Let the sun shine in and keep the heat out

May 3, 2010

A big part of selling is education. Customers have to know about the product before they can want it. First, you give an overview, then the differences in available products. Next, you ask questions and then move in for the kill…err, sale.

Many products are created to enhance vehicles’ looks, value and/or performance. We all know that we need to know our products well, how they work, how they fit each customer’s particular need. Window films are one of those products that fits all three of the above.

We asked our vehicle window film sources for hot points to use in this very important process. Our first question for an overview of the benefits of window film comes from Bill Stewart of Solamatrix, St .Petersburg, Fla., who tells us, “There are several benefits to automotive window film. The main ones are: solar heat rejection, which helps improve passenger comfort; and UV screening – this helps preserve the interior from fading and helps protect against skin-related health issues.”

Jon Hanbury of 3M, St. Paul Minn., adds, “Window film for vehicles helps improve driver and passenger comfort. The films also reduce glare and can allow the owner to ‘customize’ the look of their vehicle. Because window films block 99% of the sun’s harmful rays, both the driver and interior of the car are protected. The driver has skin protection and the interior has reduced fading.”

At Bekaert Specialty Films, San Diego, Jon Mitchell gave us this: “Automotive window film, like Solar Gard, protects a customer’s investment in their vehicle by protecting passengers and the vehicle interior from 99% of UVA and UVB rays, enhancing passenger comfort and customizing the vehicle’s aesthetic appearance. [Our] window films reject up to 61% of the total solar energy, decreasing a vehicle’s interior temperature, reducing the need for air conditioning, and cutting glare.”

By rejecting so much damaging UVA and UVB rays and acting like “sunscreen for the automobile,” Mitchell continues, it shields passengers “against premature aging and skin cancer and the discoloration/fading of leather, vinyl and fabric.”

Ryan Eilermann of CP Films/Solutia, St. Louis, added these benefits: “Heat buildup in a vehicle is not only uncomfortable for consumers, it can also damage the interior and its contents, and increase engine and air-conditioning burden – and that means a potential increase in fuel costs, as well.”

His company’s films, he adds, “are engineered to provide maximum heat rejection, and that means maximum comfort and maximum protection for a vehicle.”

“Glare reduction, UV protection – heat isn’t the only enemy for a car and its passengers. Harmful ultraviolet radiation is the No.1 cause of interior fading; and even more concerning, it can cause dangerous skin damage to you and your passengers.

Eilermann adds that the Skin Cancer Foundation offers its recommendation for FormulaOne and LLumar films.

Window film construction, film benefits

Additionally, “traffic accidents happen every day, even to the most responsible drivers,” Eilermann says, “with the potential to change lives in a split second. Often, injuries from impact are created or compounded by the dangers of shattering glass. Safety and Security film provide a strong, protective barrier between you and the glass, holding glass fragments together to protect you and your passengers from additional injury.”

Moreover, films, say the experts, add some additional security: “In less than five seconds, a thief can shatter your car window and rob you of your valuables,” says Eilermann. “This can be particularly dangerous if you are in the vehicle during the attack,” helping guard against a “smash and grab” attack.

Characteristically different

We next asked about the different types of automotive window film and their characteristics. 3M’s Hanbury breaks it down like this: “Automotive window films fit into a few classifications:

  • Dyed: Longstanding technology that is subject to color change (purple windows); (an) economical purchase; does not interfere with GPS/cell signals.
  • Hybrid: A combination of a metal film with a dyed film for great heat rejection.
  • Metal/all-metal construction: very strong heat rejection.
  • Color Stable: Films that have good heat rejection, but do not turn purple; also do not interfere with GPS/cell signals.
  • Spectrally selective: Films tend to allow most of the light into the car, but have outstanding heat rejection. They focus more on rejecting IR (infrared) versus just visible light (dark films); generally do not interfere with GPS/cell signal.”

Bekaert’s Mitchell notes four main types of automotive window films: Non-metalized, metalized, ceramic and those made with nanotechnology.

“Non-metalized films,” he says, “also known as non-reflective (NR) films like his firm’s Non-Reflective Charcoal window film, consist of a colored layer that offers protection from excessive glare and UV damage.

“Metalized films, like Solar Gard’s High Performance Quantum film, utilize metal layer coatings, typically aluminum, to reject the sun’s heat. They also offer protection from glare and UV light. These films can be either all metal or used in combination with one of the non-metalized films to create a hybrid window film.

“Ceramic films use a metal oxide. The advantage of oxide is a reduced conductivity of the metal, which helps maintain the integrity of radio signals (for example, cell phones and tire pressure monitors). Ceramic films also offer heat rejection, and glare and UV protection.

“Films made with nanotechnology…use very small particles (nanoparticles) to selectively transmit visible light and block the sun’s infrared heat. The result is a film that is very light -” and radio signal friendly – with high heat rejection, UV protection and glare reduction.”

Stewart, of Solamatrix, is in concert with his window film peers noting that “while there are several variations of automotive window film, there are generally four main types”:

  • “Metal-free film – contains no metal in the construction. The benefit to this film is that it won’t interfere with GPS systems, AM radio signals or keyless entry systems.
  • High-Performance film – is usually a combination of dyed polyester and metal. It offers better heat rejection than metal-free films.
  • All-metal film – contains no dye in the construction. It offers the greatest amount of heat rejection and tends to have a more reflective appearance.
  • Ceramic film – is made with a special process that allows the film to have similar heat rejection properties as a high-performance film but also causes no signal disruption similar to a metal-free film.”

