Diversifying with Spray-on Bedliners
According to data from Autodata Corp., 2015 marked the fifth time in six years that light-duty trucks outsold traditional cars, with trucks accounting for 55.7 percent of vehicles sold. That’s good news if you’re looking to diversify your business, says Greg Nicholas, collision center director of Mike Castrucci Ford in Milford, Ohio. With two Ford dealerships and one Chevrolet dealership in the auto group’s network, Nicholas wanted to capitalize on the amount of trucks sold in fall 2015, and decided to start looking into truck accessories, starting with spray-on bedliners. It’s a value-added service that is not only popular with customers, he says, but it’s also profitable and relatively easy to get set up. Nicholas describes how to capitalize on this service, even if you’re not a dealership shop.
We were subletting spray-on bedliner work out to another vendor. It got to be too much for them. We would have to schedule it three or four weeks out. In house, it was also very difficult keeping track of it all.
Meanwhile, people nowadays are spending a lot of money on trucks—some of these new trucks are $70,000 or $80,000. To protect them, they’re doing a lot of accessories. Most people that own trucks want a spray-on bedliner. It protects the truck from water damage, chemical corrosions, rust and salt. It’s a good barrier for your truck. They don’t like the plastic ones because if you put something in the plastic one, it’s sliding all over the place in the back of your truck. The spray-in liners don’t do that. It’s got a texture to it and it’s very durable. You can throw rocks in the back of it and it doesn’t crack or break.
Before you get into this service, it’s important to consider several factors, namely demand for bedliners, market saturation and the availability of sprayers. Because we are a dealership, we knew that we consistently get a lot of trucks coming through and I was spraying close to 75–80 percent of the trucks that we sell.
If you’re not a dealership, consider how many trucks you work on or if you have a relationship with a dealership. However, spray-on bedliners can also be done on older trucks or sometimes need to be redone. In addition to being an upsell, insurance companies will frequently pay for it if the truck bed gets damaged in a collision.
There are also different types of systems that are more cost effective, such as using a low-pressure system that simply uses an air compressor. This means that it’s less of an investment up front and you always have the option to upgrade to a high-pressure system if you have the work volume.
Next, you’ll want to look into spray-on liner companies. There are a bunch out there and I looked at most of them. There are a number of different business models, too: do-it-yourself kits, franchise agreements, dealer agreements, and high-pressure systems. For us, we ruled out DIY kits because to do as many trucks as we do, it would be impossible to make money doing it with a DIY kit. We needed the high-pressure system so we can do multiple trucks per day. When it came to the franchise agreement, a few of those companies wouldn’t give me a franchise because I was too close to another existing franchise. If you are part of a franchise, however, this can be an advantage because it guarantees that competitors won’t crop up within a close distance.
We sprayed quite a few of the products and I looked at the texture and the durability. I also wanted a product that stays black. Sometimes, over the course of a year or two, the color can fade to grey.
After deciding on the company to work with, I purchased the necessary equipment from them, which cost roughly $25,000. That included the machine that sprays it, which is a high-pressure system that sprays at 2,000 PSI at 150 degrees. It’s pretty hot and it comes out fast and dries instantly. As soon as you’re done spraying it, you can pull the truck outside. The material comes in two 55-gallon drums, which has an A side and a B side. We get roughly 40 trucks out of a set of drums and then they come and replace the drums.
You do need a dedicated space to do it because it can get a little messy. I have a pretty large collision center here so we use one of our old paint booths that we don’t spray cars in anymore.
At the time of installation, the company I work with also sent two of its technicians for three days to train my technician on the equipment and the process. He picked it up very fast and when I hired a second technician to work on the bedliners, he trained the other one. It was very, very easy.
In essence, the way it works is that you first prep the truck, which takes the longest (roughly 2.5 hours). We use a 6-inch nylon brush to sand the surface of the bed and wipe it out with alcohol. We also take any brackets or bolts out. Then, you simply spray the entire truck bed evenly with a couple coats of the chemicals. It only takes 15 minutes and then the truck is ready to go. Once you have a team that works together, they roll through them pretty quickly.
Since we installed everything, it has really taken off. We have two technicians doing two or three bedliners every day, five days per week. It only took us two months to recoup the $25,000 investment. Plus, it is a profitable service for us. The way it works in our shop is that it’s $499 retail and I charge my sales department $400. It costs me about $200 a truck to do with materials and employees, so I’m keeping 50 percent of that profit. Plus, we keep it all in house and don’t have to source it somewhere else.