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Overlanding: The Rising Trend That Will Boost Accessories Sales

Article Highlights:

  • Demand for 4x4 SUV and truck accessorization is primed to explode.
  • Revamp your accessories sales process to capitalize on new opportunities.

It seems like every few years brings a new fad or trend that shakes up the U.S. auto industry, and the late ‘10s and early ‘20s are no exception. For example, look at overlanding: a rising trend that emphasizes off-road, vehicle-based exploration in remote locations.

If you’ve ever seen a Ford truck or Jeep commercial featuring carefree adventurers rolling across mountain streams and over rocky terrain with ease, you get the idea. However, “overlanders” often take the experience a bit more seriously than that, equating their journeys (which can last anywhere from days to years) to quasi-spiritual quests in search of the unknown and the splendor of nature.

For that reason, overlanding also includes camping, meaning the vehicle needs to provide comfort and storage amenities beyond just off-road utility.

So, the question every dealer should be asking themselves at this point is: What new opportunities does this trend represent for my business?

As it turns out, the answer is a very significant opportunity in the form of increased accessories sales.

An Opportunity in Accessories

Consider one news item that made waves when it was first announced a few years ago: the return of the Ford Bronco. Originally discontinued in the mid-‘90s, the Bronco is a widely beloved vehicle, a flagship truck-based SUV from an earlier time.

Now, think about this combination of circumstances as we move into the latter part of 2021 and 2022:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic is winding down, with infection rates plummeting, vaccinations skyrocketing, and experts predicting a return to semi-normal life by late summer or early fall.
  • With restrictions beginning to lift in late spring and early summer, people will be itching for the exact kind of outdoor getaway that overlanding represents after a year of being cooped up indoors and socially isolated. Expect a boom in tourism and travel (see rising gas prices as a clue that gasoline demand is expected to keep growing).
  • The return of the Bronco, as well as the launch of other brands’ new SUV and truck models, will add fuel to that fire.

In other words, the demand for these types of vehicles will be there. And while there’s a sales opportunity here regardless of brand, the real opportunity to clear a significant profit margin lies with accessories and add-ons.

Why? Let’s use the Bronco once more as a point of reference. Did you know this vehicle has around 200 dealer-installable accessories available?

I’m not saying anyone will ever deck out their vehicle with 100 percent of the accessories you offer them (or anything close), but remember, we’ve already established that overlanders are serious about their off-road sojourns. Overlanding is not just a hobby for them but an intentional lifestyle choice.

That level of commitment will affect what they’re willing to invest in the vehicle that makes it all possible. It’s also worth noting their survival will partly depend on this vehicle once they’re in the wilderness.

So, if you have the demand and you have the vehicles and accessories to meet the demand, there’s one area left to sort out, and unfortunately, it’s the area where most dealers fall short: the accessories sales process.

How Do You Sell Accessories?

First, let’s acknowledge that dealerships have a disproportionally small slice of the national automotive accessories pie. That industry has approached sales of $50 billion in recent years. Dealerships represent the second largest sales channel for auto accessories, but they still only collect 14 percent of sales, with the lion’s share going to auto parts chain stores like AutoZone or NAPA.

That’s a shame because dealers enjoy a “first pitch” advantage – they get to act first in marketing and selling accessories to consumers.

So, why do they underperform? There are a few reasons, but the most fixable one is your accessories sales process.

Selling accessories is a unique challenge. You can’t approach it in the same way you approached the car deal you just closed.

Instead, rethink what you know about selling and incorporate these three elements into your approach:

  • Keep it low pressure and emphasize value. Being pushy with the upsell immediately after a customer has committed to the big purchase of the vehicle itself is a turn-off. Emphasize value and how certain add-ons make sense with the customer’s life situation or goals for the vehicle. Let them guide the discussion and show them what their vehicle will look like with and without all the different options.
  • Use visual appeal. Verbally explaining an accessory’s value and demonstrating what an accessory actually does are worlds apart. When you make the value proposition real and tangible, the customer will be more likely to spend an extra few dollars a month.
  • Use the timing of your vehicle sales process to your advantage. There’s a lull that occurs between the sales floor and the F&I office, during which the F&I manager collects and prepares paperwork and the customer, often left unattended, begins to switch into money-saving defense mode. Fill this lull with your accessories sales presentation, turning wasted time into profit-generating time and catching the customer when they’re still riding the natural high of the buying decision.

We’re at a unique moment where all the trends are pointing in the same direction: auto accessories, especially for off-road vehicles, are poised for a boom.

Is your dealership ready to capitalize on that opportunity? Take charge of your accessories sales process today to get your slice of the pie.

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Accessories Business Consultant

Raymond began his career in the automotive industry in 2001. He joined the Reynolds Consulting Services team 15 years later as an accessories business consultant. He has established accessory departments in many dealerships and has helped them thrive with training and recommendations.

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