Start Your Engines: XPEL Sets the Stage at Texas Motor Speedway

Texas Motor Speedway features 20 degrees of banking in turns one and two and 24 degrees of banking in turns three and four. The grounds were home to the XPEL 375, a 248 lap, 372.8 mile Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) IndyCar Series race held from March 19 to 20. David Chukhman, president at Tritek Window Tinting in Garland, Texas, kicked off the race by proudly waving the green flag.

Chukhman kicked off the event.

“It was quite the experience to watch the cars go by at 200-plus miles per hour [MPH] right above the race track,” says Chukhman, an authorized XPEL installer. “It was also nerve-wracking because it could be catastrophic if you drop the flag on the track. Plus—I’m on live TV.”

Texas Motor Speedway was repaved and redesigned in 2017 and has produced memorable moments since the series’ inaugural race in 1997. Circuit of the Americas rests 222 miles from the track and played host to XPEL 225, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on March 26. Protective film and coatings provider XPEL is revving its engine in the hopes of sharing its products with a fresh pool of automotive enthusiasts. Harry Rahman, director of architectural films at XPEL, says, “We want to pull demand and expand the pie for all of our businesses.”

“We’ve connected the dots,” Rahman says. “When a NASCAR or IndyCar fan leaves, they will drive home and park somewhere. They’re going to drive to work the next day, park and sit in an office that may have windows or cubicles. As part of our business-to-consumer (B2C) strategy, we are focused on expanding the industry as a whole … the entire industry benefits.”

XPEL’s team was on hand for the event.

Rahman says XPEL’s cross-selling strategy includes exposing gearheads to architectural films that could benefit their day-to-day life. He also says paint protection film’s (PPF) market penetration is “still very low.”

“I would [estimate] nine out of 10 people [coming to NASCAR events] don’t know the benefits of PPF,” Rahman says. “In terms of architectural film, I would say nine and a half out of 10 don’t know window film is a solution to their problem. They’re looking at better air conditioning, blinds, shutters and replacement windows. The goal is to get all of our businesses equal opportunity in front of this customer.”

XPEL’s presence was felt in the stands and on the track.

XPEL recently announced the expansion of its Vision architectural window film product portfolio and commercial support services. The new films and services are designed to reduce the carbon footprint of commercial buildings by lowering peak-energy demand and maximizing heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) efficiency, according to the company. Rahman says its recent racing initiatives tie all segments together.

“We feel this particular vertical hits home with the type of customer we want to go after—someone who cares about their car, trusts us and then will trust us with their home and their building,” he adds.

Will BMW’s New Technology Compete with Wrap Businesses?

Our world is increasingly digitized. From currency to cars to newspapers, how people pay, commute and consume news continues to evolve. BMW’s new iX Flow concept car possesses technology that allows the body’s color to shift from shades of white, gray and black. The development begs the question: Will the new technology flood the wrap market with competition?

Garwood says the tech appeals to automotive enthusiasts.

What’s the Word?

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big killer to the wrap industry because I think they’re only going to implement the technology into higher-end models,” says Hunter Garwood, general manager of All Pro Window Films in Raleigh, N.C. “It’s going to serve a limited clientele. Most of the vehicles we’re wrapping are in the value of $40,000 to $120,000.”

BMW’s technology incorporates E Ink’s electronic paper technology, which can be found on e-reader devices such as the Amazon Kindle. Car wraps comprise 10% of the business at Automotive Film Specialists in Houston, Texas. General manager Mike Norng doesn’t envision BMW’s baby mirroring the versatility of vinyl and says, “You have stripes and other options with vinyl. If a car is only changing its color, you can still do other things.”

Jacob Caudy, owner of h2o Window Tinting in Tarpon Springs, Fla., is entrenched in the car wrap market. Sixty percent of his business stems from the segment, yet the 19-year veteran isn’t concerned. In fact, he sees the invention as a potential service offering if it’s ever installable.

“When the computer came out, everyone working in a warehouse was going, ‘The computer is evil; I’m not going to use a computer,’” Caudy says. “It’s the same thing with plotters. Plotters came out, and all these hand cutters brag about how they’ve been tinting for 30 years. It’s like a competition—it’s two sides. Who cares? Learn to use everything to your advantage.”

To Fligor, car customization is an art form that requires a human touch.

Elite Wraps & Window Tinting LLC is located in Lebanon, Ohio, and has vinyl to thank for 60% of its business. Owner-operator Julian Fligor says the customization option lacks a human element.

“Vinyl wrapping and color changing is a process, and it’s an art,” Fligor says. “I think they’re relying too much on the technical side of this. I would much rather not only do the install process but have that one-on-one conversation with the client.”

What if?

The headline-grabbing, eye-popping personalization doesn’t seem a threat in the near-term, but what about the long-term?

