Ask a Pro Fall 2021

Bulking vs. Templates

By Mike Burke

There’s a widespread industry sentiment that bulking is the “purist” method of doing paint protection film (PPF), while templates are somehow inferior or “cheating.” We have installers making YouTube videos and Instagram posts showing their seamless, pristine PPF installations and talking about how  they’re artists and wrap every edge. I think a lot of this comes from a vehicle-wrap mentality; if you’re doing a color change, for example, you need to wrap every edge and avoid seams. But with PPF, not only is it unnecessary, it’s better not to install it this way.

Stretched Thin

Wrap material is .5 mil thick, while PPF is eight mil. That means PPF is 16 times the thickness of vinyl. Treating PPF like vinyl can lead to overstretching and failure. Templates are designed to stretch the material the optimal amount, with relief cuts in the proper places to maintain the integrity of the material.

When you bulk, it’s harder to keep track of how far you’re stretching the material. If you stretch it too far, instead of eight mil, you’ll have a thinner barrier in places, which will affect performance. The properties that allow PPF to self-heal from shallow scratches also give the film memory and cause it to shrink back to its pre-stretched size. If stretched too far, the glue will fail over time, and the film will start to shrink away from those beautifully wrapped edges.

Risks in Bulk

While it seems like a seamless installation would always be better, is that the case? If you have no seams, when you want to replace a piece, you’re taking off more material and then the customer is paying more to replace that big piece. This isn’t a color change. Instead of investing time in taking apart the car and overstretching the material to avoid any seams, invest time in learning to do a great job with your seams.

Finally, bulking comes with a lot more risk than templates. With a template, blades are safe inside the plotter, distant from the paint you’re supposed to be protecting. There’s a lot of liability in taking cars apart. Every time you remove a panel, you run the risk of breaking clips or worse.

Money Matters

There’s still the profit factor. There’s probably an artist inside any PPF installer, but we’re doing this to make money. Templates are faster to install, they’re easier to train, and they’ll save you material if you do an excellent job nesting.

I’ve seen two guys spend a week wrapping one car. Two of my guys can do three to five full vehicles in a week. The ticket is higher for the complete custom job, but it’s not 10 times higher.

Unique, one-off cars that don’t have templates available are a niche market—but it’s a minuscule one compared to thousands of production cars. The time investment keeps it from being as lucrative as you might expect. I know some of the best PPF installers in the country personally, and most of them say the same thing: “You don’t want to be me; you’ll lose money.”

I think the future of PPF will come down to the quality of the templates available. If you don’t have access to the best patterns right now, the best thing you can do isn’t try to convince the world that bulking is better; instead, lean on your manufacturer to put their R&D money into template design and cutting software. Competition drives innovation and the entire industry will be better off as a result.

Mike Burke has been in the window film industry for 33 years. His company, Sun Stoppers, has over 50 locations in 19 states, and offers residential and commercial tint and decorative film services as well as automotive tint, paint protection and ceramic coatings. If you have a question for Mike to tackle in a future column, email him at mike@sunstoppers.com.

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PPF News Fall 2021

Eastman Details Matrix Films Acquisition

By Chris Collier

Eastman Chemical Company has acquired the business and assets of Matrix Films, LLC, and its UK affiliate, PremiumShield Limited, marketer of PremiumShield performance films, including its extended line of automotive film patterns. The deal was finalized on October 1, and Erin Bernhardt, general manager, Performance Films, says the acquisition fortifies the company’s current investments. In fact, the main driver for the deal is “the runway of growth” available for PPF and Eastman’s commitment to be a leader in product and service innovation, she says. Couple that with the experience and expertise at PremiumShield, their great reputation and an organization that has helped grow the awareness of PPF in the market, and it’s a great fit for Eastman, adds Bernhardt.

“PremiumShield is a strategic acquisition that fits well in both the current and future strategy for Eastman’s Performance Films business,” Bernhardt says. “PremiumShield has an extensive and high-quality automotive pattern database. They also have talent and leadership experience in a number of areas where we continue to invest—technical services, pattern development, and training in business and dealer operations. It’s very complementary to our Eastman organization.”

