Picture Your Image on Wheels

Dec 1, 2009

Building a project vehicle (also known as an “image vehicle”) is about so much more these days than just having a cool car to display at shows, it’s about building and distinguishing yourself and your brand. Many retailers and manufacturers are going all out to build vehicles that truly capture their image and will reach their target audience. But how do you know if your investment will be worth it? As well as what can you expect from having an image vehicle?

When most companies/retailers are deciding whether or not to build an image vehicle, they typically have some very common questions, which we wanted to address. We talked with Shawn Williams, Owner/Image Vehicle Builder of/for Street Concepts, Mark McFann, Vice President of Marketing for Royal Purple, and Melvin Benzaquen, Owner of Classic Restoration Enterprises to get you answers to these questions.

What will it cost?

The cost of building an image vehicle will depend on many different varying factors. “The first thing to factor in is the cost of the vehicle itself,” says Williams. To help keep costs down, consider building a vehicle you already have, an employee’s vehicle or working out a deal with a local dealer. The next thing to keep in mind is the cost of the modifications and the amount of labor you will be performing on the vehicle. You can’t just throw a set of rims and some seat covers on your vehicle and call it a show vehicle. That’s not really a great image to project with your vehicle, your brand or your money. The final thing to factor in is the cost of transporting the vehicle to the locations/shows/races that you plan to attend to get the most out of your marketing dollars. Once you have these three factors narrowed down, you should have a good ballpark of what it will cost. Always remember to budget a little extra for those unexpected things that could go wrong, crop up, or need attention.”

How do I choose the right vehicle?

“That question is more complex that it may seem,” says McFann. “Certainly there are an infinite number of factors that can be considered. Ultimately, the choice of vehicle depends on the reasons you have for building it.  If you want people inside the organization to be fully involved, certainly their input on the choice should be solicited. If the only concern is getting the attention of those who’ll see it at a tradeshow or event, then the appropriateness of the vehicle to the audience and/or the unique attributes of the vehicle should be considered.”

“You always want to be sure to look at market trends and consider the newest and hippest cars out there, but if they aren’t relevant to your company/image or brand then you need to find just the right vehicle and move in that direction,” states Benzaquen. “You also want to keep in mind budget and make sure that you do not spend your entire project build budget on just obtaining the vehicle and then have nothing left for the actual build. The moral of the story is get the vehicle that you can see representing your brand that’s in your budget.”

Can I get a free vehicle from  an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)?

“Getting a dollar vehicle or a “free vehicle” from one of the OEM’s is harder than ever these days,” continues Williams. “Not only is there more competition, but most of the OEM’s have increased their screening processes, lowered the number of vehicles they are giving away, as well as increased the amount of insurance that you have to carry to an astronomical amount.”

How Long Can I Keep Using My Image Vehicle?

“There’s no hard and fast rule to let you know how long your image vehicle will last,” continues Williams. “The vehicle you build can last a number of months or years, depending on how long it stays as an accurate representation of your company and is in “show condition”. It’s always good to consider the trends of the current time and future when building your vehicle, but as long as it stays a clear representation of your company’s brand and image as you see it, you can continue to use it. One thing to keep in mind, also, is assuming you own the vehicle, when it is time to move on to creating your next image vehicle, you can always sell your current one and use the money to help off set the cost of the new one.”

Can I team up with another company or do I have to have my own vehicle solely?

“There’s no reason you can’t team up with another company or retailer,” continues Williams. “But there are a few things that you have to keep in mind. Always make sure you are working with someone reliable, that you can trust, since you both will have a lot invested into this. As well as, make sure both your images and brands align so that the vehicle will properly reflect both of the companies involved and help you achieve your goals.”

As a retailer will this really  help me?

“Absolutely,” states Benzaquen. “Any image vehicle you can sit outside of your shop will drive way more traffic and people to your location than any sign or anything else you put up out front. Most people do not have the ability to envision a product as it stands alone but if it is integrated into an image vehicle, they can visualize it and get excited about the product, your capabilities and your creativity. It, also, makes it easier for someone to remember you as it is something that sticks out in their mind. They will also tell other people about it and the word will spread. The automobile manufacturers figured out this word of mouth publicity very early on. That is why they use concept cars and bring them to shows. It gets the public excited and makes them remember their product. The benefits here can be endless depending on how you choose to use your vehicle.”

How do I know where to take it?

There are many different options when it comes to taking your image vehicle on the road. The first option and most common one is using it on a car show circuit [ex. Goodguys events, Hot Import Nights, etc.]. This is a great way to reach potential customers and current customers to leverage your brand and highlight your company. You can, also, use the vehicle as a display car at tradeshows and out in front of a retail location. This will drive traffic to that retail shop or your booth and get people talking about your car and your brand.  Another great place to take your image vehicle is racing. Race fans are loyal to the products and companies they see at their favorite races, so why not have it out or race it with any of the popular race series (ex. DHRA, NHRA, NDHRA, NMCA, etc.)?

How Do I Get The Word Out?

“Getting the word out about your vehicle is an important part of maximizing your ROI, as is obtaining press coverage,” states Mcfann. “You should be sure to activate the project via activities such as working with the media on/during the project and/or sending press releases about the project. You will also want to include info about the project on your website, displaying the vehicle at events and tradeshows, and include the vehicle in your advertising materials. This way your image vehicle is doing all that it can to bring you the most new customers and potential new customers as possible, maximizing your ROI.”

How do I know if there is an ROI (Return On  Investment) for my effort and money?

Determining the ROI on an image vehicle can be a daunting task, but if you take a step back and look at who you are reaching and how then you should be able to determine if it is a good, feasible investment for you. “I believe image vehicles are a great way to market your company to the extent that the vehicle appeals to your current and potential customers,” states McFann. “You dramatically increase the potential marketing impact and ROI on a project vehicle when:

The vehicle showcases your product(s) or helps convey the attributes of your products.

You use the vehicle to establish relationships or maximize existing relationships with customers and/or other companies.”

As you can see, there are lots of potential questions and things to consider when determining whether or not to build an image vehicle. But, done right and with proper planning, building an image vehicle can become a real stepping-stone taking your business to the next level of success that you have been looking to achieve.