Bed Ensembles

May 5, 2011

A Coast 2 Coast look at what bedliner installers have to say about the market, the products.

Despite the downturn in auto and truck sales, demand for accessories on purchased vehicles remains strong. Many restylers have found that consumer demand for accessories is still in a 60- to 90-day window after purchase. With loans extending over many years, along with warranties lasting way beyond the limits of five or 10 years ago, consumers are looking for ways to protect their investments.

Bedliners have long been a choice for maintaining and protecting pickup beds. OE manufacturers are even offering spray-in liners as an option, validating the appeal of this add-on. For restylers looking for additional revenue and profit, bedliners offer an attractive opportunity. Indeed, not only is there demand in the consumer market, but many shops find additional markets with fleets and industrial applications. Spray-on material can be used in a number of ways besides vehicle applications.

We asked a handful of industry experts, all shop owners and applicators, to offer their comments on the bedliner business. We wanted to know their outlook for the industry, how they view their competition, what they do to obtain dealer business, what other markets they’ve found and how they make recommendations to their customers.

Here are our experts and-¨ the brands they sell:

William S. Edwards

Santa Paul Chevrolet
Santa Paula, Calif.

Mark Goodsell

Goodsell Truck Accessories
Jacksonville, Ark.

Greg Connole
(Rhino Linings)

Rhino Linings of
the Triangle
Raleigh, N.C.

Tim Roe
(Rhino Linings)

Truck Toys
Arlington, Texas

Restyling (RE): New truck sales saw a big boost toward the end of 2010 and into this year. How has that affected the bedliner business in the past four to six months?

ROE: It has definitely increased overall business. We’re doing so much work for dealers; they find any way to sell cars. Our bedliner sales have increased.

CONNOLE: In the past four to six months we have experienced a marginal increase in new truck bedliner business. We have a close relationship with a large Ford dealer (across the street); the business from them has been steady. Chevy and Dodge volume has dropped off substantially from two-plus years ago.

GOODSELL: We sell wholesale and retail, and have noticed a good increase in liner business – a good increase, especially in the crew cab, full-size trucks.

EDWARDS: The Chevrolet pickup is one of our best-selling vehicles. We are one of the high-volume truck-selling dealers in the area. We have no problem selling Scorpion liners in our pickups because it not only protects the entire bed and increases the value, it also carries a lifetime limited warranty. The Scorpion liner holds its luster and its durability is second to none.

RE: What about used or late-model trucks – have people been bringing them in for bedlining options?

GOODSELL: Yes they have. Some are buying clean used trucks and fixing them up.

CONNOLE: Our retail volume has increased in the last four to six months. Customers are investing in bedliners to protect their investment. Customers are now realizing that they will always get their money back from the investment in a high-quality spray-on bedliner. The investment in the bedliner provides protection to the truck bed throughout its life – giving tremendous value to the consumer.

EDWARDS: We pre-load all used pickups as part of the reconditioning process. We have found that by doing this, it increases our gross and obviously helps us sell more used pickups. We also sell the Scorpion liners in the service drive on a regular basis.

ROE: People still purchase truck accessories within 90 days after purchasing the vehicle. We don’t see the old owners; 90% of our customers are purchases within the last 90 days.

RE: With so many companies offering bedlining options (spray-in, drop-in, etc.) how tough is the competition?

EDWARDS: We analyzed the bedliner options that are out there, but after reviewing many other manufacturers we found that the Scorpion liner product [was] the best. The quality is great, the service is very professional and the price is very competitive.

CONNOLE: The biggest competition is the ability to communicate with your customers. If the applicator or the manufacturer of the spray-on bedliner material does not maintain an ongoing dialog with their customers the message doesn’t get through. We utilize the Internet and websites to communicate our message and product information to our customers and potential customers. These tools are essential for every spray-on bedliner applicator.

ROE: Competition in retail is tough. There are a lot of competitors out there. Spray-in liners have off-brand, working-out-of-the-garage types. I tell people there are a lot of products. With us, you get factory-trained installers and a factory warranty. Will they be there later? Do you want to be the guinea pig? You don’t know what you’ll get if you deal with off-brands.

GOODSELL: We sell the Penda SR Skid Resistor liner. There is no other liner out there like it, so that makes it an easy sell. It’s easy to tell customers the advantages of the Penda SR liner over a spray-in liner.

RE: How do you partner with truck dealerships to get the bedliner business? Or do dealers tend to sell, say, Ford, Chevy or Ram brand bedliners? And, if you do partner with dealerships, do you have to be ready on the proverbial “minute’s notice” when the dealer sells a truck and needs the bedliner right away?

