Merging Ceramic Coatings Into Your Existing Business

By Chris Collier

The road to success in the paint protection film (PPF) and vinyl wrap industry is widening. It’s akin to a high-speed free-way with a rising number of lanes inviting additional growth. The ceramic coating segment is an increasingly popular pathway a business can approach and implement in various ways.

Keeping up With Competitors

“I was starting to see it everywhere,” says Josh Poponick, owner of Blackout Tinting in Latrobe, Pa. “In the early days, we were a window tint and detailing shop, and we would get $200 to detail a car. I was seeing guys who were getting upwards of $1,000 to do a ceramic coating. They were starting to pop up everywhere. Our local competitors also started offering coatings, and I was like, ‘Okay, I better figure this coating thing out.’”

Blackout Tinting has been in business for 12 years and started offering ceramic coatings in 2016. In addition to Latrobe, Pa., Blackout Tinting also has locations in Pittsburgh and Miami. The company has eight installers facilitating PPF projects.

“Ceramic coatings work awesome as a compliment to PPF,” Poponick says. “If you’re spending the money on PPF, I can almost guarantee I am getting you a coating as well. They could exist independently of each other, but your dollar amount per customer can be much higher if you combine PPF and coatings. The more you can get out of a customer, the better off you are.”

An Add-on Service

Keith Monahan owns TechnoWraps in Oviedo, Fla. Monahan founded the company in 2000 and has more than 30 years in the vehicle graphics industry. Today, ceramic coatings are supplemental services to vinyl wraps.

“We do a few per month,” Monahan says of ceramic coatings. “They’re a nice complimentary service to our main offerings. It’s a nice upsell. It’s a nice way to generate revenue that is a fairly high profit. It doesn’t require a lot of material costs, and it’s a quick turnaround type of product. A lot of the wraps we do take weeks to design, and we have to print them over the course of a few days. And then the installation takes two or three days depending on the size of the vehicle.”

Monahan notes that ceramic coatings can be installed in just a few hours and the process of applying the product on top of a vinyl wrap is not strenuous or labor intensive. He says, “You can, over the course of an hour or two, add several hundred dollars to the invoice.” But the benefits don’t just equate to more dollar signs.

“It provides value,” Monahan explains. “It’s not a pure-profit upsell. I would only sell it if it were a legitimate benefit to the customer. As I see it, it allows our vehicle wrap products to remain cleaner longer. When they do get dirty, the dirt gets removed more easily. There is a legitimate benefit to the customer. And as a result, they have a longer-lasting product.”

The Learning Curve

“You almost have to do both [PPF and coatings],” adds Poponick, who says that ceramic coatings make up 18% of his company’s sales. “If you just offer one or the other, you’re going to lose a lot of customers. You’ll have a lot of coating customers that want PPF.”

However, the barriers to entry for PPF and ceramic coatings are dramatically different, according to Poponick.

“With PPF, there is a steep learning curve, and it is expensive,” Poponick adds. “You’re throwing a lot of money in the trash.

I don’t care what anyone says. You won’t put out great work at the beginning; I don’t care how great your standards are. It gets to a point where it’s borderline impossible to get any better because your skill level doesn’t allow for it. It’s demoralizing. I remember the days when I would be nervous the customer wouldn’t be happy.”

Poponick adds, “Coatings are easier to learn. I could teach someone to paint correct and coat a car in a week; PPF might take a year.”

Protection as Package

“We don’t necessarily have a lot of coating jobs that are PPF-specific add-ons,” says James Melfi, general manager at AutoNuvo in Holliston, Mass. “It’s more about the customers coming in for a complete protection package, and we’re selling film, paint corrections and coatings as separate things but as a part of a complete package.”

AutoNuvo recently started creating more curated protection packages for specific vehicle types such as Porsches, Teslas, Ferraris and Chevrolet Corvettes.

“It’s a combination of PPF, corrections, coatings and à la carte coatings like wheel and leather-specific coatings,” Melfi explains. “It creates a combination project where I can keep both teams busy, and you can get your revenue numbers up because you’re not just focusing on one thing.”

Guiding detailers considering jumping into PPF or ceramic coatings, Melfi says coatings are an easier transition. But he believes the two products work best as a pair.

“When you pair them together, you get the best of both worlds,” Melfi adds. “You get the chip and scratch resistance from your PPF and the ease of cleaning, water behavior and dirt repellency from your coatings. When you put them together, you get a vehicle that is giving so much more value to the customer.”

Tracking Trends

TechnoWraps started dabbling in ceramic coatings six years ago. Monahan found the chemistry—hydrophobic qualities that repel water and dirt and allow for ease of cleaning—interesting.

“I saw the trend, and I wanted to learn more about it,” Monahan says. “Just like with vehicle wraps as a newbie, I made some mistakes and did projects on my own car. Now we’re at a point where we’re much more proficient.”

Monahan has witnessed a rise in consumer awareness surrounding ceramic coatings. A customer recently drove his Aston Martin DB9 two hours from Jacksonville, Fla., requesting a ceramic coating before Monahan could bring the topic up during the sales process.

“We deal with clients that really love their cars,” Monahan says. “That might take the form of a 19-year-old who loves his Honda Civic or a 65-year-old who has a Ferrari. They’re equally as passionate about their vehicles, and we cater to them. We know what’s important to them. The Civic customer gets treated exactly the same as the Ferrari customer. We’re all car guys, and we love to cater to that crowd. They’re educated consumers.”

Chris Collier is the editor for PPFMag.

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