She adds that the historical patterns PremiumShield possesses are complementary and attractive to Eastman as well. “They have a broad catalog of high-quality automotive patterns from past years’ make/model/trims that extends the CORE™ pattern database so that we have the best coverage in the industry going forward,” Bernhardt says.

Paint protection film (PPF) market trends, and potential for growth, played a key role in the acquisition.

“PPF penetration on premium and mid-tier [cars] is around 5% globally with a lot of room for growth,” Bernhardt says. “Our goal is to help our customers grow the size of the market and their business share by growing from say 5% penetration to 15 to 20% penetration in those mid to high-end car segments. Quality patterns and cutting software as well as well-trained installation labor can increase shop efficiency. These are essential for high volume shops or those looking to grow their businesses.”

Bernhardt says the company aims to strengthen and expand PremiumShield’s PPF lineup with its window film portfolio. “We think that, through [their] dealer network, we will be able to bring forward window films and a broader product line alongside what PremiumShield had, which  was predominantly paint protection film.”

Now that the acquisition is finalized, the immediate goal centers on stable onboarding where the teams can cross-share strategies, processes and key dealer services like training techniques. The Eastman team is also in the process of launching CORE™ patterns and operating software into Europe and Asia, to which this acquisition helps accelerate.

SEMA Connects Ceramic Pro and Carfax

Automotive companies benefit from trade shows in various ways. Ceramic Pro Americas and Carfax began developing the Appearance Protection Service Reporting (APSR) feature during a 2016 connection at SEMA. After an initial meeting and 18 months of research, the two companies created a data-sharing partnership that helps document installation services and cover warranties—tools that both companies say have grown beyond initial expectations.

Each of Ceramic Pro’s protective solutions, whether interior or exterior coatings or films, are backed by a warranty attached to the vehicle’s VIN, making it transferable to future owners. This has fostered trust, according to Brett Benito, CEO of Ceramic Pro Americas.

“When we collaborated with Carfax to establish the APSR service at the SEMA show in 2016, our goal was to provide added transparency and value to car owners choosing Ceramic Pro protective coatings,” Benito says. “The reporting not only documented that the vehicle continued to be warrantied but credited the auto salon completing the work. It allowed our network of installers to improve transparency and establish trust with their dedicated customers.”

Vehicle owners increasingly pay attention to the overall condition of their daily drivers and collectible cars, according to the company. Professionally-installed ceramic coatings and paint protection film (PPF) fall into categories of interest.

“Our ceramic coating and paint protection film warranties are transferable as each package is linked with the VIN,” says Benito. “If the vehicle is sold, or relocated, the new owner can visit our website to determine which of our certified installation centers to bring their vehicle for scheduled maintenance in their area or apply Ceramic Pro products on their new vehicle.”

The program became an indirect marketing tool for Ceramic Pro’s 3,500 auto salons. It also provided customers with peace of mind. Today, nearly every major manufacturer of professional-grade nano-ceramic coatings and PPF in the U.S. utilizes the Carfax APSR tool, according to the company.

“At Ceramic Pro Americas, we strive to be the trendsetters in our industry, and the collaboration with Carfax is arguably the best example of putting this concept into action,” says Benito.

Product News

ULTRAFIT Launches New Paint Protection Film

ULTRAFIT has launched Black Carbon PPF, the latest addition to the ULTRAFIT XP Series PPF that already includes films with three unique
visuals: clear gloss, retro matte and black gloss. The new product features nano-ceramic topcoat technology that preserves the rich black color and design features of the 3D carbon fiber. The product combines durability, performance, ideal chemical and mechanical resistance and self-healing properties, according to the company.
www.ultrafitprotection.com

Chris Collier is the assistant editor for PPFMag. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Facebook or at ccollier@glass.com.

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In the Film Business Fall 2021

Considering Ceramic?

