Car Art 2009

Dec 3, 2009

Graphically speaking, the easiest way for owners of cars, trucks, vans, CUVs, SUVs, etc. to make a personal and identifiable statement is to spiff up their vehicles with today’s vehicle graphics designs- subtle or bold. Besides being easy, adding graphics produced as kits is, overall, one of the least expensive ways to personalize a vehicle.

Our annual graphics kits review offers what the professionals in the industry are seeing as this year’s graphics trends and what vehicle types will sport them. Moreover, our graphics kits experts tell how suppliers can work with their restyler retailers to help make sales, even – especially – in challenging economic times when car owners more closely weigh their needed and discretionary expenditures.

Following are the questions Restyling posed. We let the respondents speak in their own words, directing their comments to you, the retailer, the jobber, the business owner, the installer. Each has his or her own perspective that you’ll want to consider as you plan now for spring and summer.

Want more? How about some insider graphics application tips that we featured in Restyling‘s January “ToolBox” eNewsletter? If you missed it, go to www.restylingmag.com, click on “E-newsletter Archive” and go to January 2009 under E-newsletters.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Going into spring/summer 2009, what vehicles look to be the best for opportunities for restylers to sell graphics (e.g., small cars, pickups, vans, motorcycles)? Why do such vehicles make the best choice?

Pickups and SUVs will continue to provide good opportunities to sell graphics despite lower sales numbers. Smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, however, will show a greater growth in graphic sales opportunities than they have in the past as more consumers switch their vehicle purchase criteria.
  Greg Duchinsky, marketing director, Sharpline Converting Inc., Wichita, Kan.

Carefully chosen graphics look good on almost any vehicle. That being said, most graphics find themselves on trucks and sporty vehicles. Restylers should focus on these vehicles, as owners in these categories have a higher tendency to purchase graphics.
–  Michael Dickman, president, SpeedGraphics, Asheville, N.C.

Small cars and crossover vehicles seem to be the vehicles of choice right now. Trucks and SUVs have slowed down, but we are seeing a resurgence with the lower fuel prices. The Challenger is extremely hot right nowand we expect the new Camaro to be a hit once it is released.
–  Lane Carter, Restylers’ Choice, Cincinnati

Whatever the hot car is in 2009, it will likely be the top choice for vehicle graphics from a decorative standpoint. Vans and pickups are popular for business advertising.
Molly Waters, sales support manager, Avery Dennison Graphics & Reflective Products Division, Painesville, Ohio

Because of gas prices, there are many more small cars and small SUVs on the road, which lend well to quick, well-placed graphics. Because there is limited space on these vehicles, the graphics need to be eye-catching to really grab your attention.
–  Jason Yard, marketing application specialist, MACtac, Stow, Ohio

I believe there is a growing market in the smaller cars. As these vehicles become more commonplace we foresee a growing demand for graphics on these vehicles. We have received calls from installers who ask us, “What do you have for a Ford Focus? My dealer has rows of them and wants me to come up with something.” We see demand for graphics on vehicles like the Toyota Yaris, Hyundai Tucson, Mazda 3 and Chevy Cobalt.
-”  Dale Huenink, president, Vinyl Graphics, Oostburg, Wis.

SUVs, pickups and any four-door passenger vehicle are the best opportunities for graphics. It’s about personalizing the vehicle a customer drives every day.
Wes Sabulka, president, Image Works Media, Edmonton, Alb.

[Look to] small and “retro” cars and CUVs, primarily due to the trend away from full-size pickups and SUVs because of fuel prices. Most consumers believe the current drop in fuel prices is temporary and prices will rebound next spring.
Chris Harren, president, Applied Coatings International LLC, Claremore, Okla.

As we enter the spring of 2009, we are most likely to find the trend to lean toward graphics for smaller coupes and sedans as these vehicle sales seem to be leading in the market due to fuel issues.
Duane Shumyla, owner/president, Sign-Tech Media Inc., Edmonton, Alb.

