Graphic Content Attached

Nov 1, 2012

The trend in vehicle graphics: Has it changed?

Graphics buyers are a funny lot. Some spend ridiculous amounts for very custom work in an effort to have a truly one-of-a-kind vehicle. But not everyone demands custom-made graphics for their vehicle. And with so many designs coming out every month, the selection of ready-made keeps getting better and better. Many buyers today are turning to graphics that are off the shelf, pre-fab or stock items more and more often. We asked our sources about this rapidly growing market so you can use it to your advantage.

2013 graphics: What’s the trend?

First, we want to know what vehicle graphics we’ll be seeing at SEMA this month. Will they be what is hot in 2013 and how might they differ from what is out there now?

Vinnie Salvato from Illusions Custom Auto Graphics, Hudson Fla.,  tells us, “You’re going to continue to see the classic designs like wide racing stripes and muscle car designs in the solid colors and matte finishes. OEM-looking graphics, but with a little more design such as some tone on tone, will also make a strong showing.”

For Joan Omo, of Universal Products, Goddard, Kan., she says, “OE styles are still quite popular, along with matte finishes.”

At Green Cove Springs, Fla.-based Tape Technologies, Alan Phillips says, “We probably will not have the new graphics released for the SEMA Show, but will be expanding on the styles and looks from this year’s graphics.”

And Greg Duchinsky from Sharpline Converting, Wichita, Kan., sees the same: “It looks like it will be much more of the same for vehicle graphics at this year’s SEMA show. Expect the retro-style 1960s muscle-car graphics to continue their popularity. Wrapping portions of vehicles to create two-tone effects is a popular trend.”

Color makes the statement

OK. What, then, about color schemes? What will we see? Omo from Universal says, “A variety of colors in matte finishes are the current trend.”

Tape Technologies’ Phillips adds, “We will continue to use subtle colors with more detailed designs. Ironically, most of our kits, even with the more subdued colors, work well on the standard black, red, gold, silver cars … everything from Nebula Pearl to Alien.”

Duchinsky from Sharpline notes that we won’t see too much in the “wild” area. “Colors,” he says, “will continue to be on the conservative side. Neutral tones (gloss black, matte black, silver metallic and charcoal metallic) will remain the most popular.”

Illusions’ Salvato tells us this: “We think we will continue to see textured looks grow – like the carbon fiber and matte finishes,” he says. “We are also producing some two-toned graphics on silver film. Something new for 2013 are two camouflage patterns under a new brand called “Wild Wood Camo.” They have proved tremendously popular in our test markets and will be officially launched at the SEMA Show in October.”

Who’s responsible for the look?

So, what’s driving design or color changes – the consumers, manufacturers, society in general? Phillips tells us, “Colors and many textures for the automotive market have always, ultimately, come from the fashion market. So, yes, we as consumers ‘drive’ the trends.

“We have been bombarded by so many colors over the past few years, it seems that we have reinvented colors by creating a pearlescent version of it or changing the metallic flake – and generally it works because the base colors are good.

Consider white, and then white pearlescent, and then white metallic. They all work.”

Duchinsky says, “Niche designs, like skulls and ‘grunge-style’ graphics, are popular with a narrow range of consumers that may be willing to have a local restyler custom-fabricate a graphic package for them. Don’t expect to see anything like that on a dealer’s lot. Graphic styles and colors will remain conservative to appeal to the widest range of potential buyers.”

Adds Salvato: “It is probably a combination of all of the above,” he notes. “We have some great and prolific designers; but since we are one of the few manufacturers that also have an installation side to our business that serves about 40 dealerships, we have a firsthand read on what the consumer is looking for and changes in demand.”

Vehicles that make the difference

And that brings to mind the question of designing to specific vehicles. Duchinsky says, “Sharpline limits its availability of vehicle-specific graphics to top-selling models that have a proven history of volume sales.”

Phillips says no, “we do not design with specific vehicle models in mind, but we design for general body types.”

Salvato counters with, “Yes. We will be designing vehicle-specific graphics for some of the muscle cars like the Dodge Challenger and the Ford Mustang. We will also be designing class-specific graphics such as for the smaller-compact car owner.”

Omo tells us, “Our graphics are designed to enhance current vehicle styles. Our new ‘OE Unlimited’ series gives an OE look, but looks great on multiple makes and models.”

The buyers

Let’s talk demographics.

Who’s the ideal market for vehicle graphics today? Salvato says, “This is another one of those ‘all of the above’ questions. While not all ages or groups may be buying the same thing, they are all buying something. The classic designs like the racing stripes and muscle car graphics have a wide appeal across all age groups but especially the 30-somethings to the 50-somethings. The brighter and flashier designs seem to appeal to the younger and, believe it or not, the senior crowds.”

Phillips reveals that “The market for graphics has definitely contracted the last few years with fewer vehicles having graphics installed. But the spectrum of owners is as large and diverse as ever. Many of the people that had vehicles with custom, one-off graphics 25 years ago may still want something on their truck or SUV. And there never seems to be an end to the younger group of vehicle owners that want to be unique like all of their friends.”

Adds Duchinsky: “With the uncertainty of the economy the past few years, the tastes of the younger vehicle buyer has taken a back seat to the style preferences of more mature, affluent buyers. Some of the newer small cars, however, are becoming popular with both youthful and experienced buyers. Those kinds of vehicles may lead the next wave of creative vehicle graphic design.”

Regional preferences

Staying with customer demographics, are what sells in certain areas of the country very much different from another part of the country? Phillips says it’s about basics. “A good graphic is a good graphic and will sell good throughout the country,” he avers. “However, there are some areas with a greater number of trucks or other style of vehicle or like-minded youth where a particular graphic or group of graphics will be more apparent in the market.”

Salvato tells us this: “We are selling all across the country from Oregon to Florida to the upper Northeast. The demand does not seem to be regional. We sell a variety of designs, and they seem to be more age- or vehicle-specific than regional.”

Pre-fab graphics can jump off your shelves to your customers for quick profits. So take a look at what graphics you see in your own demographic neighborhood, and get them on those cars, trucks and SUVs.

Promoting graphics, even in a tough economic climate

We asked our sources for the one thing restylers should know about today’s vehicle graphics and how to promote them to their customers. Vinnie Salvato, from Illusions Custom Auto Graphics says, “As for the walk-in (customer), it’s a great way to personalize a vehicle without breaking the bank. There is so much available today in the way of designs and colors that there is something for every taste and every budget. For the dealership, it’s a great way to add to their bottom line. Their markup is significant, and while they won’t put graphics on every car on the lot, it’s always good to have one or two at all times on the lot with them. It’s also a good and inexpensive way to cover small blemishes on their pre-owned inventory when needed.”

At Tape Technologies, Alan Phillips tells us, “The majority of today’s graphics are far more detailed and more durable than many produced in the past. They also provide a lot more value compared to the cost. A high-quality graphic kit does not cost a lot more today than it did 10 or 20 years ago, especially when you compare it to paint or other treatments.”