By Chris Collier
Paint protection film (PPF) now has a competent relative offering consumers’ cars a dazzling defense. Ceramic coatings are of the moment, and they’re beaming with potential too. PureAuto of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, began offering the product in 2017 and hasn’t looked back since.
“Customers were getting it outside the shop after we applied PPF on the whole car,” says Mark Koziel, owner of PureAuto. “Anybody doing ceramic coatings would then look like the number-one shop … I needed to get it in my [building] because I started to lose customers to these companies.”
Exotik Designs of Sparks, Nev., started dealing ceramic coatings in 2017, and accounts for 20% of the company’s sales. Owner Eric Webber says the product was a logical addition.
“We were looking for longevity on a couple of wraps,” Webber says. “We were running into warranty issues with some matte-finish vinyl wraps on cars and thought the ceramic coating would be a nice pairing. We cannot say it enhances the warranty of the vinyl wrap itself, but with some [ultraviolet] UV protection from the coating, it makes a big difference.”
Ceejay Velarde owns SET Auto Care in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada, and has been in the industry for three years. Ceramic coatings account for 20% of SET’s business, which sees high demand for PPF and tinting. Velarde offered coatings first, and it has boosted his business forward.
“It’s all about prepping the paint,” Velarde says. “I learned how to polish and properly detail the exterior. It’s one of the first things you have to learn if you want to do PPF as well.”
CH. Detailing of Sun Prairie, Wis., has offered ceramic coatings for more than seven years. Owner Connor Harrison was skeptical initially, but the investment has proven valuable over time. Much of his clientele combines the product with PPF, leading to taller tickets.
“Nowadays, people are looking for both, and they prefer [to use] a one-stop-shop rather than getting two appointments,” Harrison says. “Doing it in one location, there’s some overlap of the work. You only have to prep, detail, and polish the car once. If it goes to multiple shops, there’s some duplicity of the work that has to be done.”
Exotik Designs typically pairs one out of three ceramic coating orders with PPF or a vinyl wrap.
“The market has taken off dramatically,” Webber says. “There’s a lot of companies offering ceramic coatings. I see more people who like to tinker with their cars ask about ceramic coatings over everything. But when they look for rock-chip protection, we steer them in the direction of [PPF] and offer the ceramic coating after the fact.”
An estimated 50% of Pure Auto’s business stems from PPF with 35% flowing from tint and 15% originating from ceramic coatings. Seventy five percent of customers that order complete PPF jobs at the company also select ceramic coatings.
“It’s another flavor of ice cream in your shop,” says Koziel, whose doors opened in 2008. “When people get tint or PPF, they’re opting to add ceramic coatings. I do get customers coming in for [solely] ceramic coatings, but it’s mostly turning out to be a full-package deal.”
Koziel says climate can cause ceramic coating demand to tick up or down, as the weather is always on Canadian residents’ minds. “At this time of year, you’re going through a sandblaster because there’s rock, salt, dirt, and sand on the road eating away at the paint.”
Scotty’s Shine Shop in London, Ontario, Canada, opened on November
3, 1993, and has been offering ceramic coatings since 2011. Owner Scott Perkin also says weather is a selling point.
“It’s a strong layer of protection that will make your vehicle last longer if you apply it on your paint, especially going through the winters we have,” adds Perkin, who says ceramic coatings make up an estimated 20 to 30% of total business.
Take It From Me
Should ceramic coatings be on the proverbial menu for those slinging tint and PPF?
“When you can offer it paired with another service, it’s an easy way to slip it into your customers’ minds,” says Webber, who manages a team of four installers. “ hatever coating company you go with—watch how they market themselves and model [your marketing] after them. If you stick with one product, you’ll want to be consistent about how they work their company and how that applies to yours.”
Harrison handles most of the work at his location and uses subcontractors when slammed. He says focusing on minute details makes a difference for those at the starting line. “Control the temperature and airflow—it’s all about monitoring flash time during application,” he says. “If you have a nice, clean, and brightly-lit controlled environment to apply in, it makes it easier to get consistent and good-quality results.”
Webber says it’s vital to set standard expectations when working on customers’ “scratched, swirled, and oxidized” cars. “If the paint is messed up, we can hide a lot of that with [PPF],” he adds. “We can make the paint look a lot better … Their expectation is that the coating is a magic fix-all, and it’s not. That was never its purpose.”
Consumer education has the potential to generate new and repeat clients. Perkin goes the extra mile to keep work flowing. “The ceramic coating will not perform the way it should if a customer does not take care of the vehicle afterwards,” he explains. “When we finish every job, I spend a few minutes to [incorporate] an educational component to make sure the customer understands how to take care of the car afterwards. I send an email with a couple of videos that show them how to wash the car in the most gentle and proper way.”
Harrison believes in building business relationships that extend beyond the initial transaction. The automotive industry veteran of 10 years sends product samples to skeptical customers to secure the sale. “Doing that [helps] them understand I’m involved in this relationship with them; that I want them to succeed, their car to look good, and make sure they have the right tools in hand to take care of it,” he explains. “Typically, when they see that and appreciate that, the sale closes itself.”
Projecting the Peak
PPF’s present peak is sky high and continues to ascend with the introduction of refined product offerings. The climb of ceramic coatings is continuous, and consumer understanding is a contributor.
“Before, you had to explain what it was, how it worked, and what was involved,” Harrison says. “Nowadays, people show up and ask for it. They go, ‘I saw it on Instagram and Facebook—I want the coating.’ Getting them in the door with interest is a lot easier.”
Perkin believes the product is here to stay but notes market saturation.
“It’s something that is going to have an impact—with respect to the industry—for the guys that want to do it properly,” he adds. “The guys in this to pump up their sales using cheap products, I think that stuff is going to die off.”
New vehicles will release, products will evolve, and time will tell, but Webber is enthusiastic about the segment’s future. “Look at the market share right now,” he says. “Say we take 250,000 cars on the road right now. You could probably [account] for 1 to 2% of those cars being ceramic coated or having [PPF] or window film. The margin is low; if you built this market by even 1 to 2%, you just doubled the industry. It has not even come close to peaking.”
Chris Collier is the assistant editor for PPFMag. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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