Small SUVs and fuel-efficient cars will continue to be top sellers. These are prime candidates for the added styling that graphics can provide for any vehicle.
Joan Omo, business unit manager, Automotive/Graphic Films Division, Universal Products Inc., Goddard, Kan.

We think it still will be a small-car market; however, with gas prices down in [December], we believe that’s the “CPR” the light-truck and SUV markets need, and we will see somewhat of a comeback for them.
–  Bobby Styles, president/owner, Illusions Inc., Hudson, Fla.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What trends do you see in “green” (hybrid/electric/high-mileage/low-emission, etc.) vehicles that could impact the vehicle graphics market for 2009-10?

Truly “green” vehicles will have little impact on the graphics market since their sales numbers are still a small fraction of the overall new vehicle sales picture. These vehicles, however, will be featured in more graphics advertising and promotional literature since public attention is more focused on this niche vehicle type.
-” Greg Duchinsky, Sharpline Converting

I see fast cars and “hip” vehicles coming onto the market in the near term. These are perfect choices for customizing with graphics. Once the market has officially turned toward greener cars, graphics will need to adjust somewhat –  the market will lead us, but it’s not there yet.
–  Michael Dickman, SpeedGraphics

Not much [in the way of trends]. The fact a vehicle is “green” has very little to do with the graphics industry.
Lane Carter, Restylers’ Choice

If a company purchases or leases a green vehicle(s) for a company fleet and wraps it to promote the company, the firm will likely include the green fuel source in the graphics and messaging.
–  Molly Waters, Avery Dennison Graphics

Less is more with the “green” movement. Higher-impact graphics using less vinyl.
–  Jason Yard, MACtac

I don’t see a large impact for graphics on hybrids, although that may change when models become more available.
–  Dale Huenink, Vinyl Graphics

No real impact on graphics. It’s the inside of the hybrid that has changed. The exterior has the same appeal for creative designs.
–  Wes Sabulka, Image Works Media

A continued trend away from the tribal and aggressive graphics toward cleaner and more integrated design approach – designs that are inherently more marketable to the “green” buyer.
–  Chris Harren, Applied Coatings

Not any real impact [from “green” vehicles] except, likely, smaller vehicles – so sleeker designs.
–  Duane Shumyla, Sign-Tech Media Inc.

With more of these vehicles entering the market, there will be many body styles that will still require a diverse offering of graphics kits. From larger, bolder kits for those who want to make a statement, to smaller kits, chrome badging and pinstriping for those on the more conservative side.
Joan Omo, Universal Products Inc.

Let’s face it, these cars need help – and most of them look like they were made just for graphics.
–  Bobby Styles, Illusions Inc.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What types of graphics will consumers migrate most toward, and why (e.g., pinstripes, flame kits, full or partial vehicle wraps)?

Consumer tastes in graphics will continue to be fairly conservative at the new-car dealership level. Expect to see a slight increase in more outrageous graphics and partial vehicle wraps at restyling shops that cater to consumers looking to “upgrade” the appearance of their new car.
–  Greg Duchinsky, Sharpline Converting

I think it will be very mixed as to what influences consumers. But unless the graphics are for a business, vehicle wraps will not be used widely for restyling.
–  Michael Dickman, SpeedGraphics

Of course, pinstripes and vehicle logos continue to be popular. We are very excited about the popularity of partial- and full-vehicle wraps. What a great way for someone to advertise – a rolling billboard. We believe this to be one of the hottest items for 2009.
Lane Carter, Restylers’ Choice

For business advertising, I expect that partial wraps will become more popular this year.  It is a lower-cost option that still allows a company to advertise its business but keeps costs down. Decorative and business advertising graphics are incorporating the smoke look, and matte overlaminates provide a retro look that is popular.
–  Molly Waters, Avery Dennison Graphics

The biggest trend that I’ve seen is the need to move toward partial wraps or “half wraps” on many of these small vehicles simply because they have many complex curves, and a partial wrap can gain the same amount of attention if done properly.
–  Jason Yard, MACtac