What installers should ask consumers

We asked about questions installers might ask customers to help select the right window film.

Eilermann says, “This is a question of what does the consumer really want. Many consumers are unfamiliar with the different film performance characteristics. Installers need to be able to walk the consumer through the benefits of window film.

“We teach our installers to try to sell with a ‘Good, Better, Best’ retail strategy to make it easier for the consumer. The dealer needs to understand the following consumer needs:

  • What shade are they looking for?
  • How dark would they like to go?
  • Is warranty important? (Warranty support should be important as economy films usually offer a limited warranty.)
  • How much heat rejection are they looking for? (This varies between product levels and between film manufacturers.)
  • Do they want the traditional look of tint?

“Are they concerned with safety or security aspects in their cars?” Notes Mitchell: “Interpreting the customers’ needs and guiding them to the right window film is important. “An installer should first determine what the customer’s main concern is – UV protection, privacy, glare, aesthetics or heat reduction – to narrow down the film options.”

Here are a few questions installers can ask a customer to identify the right film:

  • Why are you interested in window film?
  • What color is the interior/exterior of your car?
  • Do you have specific UV protection needs: skin cancer diagnosis and/or young passengers?
  • Do you spend a lot of time in your car?
  • How long do you plan to keep your car?
  • Is it leased or owned?
  • Do you keep your car in a garage or outside?
  • Where do you park your car at work?
  • Do you have an electronic tire pressure system, use a wireless phone or mobile broadband in your car?

“In today’s economy, where consumers are keeping their vehicles longer, don’t forget to ask what they want in a warranty. Solar Gard posts all their warranties online for consumers and dealers to easily access so there are no questions regarding coverage.”

Stewart tells us, “Generally, if a customer is looking for window film they have a basic reason already in mind. However, if this reason is not voiced upfront, the first question a dealer should ask is “Why are you considering window film?” This will help the dealer determine the type of film to best suit the customer’s need. ”

Follow-up questions should be:

  • “What color are your vehicle and its interior? Some shades of film look better on certain vehicle colors.
  • Who is the main driver of the vehicle?” This may help determine the style of film that the person my desire.
  • Are you concerned about health- or skin-related issues?
  • Are you more interested in appearance or in better heat rejection? This may also help determine if a non-metal film is the appropriate choice.
  • Is privacy an issue? This may help determine the VLT [visible light transmission] that will best suit the customer (law providing).”

Hanbury adds his important questions to ask: “I think asking the customer how long they will have the car could help validate how much they want to spend. I also think asking what their primary concerns are – whether glare, aesthetics or comfort, can help direct the customer to the right product. The third question is whether they use mobile devices (GPS/cell/sat radio). There are a few types of auto films that will interfere with signals, so this is a key question in providing the right film solution.”

So, what’s where’s the ROI?

For some current shop information, we asked our sources what profit percentage should an installer be able to earn on a job? Stewart notes, “There are too many variables to accurately pinpoint a standard profit margin that an installer should expect. Some of these variables include overhead, commissions, product being installed and local market price. However, window film installation traditionally is a profitable business.”

Eilermann agrees, saying “This varies all across the country, and depends on the installer’s overhead. Are they the owner and installer? Do they have sales employees, etc.? The ability to upsell is a tremendous advantage in the window film industry. Higher-performing films are more expensive to purchase, but the cost of the installation remains the same. Labor can account for approximately 25% of the end sale.”

Mitchell says, “Window film is an easy profit add-on for any shop. If you are already participating in one of the automotive segments by running a car wash, detail shop, tire and rim store, aftermarket accessories or car stereos, you are in a great position to leverage your existing setup and customer base to diversify into window film. This can strategically complement your existing business.”

Regional differences

We wondered if there are some regions of the country that are better for film install/sales. And are certain film types suggested for certain regions? Mitchell says that “while all types of [his] window films are installed throughout the country, certain film qualities cater to the needs of consumers from different geographic regions.”

“For the sunny and warm climates in southern United States, where consumers’ main desire is heat rejection, a metalized, ceramic or nano film would best suit their needs. In the North, where climates are generally cooler but have longer summer days where the sun is lower on the horizon, glare is often the main concern for buyers. Dealers in this region can offer a non-metalized product that reduces the sun’s glare and protects occupants from UV damage.”

Eilermann says, “The South and Southwest are better for sales, as our consumer research shows that appearance and heat rejection are the top reasons consumers purchase automotive tint. In these regions, a consumer definitely would want a film with higher heat rejection. Traditional dyed films do not offer significant heat rejection versus metalized films. Some of the new technology films use advanced nano-ceramic technology to offer maximum heat rejection without any signal interference.”

Stewart adds that “while there is a market for window film in all areas of the country, some areas are better than others for a few reasons. One, state tint laws have a large influence on the sales potential in a state. More restrictive states are obviously not as good as states where laws are more lenient.”

“The second factor,” he continues, “is climate. States in the southern part of the country tend to be better for window film sales simply because residents are more concerned about the sun and the high temperatures.”

Hanbury says this: “The film types play across various regions. Clearly the warmer climates have more of a need/demand for window film products due to comfort and glare issues with the sun. Some states have restrictive VLT [visible light transmission] laws, so for states that have stricter standards the spectrally selective products have a better fit.”

Window tinting: It’s clear there is more to it than meets the eye.