By Mel Villalon

Now that we can say we are in the same family, is ceramic something to consider as an added service? Ceramic window film has ushered in an unprecedented earnings potential for dealers while creating greater perceived value and adding comfort to the consumer experience. You already have the ceramic lingo down as a window tinter, along with your heat box display that delivers that one-two punch—heck, why not give it a shot?

Not So Fast

But the record stops playing and the DJ stops spinning. Slow down there—they are not the same thing in how they operate and serve their purpose. First, I’ll give you my definition—from a window film professional perspective. From my earliest days in window film, we had simple dyed and metalized polyester films. These metalized films were too shiny, challenging to form, and generally not designed or intended for automotive use. The metal was deposited onto the film by way of vapor coating.

Sputter coating originated in the early ‘90s and ushered in the era of metalized films with various levels of reflectance while maintaining far better heat rejection and color stability than any dyed polyester products of the day. We now had our good, and better, for the automotive sector. Sputter-coated titanium films became our best. Hybrid metalized and dyed films fought to be on top as well. Profits and performance went up, along with the devaluation of the word “titanium” as a way of signifying a product’s superiority.

Origin Story

The term “ceramic” is the new term that defines what’s good. Here’s how it came to be in the window film world. With the increase in modern vehicle technology, a new problem arose through radio frequency interference, conductivity with defrost lines, and diversified antenna leads incorporated with defrost lines.

Underlying GPS, navigation antennas, keyless entry, infrared-based systems, tire sensors and cell phone signals were all susceptible to blocked or reduced signal strength through metalized film on the windows.

Ceramic window film became the answer and also the question. Is the ceramic in window film a thing or a process? Follow my column, and we’ll get back to this at a later date.

As for applied ceramic coatings, the chemistry side is much more complex. Ceramic coatings bond to the surface on a molecular level known as cross-linking. Once properly prepped and applied, abrasion is the method needed for removal. Words like hydrophobic, beading, surface tension, inorganic, sio2, silica, 9h mohs and 9h pencil scale will become part of your vocabulary. Trust me on this, and get to know these because there is a plethora of professional-grade and DIY consumer-grade ceramic stuff out there. Combine this with some YouTube-graduate expertise because you will face consumers with solid attempts to become an expert on what you do.

Expert Testimony

We hurt ourselves as an industry every time we leave misinformation unchallenged or uncorrected. It’s even worse if we misinform our customer base. We must understand what ceramic coatings can and cannot do, and we must manage customer expectations. I decided to reach out to my experienced colleagues to discover the top three things you should know about ceramic coatings as an applicator and how you should educate a consumer.

Tony Kiger of Eye of the Kiger in Orlando, Fla:

“Customers should know what to expect as in performance, maintenance and relative life expectancy.

As an installer—they should know what we are offering, how to apply and what could happen if improperly applied.”

Dann Williams, president of Business Development at Owner’s Pride in Omaha, Neb., and host of the Owner’s Pride Podcast:

“Ceramic coatings changed the landscape of the detailing industry. Some companies mislead customers by not explaining what ceramic coatings do and by selling non-compliant warranties. That is a whole topic of its own. The backbone of ceramic is a repeating chain of (-Si-O-Si-O-Si-). This is where you get the ceramic, silicone dioxide, glass coating and other marketing terms. These repeating chains can vary in length and what type of additional substituents are grafted on to the backbone. This is the reason there are so many different ceramic coatings on the market. The simplest analogy is spaghetti sauce. They all have tomato as an ingredient, but what else is added to make it special and taste slightly different from the next one? The Si-C bond does not happen until the reaction starts on the surface.”

Burns Mulhearn, president of Geoshield Window Films:

“I think it is important to note that customers should not look at warranty to determine how long a coating will last. Just because a coating has a seven warranty does not mean it will last seven years. There are too many factors to take into account, including the original condition of paint, preparation, installation, maintenance, storage, use and environment.”

Bernice Berry, owner/operator of Pure Luxury Tint and Detailing Services in Chandler, Ariz:

“Only hand wash, no brush car washes or it voids your warranty. It reduces wash/maintenance every month. ”

I’ll add that many coatings’ warranties are only valid if the coating is periodically reapplied. Of course, it will last for 20 years if you’re reapplying every year. Hang in there—we’ll learn together along the way.