GOODSELL: It’s getting harder to partner with the dealerships for the bedliner business on new trucks. The OEs are pushing the dealers to buy OE-direct, and that cuts into the numbers. We do stand ready for those “Got to have it now” dealers that call and those that need us to install a bedliner.

CONNOLE: Again, we constantly communicate with the dealers we do business with. We provide financial incentives for them to incorporate a spray-on bedliner into the purchase of a truck. The Ford, Chevy or Dodge “brand” have their limitations – factory bedliners are installed in small numbers, less than 20% of the trucks produced, and the quality control that I have witnessed is poor at best. No real national warranty. Most dealers do not have the infrastructure to repair a damaged bedliner. They refer customers to us for repairs. We have a scheduling process the dealers comply with. In addition, we do have the capacity to accommodate a once-in-a-while “minute’s notice” deal. The dealer realizes that it takes a certain amount of time to provide them with a quality spray-on bedliner. In the five-plus years we have been spraying Rhino Linings bedliners we have had only one to two occasions where we had a repair or failure of the bedliner we provide. We do, however, repair or replace many bedliners that are factory applied or bedliners that other applicators have applied.

ROE: All the above. Beg, plead, whatever. We’re buddies with our customers. We ride motorcycles together, we fish together. You have to be there when they need you. Then you wait 60 days to get your money. That part has never changed.

EDWARDS: We also have other local automobile dealerships that we partner with. We install liners into all manufacturers’ pickups. We offer free pickup in the morning and delivery back to the dealer in the afternoon. Most local dealerships use us for all of their spray-on liner needs.

RE: What other markets do bedliners provide beyond truck beds? And how difficult is it to market to them? And, how do you promote your bedlining service and product to these other markets.

EDWARDS: One of the best features of the Scorpion product is the fact that we can spray the product outside and without a full body suit. The product has less than 3% isocyanate in it; isocyanate is a very harmful chemical that [some] other manufacturers have – as much as 60% isocyanate in the product. This chemical is the reason that the others can’t spray without a full body suit with an attached air respirator system. Our product is safe for outside as well as inside spraying.

GOODSELL: We only stock bedliners for trucks. Spray-in bedliners could and should market to other things than truck beds, like the bottom of a duck boat.

ROE: We don’t go outside the dealer/retail market. Sometimes we get custom stuff, but we don’t market the alternative stuff. Time is a factor. I can be best at ‘this’ or best at ‘that’ – but not both.

CONNOLE: We provide polyurethane and polyurea spray-on applications for industrial, commercial and residential applications. We spray protective coatings on concrete, metal and wood substrates. We can do marine applications from boats and offroad vehicles to airplane hangar concrete floors. We also do residential garage floors, pool decks, stairways and commercial kitchen floor applications. Another market is secondary containment applications where caustic chemicals are used. Once again, it is important to communicate your capabilities and applications to potential customers. Our visibility comes from cross marketing with other companies that have a high traffic of potential customers. We promote our product/applications through our major investment in websites and e-mail programs to our 8,000-plus customer base.

Our salespeople always make every effort to understand the application and what result the customer is looking for. If you understand the requirements of the application you can sell the appropriate system or application of spray-on bedliner material that will service the customers’ needs. The application can be a polyurethane, polyurea or hybrid (combination of polyurea and polyurethane material application).

Our customer satisfaction is our most important quality.

RE: This is always one of those important questions: What should an installer/salesperson ask a customer before recommending a particular kind of bedliner? That is, you want the customer to be happy with his/her bedliner and to recommend the installer/shop.

ROE: We use the acronym C.A.R.E. It means Contact the customer, Ask the appropriate questions, Recommend a product or solution, Encourage the sale. You need to understand the needs of the customer, how the vehicle will be used, and what they expect to see when you’re done.

EDWARDS: We have been a Scorpion dealer since 2005. Santa Paula Chevrolet has installed thousands of Scorpion liners over the last six years and we will continue to spray only Scorpion liners at our dealership. We just don’t have comeback issues. The product keeps its luster and durability for the life of the pickup. Our customers love Scorpion liners and we would recommend them to anyone.

GOODSELL: We don’t sell spray-in bedliners, so we highly recommend that our customers look at the SR bedliner by Penda. It’s the only liner on the market that will actually stop cargo from sliding around in your truck bed, and it fits and looks outstanding.

We always let the customer know that the spray-in guys are going to use a power sander to sand the bed of their new truck to apply the spray-on; that usually closes the deal right there.

We have sold the Penda product since 1989 and have no complaints. They offer a great product at a good price and the customer service is unbeatable.

It’s obvious from these four installers that there are many options available to the shop interested in selling this product line. With careful investigation, partnering with a good company or companies, you can provide a highly desirable product and service for your customers while reaping the good profits available in this market.