Pinstripes are always in demand at the dealerships. It’s the mainstay of this industry. At Vinyl Graphics we service mostly mobile trim installers, so the graphics we sell are a bit more conservative so that when the graphics are installed at the dealership they have a wider appeal to the buying public. Many of my installers have had success offering packages to the dealer. Pinstripes or small accents with color-keyed moldings that match the car’s paint have been a hit this year. Flames never go out of style, but we have seen a trend toward ghost flames.
–  Dale Huenink, Vinyl Graphics

The vehicles are getting smaller but the graphics are not. Linear “tribal” designs with special effects will be strong. Adding an image print is becoming more common. The vehicles are getting smaller but the graphics are not. Linear “Tribal” designs with special effects will be strong. Adding an image print is becoming more common.
Wes Sabulka, Image Works Media

Simple, clean designs and variations of classic racing stripe designs. Personalized wraps will become more prevalent as large-format printers continue to proliferate and wrap schools continue to pump trained wrappers into the market.
Chris Harren, Applied Coatings

Half-wraps are becoming very popular, but are not everyone’s thing. Most consumers will lean toward sleek, neutral graphics that will accommodate the new vehicles today.
–  Duane Shumyla, Sign-Tech Media Inc.

We continue to see a wide variety of products being sold, which include pinstriping, racing stripes, chrome badging, large and small kits, and vehicle wrap products.
–  Joan Omo, Universal Products Inc.

Smaller graphics enhance the vehicle’s appearance and complement the other accessories installed.
Bobby Styles, Illusions Inc.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Regarding auto graphics styles: “modern,” “edgy,” “skulls/flames,” “retro”  what will be the popular looks  and why?

“Retro” style graphics may have the most popular appeal due to their more conservative appearance and the added attention that new retro-car styles (Dodge Challenger, Chevy Camaro, and Ford Mustang) will receive in the automotive press.
–  Greg Duchinsky, Sharpline Converting

Flames and shredded or torn designs will continue to be popular. These can be dressed up or down, but those themes appeal to a broad base of consumers.
–  Michael Dickman, SpeedGraphics

All the above are doing well. What drives the type of graphic people want is their personal taste. Everyone has his or her own style and taste; that’s why we carry over 500 different graphics.
–  Lane Carter, Restylers’ Choice

From the graphics manufacturer standpoint, we see the use of matte overlaminates (such as our DOL 1100) and specialty films becoming more popular for decorative wraps. The use of a matte overlaminate film ties in nicely with a retro look, and metallic or reflective films enhance the look of graphics such as skulls and/or flames.
Molly Waters, Avery Dennison Graphics

With all of the retro-styled cars coming out lately, the graphics are tending to be a bit on the “techno-retro” side. But skulls have also taken off more than ever, from T-shirts to backpacks to vehicle graphics. The skull seems to be the new flame.
–  Jason Yard, MACtac

This year we are selling graphics that have an OEM look to them. A 2″-wide rocker stripe or an upper quarter panel stripe for a Charger. Rally stripes have been strong and not just for Mustangs anymore. I would say we may be going a little more retro, if anything. We moved a lot of camouflage [in 2008], a few wraps but mostly 15″-wide for the bottom of pickup trucks. You have to consider our market; we have a lot of hunters in the Midwest.
–  Dale Huenink, Vinyl Graphics

Modern and edgy, definitely. Even vehicle manufacturers are creating programs to include a choice of graphic to add a personal touch for the customer.
–  Wes Sabulka,Image Works Media

Retro and an OEM look for the retro cars (Mustang, Camaro, Challenger) and organic/clean. We believe the skulls/flames trend has run its course and consumers are looking for designs that reflect a more global, organic look that is prevalent in youth-oriented advertising.
–  Chris Harren, Applied Coatings

There are many “skull” and “flame” graphic designs available on the market right now, but this is only a temporary trend  The look many are needing today are modern “new” image designs that compliment today’s vehicle body lines. Fortunately, lately we are seeing more of this available in the graphics market.
Duane Shumyla, Sign-Tech Media Inc.

