SEMA News - September 2010

What Makes Automotive Essentials and ProPledge Work So Well?

  SEMA News-September 2010-Business 
SEMA News recently had the chance to catch up with long-time automotive restyler Jon Titman of Automotive Essentials, a ProPledge participant. Titman, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, provided some insights into the services Automotive Essentials offers and how the business has benefitted since the inception of the ProPledge program three years ago.

For a detailed analysis of exactly what ProPledge is and its benefits to most SEMA-member companies, visit the ProPledge website or call 818/248-4449. Information about the program is constantly being updated, including the member listings.

SEMA News: Tell us a little about Automotive Essentials. How long has the company been involved in the restyling industry? How many employees do you have, and what are the most popular installations you perform on new vehicles?

Jon Titman: Automotive Essentials has been in business for nine years. Prior to opening it, Doug and Karla Perez worked for Sure Fit, an accessory installation company in northern Virginia. Doug was the sales representative, and Karla worked in the accounting department. I worked at E&G Classics for 26 years, the first six as the company’s local sales rep and then 20 years as the national sales manager. Between Doug and me, we have more than 40 years of experience in the restyling and accessory industry. Automotive Essentials has grown to be the largest restyling and automotive accessory installation center in the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

We employee 15 people and run as leanly as possible. Our techs are cross-trained and can work together in sunroof, leather, electronics and the other installations we do. The most popular products we currently install are leather interiors, sunroofs, navigation and in-vehicle entertainment systems, such as mobile video. Our techs are SEMA and ASE certified. That is something we are very proud of and is a key sales tool at dealerships.

SN: Automotive Essentials was one of the first installer members of the ProPledge program. How has the program made an impact on the business?

JT: ProPledge brings a high level of professionalism to our business. Dealers have viewed installers as some guys who work out of a two-bay garage installing products that many times they are not familiar with. The names of the manufacturers of various accessories were often unknown to them, and they had no idea of the quality of the installations or the abilities of the installers. ProPledge removes those doubts by showing the dealer in writing, in ads and by our explanation of the program that we take their concerns seriously and have properly addressed them.

SN: How has the ProPledge program helped with your dealer-related business?

JT: One of the largest mega dealers in our market made the decision to only do business with Automotive Essentials because of ProPledge. He saw the value of the quality of the products we install, the certifications of our installers and the three-year/36,000-mile nationwide warranty the program provides to his stores and his customers. We would not have earned the business of all his stores without ProPledge. His organization has become our largest account. ProPledge has also helped us to land one of the largest Toyota dealers in our market and a number of
other accounts.

SN: What elements of the ProPledge program are most satisfying to the dealers when your company is installing aftermarket parts on new vehicles?

  SEMA News-September 2010-Business 
  For more information regarding Automotive Essentials, call 301/ 231-5444 or visit   
JT: The recognized quality of the accessories we install, our installer certification and the ProPledge warranty. All of these combined help resolve the concerns of a dealer when having accessories installed on his or her vehicles. 

SN: How has the ProPledge program changed over the last year to benefit member installers?

JT: Joe Sebergandio, the ProPledge operations director, has brought a high level of energy to the program and really listens to the concerns and ideas many of us have about ProPledge. His participation at this year’s NADA Show was a plus in educating dealers about the program.

SN: What would you tell a professional installer who is considering becoming a ProPledge member?

JT: Just join! We all need to raise the level of awareness of the professionalism of our industry and educate dealerships as to how we can assist them in selling more vehicles and generating additional profits. ProPledge helps remove the concerns the dealer has about accessories and can assist us all in landing more accounts and expanding our businesses. 

SN: What types of new vehicles are the most popular in the restyling world of late?

JT: We are seeing a resurgence in the sales of domestic vehicles. As a result, we are doing more business with
those dealers. Crossovers have also become very popular, and we are installing leather and sunroofs in them. The Toyota Venza and the Chevrolet Equinox are very popular vehicles.

SN: What types of add-on restyling products are the most popular these days? Any trends or new items of note?

JT: The big sellers are sunroofs, leather, navigation and mobile entertainment. These items have been popular for many years and will continue to be. Every year, we go to the SEMA Show hoping to find the next big thing. In-vehicle TV was supposed to be the next hit, and it just hasn’t turned out that way. We are always looking.


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