service the needs of these industries.

What's The Cost?

That is always the $64,000 question! In this case the answer is not as bad as you'd expect. Of course this author does not believe that you can set up an appearance department with a shop vac, electric buffer and a few plastic bottles and rags.

Take detailing for example. Where you might pay an outside shop $65 to $70 for a complete detail, the public will pay from $150 to $200 for the same service. In fact, the public is far less demanding about the detailing services than dealers are, and they pay more.

Gold plating systems will range in price from $1,395 to $2,500. Windshield Repair systems cost from $300 to $5,000. By the way, the low-cost systems work as well as the high-dollar systems. Paint Touch-up systems with a cabinet will range in price from $5,000 to over $8,000, depending on the manufacturer. Window tinting, pinstriping, vinyl and leather repair and other such services require an investment in the product for the most part, very little expensive equipment.

Your biggest investment in a full-service appearance department is your commitment in time, effort and finally, in the quality of people you hire. To make this a successful venture you must hire the same quality people you hire for other areas of your dealership. Don't hire the typical detailers you have always hired!

How Much Can You Generate?

That is dependent on how much work you currently do on the outside which would become in-house work.

From the retail side, it is my experience from operating freestanding detail shops that you can generate at least $20,000 to $30,000 per month in detailing services alone. If you add the other cosmetic car care services, there is no reason this could not easily reach $50,000 or more.

Keep in mind that a freestanding detail shop has to promote, advertise and struggle to get people in the door. You already have them in the door each and every day, and you already have them on your mailing lists. Yes, the potential is staggering when you consider what you have to work with.

About the author
Bud Abraham

Bud Abraham

President & Founder

View Bio

a Bobit media brand

Create your free Bobit Connect account to bookmark content.

The secure and easy all-access connection to your content.
Bookmarked content can then be accessed anytime on all of your logged in devices!

Create Account