Mel Villalon is the general manager of Paradise Tinting Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

Bottom Line Fall 2021

Five Ways to Upsell PPF Customers

By Jacob Motley

The most obvious upsell for paint protection film (PPF) is to suggest more coverage. You’ve probably seen this scenario before: someone considering front-end protection ends up with PPF on other parts of their car as well, or even goes for a full wrap. That customer learned more about what’s popular,  what solutions are available and how costs compare—from you, the PPF expert.

If you think this sounds more like educating than selling, you’re right. The reality is that a significant part of sales is explaining products, benefits and possibilities. To be your most effective at this, focus on five key areas that are the most likely to result in better sales.

Offer Black PPF Products

Black PPF is more protective than vinyl, so it makes solid sense to offer this upgrade to customers looking for black vinyl all over or as an accent. Plus, customers interested in PPF for protection might also want to customize their car’s look further. Just letting these customers know that it’s possible to transform color and add protection in a single installation can encourage add-on sales.

Suggest Thicker PPF Products

Today’s advanced products are high-gloss and blend in well with factory finishes or other types of PPF. Try suggesting selective use of thicker PPF for higher impact resistance in areas more prone to damage (such as rocker panels) or for the entire installation.

Explain 2-in-1 Products

As you’re guiding a customer to the product that’s right for them, it’s natural to discuss and compare product features. This is an excellent opportunity to highlight new, premium products that deliver the most coveted benefits with a single installation. They’re great for those who come in asking for both PPF and ceramic, only to discover it’s not in their budget.

Reference Kelley Blue Book Value

This one’s a no-brainer. Go to kbb.com, enter information about your customer’s car, and show them differences in value based on condition. Once they see how much more their car is worth in excellent or very good condition, they’ll be encouraged to protect a larger portion of their finish with PPF. This also helps close sales with customers who need help rationalizing the cost of PPF.

Use Those Live Demo Tools

Most vendors provide shops that carry their products with hands-on displays, tools and more to demonstrate product benefits. Don’t let them collect dust in a corner. Desirable PPF features such as self-healing, impact resistance and hydrophobicity sound good, but it’s more convincing when customers see them work. Demos are a great way to upsell from standard to premium products, and when customers believe in the power of PPF, they’re more likely to go for more coverage, too.

Jacob Motley is the PPF channel marketing manager for Eastman Performance Films, LLC

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

Observe & Project Fall 2021

See You at SEMA

By Chris Collier

The Las Vegas Convention Center welcomes car culture back into its halls this November. It’s a live-and-in-person comeback featuring an additional 1.4 million square feet of space in West Hall—the home of all things paint protection film (PPF). SEMA’s return is akin to comfort food for a car enthusiast. For me, it’s a brand new era of my career that I can’t wait to experience.

“West Coast Customs” sparked my passion for the automotive scene. The Burbank, Calif., customization center was my first exposure to SEMA and all it had to offer. My father and I marveled at the shop’s creations behind a now-defunct Zenith television. Now, I’m covering it all from a birds-eye view clearer than any early-2000’s TV screen . . . crazy how that works. The shop and its crew frequent SEMA to this day, and now it’s my turn.

What am I anticipating most? Well, I’m ready to learn from the industry’s sharpest. Avery Dennison is planning live demonstrations and training in which all can partake. I’m eager to scan the PPF process and watch installers dance between speed and quality in pursuit of perfection. I’m also looking forward to visiting Global Window Films, Johnson Window Films, XPEL, Eastman Performance Films and more after watching them shine in the Sunshine State at the International Window Film Conference and Tint Off™ (WFCT) this past June.

I can’t deny it—the kid in me is ready to scan the matte-black McClarens, the paint-protected Porsches and the ceramic-coated Corvettes—I’m ready for it all.

Bring it on SEMA.

If you’ll be at SEMA, please stop by PPFMag’s booth at #54074. It would be great to meet you.

Chris Collier is the assistant editor of PPFMag. Email him at ccollier@glass.com and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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