Volume 17, Issue 1 - January/February 2013

feature

Trendspotting PPF
Products Come and Go, but PPF is Here to Stay
by Casey Neeley

Who doesn’t love to follow trends? Remember fanny packs? Many of you probably sported frosted tips and jorts (jean shorts) in the late ‘90s. Even Tom Brady recently fell prey to “Bieber Fever,” emulating the pop sensation’s haircut that left millions of pre-teen girls (and presumably his wife Giselle Bundchen) swooning. Not all trends live in infamy, however. Following certain fads can even help boost your business and sales while protecting your reputation and street cred. Recognizing market tendencies, such as the five listed here by several members of the paint protection film (PPF) industry, can help do just that. So ditch your fanny pack and swingy bowl cut and take a look at what these PPF experts collectively agree you’ll see in 2013.

Growth
“I think 2013 shows a lot of promise for PPF as more dealers and consumers become aware of the benefits of this product category,” says Liza Noland, vice president of North America sales and marketing for Commonwealth Laminating and Coating/SunTek Window Films. Phil Novac, director of marketing and business development for Avery Dennison agrees. “We continue to see about 20 percent market growth rate so [PPF sales] are definitely continuing to grow in double digits,” he says. “At the dealer level, by volume [PPF] is the sixth most added-on aftermarket sale; for revenue and profit it is number one.” Expansion into original equipment manufacturing (OEM) is also another sign of PPF’s growth, he explains. “The OEs have recognized the value of the product and are starting to put it on their assembly locations,” he says “consumers will become more educated as cars [begin to] come with [PPF] and as the [OEM] explains it to them it will make more sense; for future cars down the road, they’ll know the value of the product.” One shop owner plans to use OEM awareness to assist with his PPF sales. “We’re probably going to invest in some displays and get those out to the dealers to get awareness out there,” says Tommy Silva, CEO and president of T&T Tinting Specialists in Honolulu, Hi.

Quality
“I am hopeful dealers will begin to see, and demand, better looking films,” says Noland. “They have been forced to settle for so long with high levels of orange peel, weak top-coats and rigid films. As technology improves, they now have access to films that don’t need heat or dangerous steam to install, won’t scratch during installation and are as invisible as they were intended to be on the car.” Overall, manufacturers are stepping up the performance of their films.

“The trend has been less texture … The trend you’ll see is for better coating processes, so that the film doesn’t turn yellow, haze or crack over time,” says Novac.

“In the last year, everybody across the board has stepped it up in product quality in terms of higher-quality film to remove the headache on the backend,” says Eric Keller, business development for Xpel Technologies. “[Dealers] always go with the top-end stuff. It keeps customers happy.”

Demand
“Consumers are becoming more confident and new car sales are up,” says Kathy Lam, marketing manager for 3M’s automotive division. “With more vehicle sales, there is a natural up-tick in sales of PPF. Trends show that consumers plan to keep their vehicles longer and want to keep them looking great.”

“We want to get more middle of the road, Camry, Honda,” says Silva. “We try to educate people and get the marketing out to them.”

“From the auto side, there’s greater awareness and penetration,” says Keller. “People are starting to understand what it is.”

That awareness is paying off for many dealers.

“For automotive fittings, I would say it’s probably the number one accessory for customers who are making an investment on a new vehicle, typically more than $30,000. Not always is every vehicle above $30,000, though. Sometimes you see people who get PPF on an $18,000 car because they’re going to keep it for 10 years,” says Brandon Coddington owner of Springfield’s PerfecTint and Protective Films in Springfield, Mo. “Things changed for us when daily car customers realized it was a service for them too, not just the exotic car owners.”

“We see a little more of an uptick in traditional vehicles in Texas at least,” says Russell Haertl, owner of Sun Tint Inc. in Austin, Texas. “We started with all hot rods and exotic vehicles, but now we’re starting to see more domestic vehicles.”

Novac attributes the demand to PPF’s ability to meet a variety of requirements for new regulations.

“What we are seeing is more at the OE level, versus aftermarket sales, so it’s not the consumer’s decision to put it on. Paint finishes are becoming softer because of Environmental Protection Agency regulations; the OEM is trying to protect the front end of its car so the paint doesn’t chip as easily from road debris. Several states have outlawed the type of salt they use for snow removal and it has become more like a type of gravel; when you go to states such as Utah or Colorado there is a much larger percentage of cars there that put on PPF, versus another state like Oklahoma that doesn’t have those regulations.”

Software
“Pre-cut kits are becoming more prevalent as evidenced by an increase in 3M software users who download the designs and cut the patterns with their plotters. Fewer and fewer installers are installing free-hand,” says Lam.

More and more manufacturers are beginning to add software and cutters to their available products and services for dealers. Avery Dennison just launched its new software program in January 2013. Xpel and 3M, in addition to a variety of other manufacturers, offer a software program and plotter systems as well. While each of the programs varies, dealers can contact their distributors and manufacturers for availability of these systems.

“The PPF industry has come a long way as long as far as patterns are concerned,” says Haertl. “The potential for the film companies to get out there and sell it has increased. When we first started, a lot of patterns weren’t available for a lot of cars so we ended up doing a lot of custom work. Now some of our custom work isn’t as necessary anymore.”

For additional information, see Noteworthy on pg. 30.

Crossover
“There are such a wide variety of applications for this product,” says Noland. “I believe dealers are becoming more innovative with alternative ideas for the use and benefits of the product.”

Keller and Novac agree that the crossover applications extending beyond automotive installs are endless.

“[PPF] is finding its way into anything and everything,” says Keller. “I’m talking about people with motorcycles, mountain bikes; there is an industrial use for film such as in elevators. We’re starting to see it branch out in numerous ways. I’ve even heard of people using it on kitchen counters.”

“We’ve actually wrapped some gas station pumps because the coating resists the gasoline staining,” says Novac. “We’re actually looking at some large consumer products now.”

“We created a product called Crystal Rails for use in stand-up paddle boarding. It’s one of the fastest growing watersports in the U.S., Sweden and world,” says Silva. “It’s a really expensive problem to have the paddle hit side of the board so we created a 3-6 inch strip that’s 8 feet long on each side of the board; the 8-mil urethane does a great job of protecting the board.”

“We’ve covered appliances such as washers and dryers, four wheelers—basically anything customers want protected,” says Cottington. Finding a variety of unique install situations can help bolster PPF sales by creating a steady source of business that transcends the seasonal slowdown.

Casey Neeley is the editor of Window Film magazine. She can be reached at cneeley@glass.com. Follow her on Twitter at @windowfilmmag and on Facebook by searching Window Film Magazine.


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