Good quality ride control is as much about safety and performance as it is about comfort, say the experts. Whether a car is in its second decade of service life, or just entering the aftermarket years, encourage ASP customers to raise the subject of replacement.
Spring is traditionally the time when ride control rises in both service occasions and accompanying promotions to boost sales. We asked GSP North America’s Jason Riley, Senior Sales Manager for Retail; and Andy Andy Castleman, Brand Manager, with KYB Americas Corporation, to give insights on what jobbers and their sales professionals can do to maximize their opportunities at this critical time of year.
According to GSP’s Riley, it’s a great time to remind ASP customers to conduct and promote seasonal maintenance, do inspections, and to have conversations with your customers about routine check-ups. “Recommend replacing [ride control components] in pairs . This benefits both parties: it’s a sale opportunity for the counterperson to sell a pair of loaded struts versus a single strut. And the customer also has better confidence in the safety and reliability of the part and service provided. Replacing only one strut is fine, but will eventually cause an uneven ride due to the existing strut on the opposite side having wear.”Riley goes on to recommend that jobbers brush up on their education around ride control. “Never stop learning about different parts and ride control. This helps you better understand customers’ problems with their vehicles.”
Finally, check all related systems for damage or wear. “Sometimes, we can overlook the small stuff. It is important to inspect any parts or related systems prior to installing the replacement part; this will help uncover any other issues prior to installation.”
Andy Castleman of KYB America notes that spring is definitely suspension season! “For most of the country it’s potholes, potholes and more potholes. Undercarriages have been pounded with snow, ice and all sorts of winter road debris.” Castleman predicts that shock and strut sales should spike this spring and many service providers will be offering a Spring Suspension Check-up. “We suggest that parts pros help capture those sales with a ‘Spring Season’s Top Parts’ or ‘Spring’s Most Asked For’ flyer, as a reminder to inspect the most critical post-winter related suspension components.”
The return of nicer spring weather and sunny days will also cause drivers to roll down windows and hear noises that weren’t there last fall, he points out. “Announcing that you’re parts-ready for the spring suspension, shock and strut parts demand will help keep you front-of-mind this season.”
Are there gaps in execution that you see from time to time that jobbers and their sales professionals can work to address?
According to Castleman, “Service providers need a good reason to justify recommending replacement parts, especially when it comes to shocks and struts. They do just fine when parts are completely bad, but struggle with recommending worn parts as maintenance. Often this is due to a lack of product knowledge. Jobbers can help them, and KYB can help jobbers.”
Promoting and capturing shock and strut sales, Castleman advises, is easier when you become the parts expert. “Product knowledge, when to replace shocks and struts, how to rate wear, how to communicate shocks and struts performance to the motorist, why recommend OEM quality and performance… all of this is covered at KYB.com/training. Becoming the service provider’s shock and strut information resource can become your best sales advantage.” Casgtlemetn recommends accessing KYB’s online catalogue at www/kyb.com/catalog/. It’s available on-line with a mobile version as well.
GSP’s Jason Ridley agrees that product knowledge is key to successful sales of shock and strut products. “Understanding the value of ride control and being able to express that to your customers is important,” he says.
“Never make a decision for your customer. Give them all the information they need to decide and then let them make it.”
Hand-in-hand with strong product knowledge of ride control products is knowing where there are opportunities and how to promote them. Riley observes that service providers might be leaving money on the table by simply not bringing up the issue of worn ride control with their customers.
“Traditionally, as cars get older, we may not recommend ride control because [the vehicle] may be at the end of its service life – as the average used car is getting older. Therefore, a car may go through a second or third pair of ride controls rather than one. Don’t be scared to have the conversation.”
Castleman zeros in on cars at the other end of the age spectrum. “Modern vehicles have more computing power than it took to get to the moon,” he points out. “A lot of that computing power is devoted to crash avoidance systems. Cars, trucks, SUVs and pretty much every vehicle on the road has them. Shocks and struts are designed and integrated to be part of those safety systems. The thing about computers is they can only think and send instructions: they can’t carry out any of those instructions.
“Say, for instance, that the crash avoidance computer tells the brakes to engage suddenly, but the tires are worn out. A worn tire, even with some tread left, can negatively affect stopping and turning. Will the car stop in time? Or if the shocks and struts are worn, will the tires be in contact with the road enough to make that stop?
“KYB shocks and struts are designed for vehicle-specific body movement control as well as tire control. All four corners of the vehicle are calibrated to work together. That keeps the vehicle stable during every driving condition, so that the crash avoidance system can work properly. Unfortunately, most motorists don’t understand how important shocks and struts can be. Jobbers can educate motorists and service providers of the hazards of worn shocks, increasing driver safety and promoting sales.”
Ride control specialists like KYB and GSP North America have great tools that help keep both jobber staff and their customers fully informed on the subject of ride control.
GSP offers regular email newsletters, their unique garage Support Program, as well as an etenxsive library of educational and product knowledge materials. Talk to your GDSP North America representative for full information and to request predict materials.
“If you asked five different people what ride control is, you would get five different answers,” laughs Castleman. “If your first thought was shocks and struts, you would only be partially correct. The goal of ride control is really vehicle control. Designed vehicle control is only possible when ride control components – the steering, suspension, tires and brakes – are all performing within their designed capabilities.
“Every component in ride control affects all the others. So, when you have a conversation about shocks and struts, it’s important to consider their relationship to stopping and turning, not just ride or body movement. This relationship is why OEM quality is so important.”