Modern graphics with general appeal will continue to be popular, along with a mix of flames, muscle car striping and body kits, and chrome badging.
Joan Omo, Universal Products Inc.

Clean, but edgy, with subtle effects.
–  Bobby Styles, Illusions Inc.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

What body parts will get the most graphics treatments (hood, rear, door, truck box, window, rocker panels) and why is that (e.g., particular to a specific car model)?

Graphics installed above the belt line will continue to be the most popular location for the majority of graphics and pinstripe applications.It provides a good visual focus for the graphics, and provides a good amount of protection from damage that vehicles can receive from day-to-day use and road hazards.
–  Greg Duchinsky, Sharpline Converting

Sides of vehicles and to some extent hoods will be the best places for graphics. Truck tailgates also will be popular.
–  Michael Dickman, SpeedGraphics

As always, side graphics will be popular, as will be hood, roof and deck lid racing stripes.
Lane Carter, Restylers’ Choice

On vans, mini vans, Scions, etc. the back door is covered in partial wraps. On pickup trucks, the front is often wrapped with business advertising. These are the parts of the vehicle that are the most likely to be seen when it’s on the road.
–  Molly Waters, Avery Dennison Graphics

The hoods are usually the easiest but often are the hardest to read. Therefore, bumpers, tailgates and side doors are the most typical to convey a message. Many installers will avoid complex bumpers and ground effects because of the difficulty, but anytime a complete wrap can be done, the end result is usually nicer looking.
–  Jason Yard, MACtac

I would have to say side stripes, narrower linear kits mostly placed on the door and quarter panel. As I said earlier, rally stripes are also selling well.
–  Dale Huenink, Vinyl Graphics

The profile of any vehicle remains the best place to display your personality. Place higher than the rocker panels for visibility and protection
Wes Sabulka, Image Works Media

For ACI, specifically, we see a big uptick in two-tone paint jobs using our paint film on hood/roof/trunk, following the two-tone trend set by the Mini Cooper, Ford Flex and Toyota FJ.
Chris Harren, Applied Coatings

You can tell if graphics are designed properly by how they sit on the vehicle. They must accentuate the lines of that particular car, complimenting the image the vehicle is trying to make. Sports cars need refined, sleek graphics, while a pickup truck will require bolder designs for a bolder statement. Visually, then, the sides of vehicles are much more inherent of these graphics than the hood or rear since these areas will not utilize what the graphic is intended for.
Duane Shumyla, Sign-Tech Media Inc.

Doors (side graphics) will continue to be the leader. Chrome badging will be popular for fender and tailgate accents, and racing stripes will continue to remain strong with the muscle car market. In an answer to the durability issue with horizontal applications, (racing stripes, etc.), Universal Products has added our new “Endura” striping, which provides added resistance to the heat and power of the sun.
Joan Omo, Universal Products Inc.

Rockers and sides.-  Bobby Styles, Illusions Inc.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

How will graphics kits suppliers work in tandem with retailers to help restylers sell graphics? That is, beyond the 100% quality/satisfaction product guarantee, will suppliers provide POPs, consumer brochures, sales discounts, etc. to restylers?

Sharpline will continue to utilize a variety of methods and media to promote our graphic products to our restyler customers.
Greg Duchinsky, Sharpline Converting

We provide a sales kit for just that purpose. It’s in its second year, now, and helps businesses sell graphics. It includes graphics, catalogs, Authorized Reseller signage, etc.
–  Michael Dickman, SpeedGraphics

Restylers’ Choice has software that allows retailers to show their customers what their vehicle will look like with a graphic on it. Our V.I.G.O.R. software allows end users to see what their vehicle will look like with any of our 500 graphics on it. You can reposition the graphic, flip it upside down or change the color to a predetermined color combination.
–  Lane Carter, Restylers’ Choice