“If it were to become a threat, the speed of the technology would outweigh the actual labor of installing film on a car,” Garwood explains. “It reduces liability, as far as taking cars apart, wrapping them and putting them back together. Only time will tell over the next five to ten years. I don’t think it’s going to be something immediate. I think it’s something they’re testing to see if they have a clientele for it or not.”

Garwood’s company had $1.7 million in sales in 2020 and $2.3 million in 2021. He says the commercial segment is starting to see the rise of technological films, which could be a sign of things to come.

Norng’s team works on many wraps.

“We’re installing electronic films on windows, [where they’re going from clear to frost],” Garwood says. “You’re going to see a manufacturer incorporate it into the automotive industry like BMW is now.”

Caudy has worked through similar industry evolutions and says, “A few years ago, they had color-changing film, and it used to be the craziest thing in the world. Now you have commercial projects where you hit a switch and the windows are black. You hit another switch, and you can see right through. Dimmable windows—that’s going to be the new technology of cars. Why not use that to your advantage? Push different products and evolve with it.”

Norng says color changing and color-shifting paint protection film (PPF) offers value.

“It will be the next big thing because it will do two things,” he says. “Color change wraps are only for looks, but PPF wraps will do both. You get paint protection and an aesthetic—you can change color.”

New Year, New Me: Film Shops Rev Up 2022 Resolutions

The New Year dawns in 10 days, delivering a fresh calendar full of potential. With 2021 winding down, industry members are reminiscing on past accomplishments and reciting resolutions for the future. 23-year veteran Nipsy Mitch Goldman, owner of Tegridy Tint in Marrero, La., is focused on family for 2022.

Goldman aims to train his son in 2022.

“I’ve been bringing my son to work the past few months,” Goldman says. “I’m trying to teach him because he just graduated high school. All the time I’ve spent in shops—I’ve never spent enough time with him to push him. That’s one thing that hurts me because I spent most of his life working. I don’t want him to be like that with his children whenever he has children.” Goldman says passing on industry knowledge and teaching his son how to tint would be his “biggest accomplishment.”

40-year veteran Mel Villalon of Paradise Tinting in Long Beach, Calif., will hone in on a new segment of business in 2022.

“Anti-vandalism film is going to blow up,” Villalon says. “I’m going to do more elevator work and restrooms. There’s miles and miles of stainless steel that needs to be protected or finished.”

John Little owns All Pro Window Tinting in Decatur, Texas, with his brother Jason and has been in the industry since 1990. He plans to lean on the shoulders of others during the next 12 months.

Little looks to share responsibility in 2022.

“At my age, and my body breaking down, especially with getting COVID, a good goal that I would like to [pursue] is to step back, run the business, deal with customers, answer the phone and have somebody else do the physical work,” John Little says. “For many years, we’ve [had] a mindset where we want all the money. Now we’re realizing we wish we had trained people and brought people up under our wings to work for us.”

Melody Champagne, owner of Champagne Window Tinting in Roswell, Ga., is new to the industry, but she’s still shooting for the stars as January approaches. She plans to “work with the champagne theme and give it a modern, classy look where you can tell how much work I put into the place.”

Champagne plans to grow her brand throughout the New Year.

Many strive for more in the New Year, but it’s essential to step back, take a deep breath and reflect on accomplishments in the previous one.

“Hand-cutting was hard for me at first,” Champagne says. “When I started working at a dealership, I didn’t have anybody to teach me. I had to be self-taught, and I had to be able to talk to other people who have done it, too.”

For some, growth was found within.

“I haven’t been a confident person for a long time in my life,” says Jordan ‘Shady Jay’ Jernigan, main installer and shop manager at Luxury Window Tinting in Greenbrier, Ark. “This past year, for personal growth, has been a huge milestone. I’ve grown to appreciate myself more and have more confidence in myself than I’ve ever had. It’s let me be more of myself than I’ve ever been.”

Female Film Stars Find Voice for 2022

The women of the film industry will kick off 2022 with a different form of customized artistry. Prominent female film stars will ring in the new year by launching a calendar titled the Women of Automotive Film. Ten women comprise the calendar’s pages.

“I want to bring light to [the fact] that there are females in this male-dominated industry,” says Liz Lasa of Artistic Window Tinting in Yuba City, Calif., who is also known as ‘Window Tinting Queen.’ “Hopefully, it brings light to other females that want to get into our industry—to promote that it’s open to males and females.”

Each month after January 2022 features photos of a different industry professional:

Luanna Souzza of Tint Pro in Sunrise, Fla.

January 2022 (All 10 women)

February 2022 (Melody Champagne, owner of Champagne Window Tinting in Roswell, Ga.)

March 2022 (Amber Bailey, vehicle wrapper)

April 2022 (Luanna Souzza of Tint Pro in Sunrise, Fla.)