Because these kits are usually custom printed it is difficult to market them for the masses. If they are simply flames, or striping kits, they usually sell themselves because they are made in such a bulk fashion.
–  Jason Yard, MACtac

We provide manufacturers’ posters, color decks and catalogs, but there are things that are less tangible that can be a big help to our installers. Many times we see a trend in Chicago or Minneapolis and pass it on to our customers so they can profit from the same ideas. We have taken classes on the installation of many of the products we offer. We want our customers to turn to us when they have problems. We have an extensive design department, so that if an installer has an idea for a graphics design we can assist him or her in the production of the graphics.
Dale Huenink, Vinyl Graphics

Full-color brochures, online catalogs and magazine ads. –  Wes Sabulka, Image Works Media

Effective POP displays and product bundling with paint protection and window tint applications, etc.
-”  Chris Harren, Applied Coatings

Every manufacturer must fill, to a degree, the advertising needs of the restyler. They make available complete graphic catalogs as well as an up-to-date, current website where anyone interested can have immediate access to these graphics.
–  Duane Shumyla, Sign-Tech Media Inc.

As always, Universal Products will continue to provide POPs, catalogs and other marketing materials necessary for the promotion of our products.
 Joan Omo, Universal Products Inc.

We should all be pushing the use of the Internet to help our dealers sell accessories.
 Bobby Styles, Illusions Inc.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

How will the current economic situation change the graphics business?

Fewer graphic installation opportunities at the dealership level may cause professional restylers to consider other methods of marketing their products and services to keep their businesses growing.
–  Greg Duchinsky, Sharpline Converting

Since graphics are a discretionary item, it does not bode well for the future if consumers continue to cut back. But I think (and hope) we have seen the worst. Consumer trends may shift more toward restyling existing vehicles, since large-ticket items (i.e. new vehicles) are being greatly reduced.
–  Michael Dickman, SpeedGraphics

It has definitely slowed us down but we are very optimistic about the future. Our industry was built by entrepreneurs and they are very resilient businesspeople.
–  Lane Carter, Restylers’ Choice

I believe the business for full-vehicle wraps will slow down, but vehicle graphics are still one of the most cost-effective ways to advertise. I am hopeful that business owners will continue to see the value in using their vehicles (cars, trucks, semi trailers) as a means of advertising their business.
Molly Waters, Avery Dennison Graphics

It’s obviously slowing it down in all segments. The first thing to go is, usually, personalized graphics, followed by advertising graphics. Hopefully the new year will bring new life into the industry. There are so many great graphics products out there, and many are becoming affordable. I’m sure the economy will bounce back soon.
Jason Yard, MACtac

Of course we are going to see a slowdown in the automotive industry. It’s going to be a difficult time. But there can also be an opportunity for an installer who shows a dealer how to increase its net profit. A car dealer is going to remember the installer who came back late to install a pinstripe so the dealer could complete the sale. During the good times you could be just another vender; in bad times, an installer could become an important part of the dealer’s organization.
Dale Huenink, Vinyl Graphics

The consumer will need choices. The graphics supplier will need to give attention to size and color options in the designs. Customers with smaller budgets are still interested in personalizing their vehicles.
–  Wes Sabulka, Image Works Media

Dealers are keen to add quality aftermarket items as they need to make more margin on every vehicle sold because they are selling fewer vehicles; [thus] increasing the need for mainstream aftermarket graphics.
Chris Harren, Applied Coatings

There will always be vehicles on the road, and graphics are one of the most economical ways to enhance them.
Duane Shumyla, Sign-Tech Media Inc.

With the current economic slowdown, used cars will make up a large portion of the restyling market. We may not see as much being sold in the new vehicle market, due to the downturn in new vehicle sales.
  Joan Omo, Universal Products Inc.

Graphics should be one of your best sellers because most often they can go on anything without needing a special or specific part number, and can be sold on the spur of the moment. Sale, sale, sale – stay positive.-  Bobby Styles, Illusions Inc.