May 2022 (TBD)

June 2022 (Julia Collins of Kaloko Tinting in Kona, Hawaii)

July 2022 (Julieta Moreno of Boss Lady Window Tint in Katy, Texas)

August 2022 (Cheyanne Kahele, owner of Kaloko Tinting in Kona, Hawaii)

September 2022 (Erika Gare, wrap artist)

October 2022 (Raphael Love, owner of Love’s Mobile Tinting LLC)

November 2022 (Amber Renea, owner/technician at Revamped Rides LLC in Blue Springs, Mo.)

December 2022 (Liz Lasa of Artistic Window Tinting in Yuba City, Calif.)

Lasa represents December 2022 in the calendar.

“I do all of the automotive film where I work,” Kahele says. “I’m sweating and in T-shirts and shoes all day. I was looking forward to taking nice pictures, getting pretty, getting all glammed up and feeling good about myself. Because I don’t get to do that—I’ve got three kids, have my own business and [I’m] trying to build a house.”

Wrap artist Gare’s goal aligns with other women in the group. “I wanted to be a part of the calendar to connect with other women in the industry,” Gare says. “To inspire other women to embrace themselves for who they are and not just who they think they should be working in a male-dominated industry.”

Calendar feedback has far exceeded expectations for Champagne. “I think we all have something in common,” Champagne says. “I think we’re all tomboys in a way. It’s a great way for us to express that. I didn’t know what would come of it. I’m sure they probably didn’t know what would come of it. Now, here we are making a calendar.”

Kahele echoed Champagne, citing a notable character trait as common ground for the group.

“The more I’ve been learning about us, I think the biggest thing we have in common is perseverance,” adds Kahele. “There are so many things that we’ve each overcome in our own lives—personal and work. These ladies are so strong.”

The group has discovered a voice that the community continues to amplify. Renea says, “I hope that it shows all sides of us—not just sweating in big T-shirts tinting cars. We’re still feminine, too.”

Women of Automotive Film is slated to release later this month.

National Apprenticeship Week: Training the Next Generation

This week marks the seventh annual National Apprenticeship Week (NAW), a nationwide effort to recognize apprentices’ critical role in the labor force. The window film industry is one of shared knowledge, a culture fostered by a desire to train the next wave of installers. Veterans are leading the charge.

Al Satterfield installing a wrap with his two sons.

“Apprentices are the future of a company,” says Andrew Peeler, owner of Solar Shade Window Tint in Jacksonville, Fla., Lake City, Fla., and Savannah, Ga. “That’s what you’re training. You’re looking for someone to carry on what your other employees have done. At the end of the day, as an owner, you need an exit strategy, or you might as well work for yourself.”

Peeler prefers hiring apprentices over experienced installers, citing the ability to teach and mold. Throughout his eight years in the industry, he’s had 100-150 apprentices. He typically hires in groups of five or six at a time.

“We start them off at around $14 or $15 an hour,” Peeler says. “We have them go through a two-week crash course with one of our shop foreman. He’ll pick from there—who he thinks is going to be the best candidates to spend the time training.”

Film isn’t for everyone, but Peeler provides opportunities for suitable candidates. He says, “We may put you in [training] how to do paint protection over window tint; may put you in vinyl over film or paint protection. . . . It’s wherever somebody is going to fit.”

Peeler uses Indeed, ZipRecruiter, Facebook, Instagram and Google to connect with his future apprentices. The search is closer to home for Al Satterfield, owner of INTINTZ Window Tinting in North Kokomo, Ind.

“Both of my installers are my sons, so we’re a family operation,” Satterfield says. “My oldest son came up in school and he was an apprentice, and then this is my second son. My first son is a full-time installer now, and my second son has fallen in his footsteps.”

Satterfield’s oldest son installs a wrap.

Satterfield is 35 years into the game after tinting his 1984 Pontiac Fiero in high school. His first son, 22, started by cleaning windows, prepping cars and picking up trash, transitioning into tinting quarter windows and sidelites. Satterfield says he avoids pressuring his sons into his lifelong passion.

“I don’t shoehorn them into a profession,” Satterfield adds. “It’s a blessing that they’ve taken on.”

Mike Sanchez (far left) took home bronze in the Automotive Tint-Off™ at the 2002 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT).

Many industry apprentices go on to do big things. Mike Sanchez is the president of Budget Window Tint and the founder of DIRTY Promotions Film Tools and Supplies in McAllen, Texas. Years ago, the 34-year veteran trained Salvador Hurtado, vice president of Sal’s House of Tint in San Marcos, Texas. Hurtado placed first in the Automotive Tint-Off™ at the 2017 International Window Film Conference and Tint-Off™ (WFCT) in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was also awarded the bronze medal in the architectural division.

“He’s made me proud of all the stuff that he’s become,” Sanchez says. “But I was only a stepping stone in his career.”

Mike Sanchez has WFCT hardware of his own, earning bronze in the Automotive Tint-Off™ in 2002 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. As industry members reflect on the value of apprenticeship, one thing is certain—former apprentices are bound for success at WFCT 2022, Sept. 14-16 in San Antonio, Texas.