SEMA News - October 2010

A Conversation With Ed Tonkin, Chairman of the National Automobile Dealers Association

By Chad Simon


SEMA News-October 2010-Events-NADA
”The addition of a successfully run specialty-equipment/accessories department has the real potential to increase sales and profitability as well as customer retention and loyalty,” said National Automobile Dealers Association Chairman Ed Tonkin.



Recently SEMA News caught up with National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) Chairman Ed Tonkin. Tonkin, a multifranchise dealer in Portland, Oregon, discussed the opportunities specialty-equipment sales represent for dealerships as well as the SEMA Dealer Day taking place at this year’s SEMA Show.

SEMA News: We are seeing an increased level of interest from new-car dealerships looking to get involved in selling specialty-equipment accessories. What role do you see accessory sales playing for dealerships going forward?

Ed Tonkin: Sales of specialty-equipment accessories represent a $27-billion-a-year market, and it’s growing. This provides a tremendous opportunity for franchised dealers to expand their business operations and better meet the needs of their customers who shop for vehicle accessories. Consumers are increasingly interested in vehicle personalization. More and more dealers are offering specialty-equipment accessories, creating a new and important business opportunity for their dealerships.

SN: What are some of the benefits accessory sales programs represent for new-car dealers?

ET: The nation’s new-car and -truck dealers continue to make major investments in their dealerships to improve sales, service and customer satisfaction. The addition of a successfully run specialty-equipment/accessories department has the real potential to increase sales and profitability as well as customer retention and loyalty. Franchised dealers also invest heavily in technical training offered by their manufacturers. As a result, no one knows your vehicle better than your dealer. And no one is better able to advise on how any modifications might impact vehicle performance and warranty coverage.

SN: What advice would you give to dealers looking to integrate specialty-equipment accessory sales into their dealerships?

ET: Dealers who are thinking about integrating a specialty-equipment/accessories department should attend the Dealer Day program at the SEMA Show. This is a rare opportunity for dealers and their managers to learn from dealers who are operating successful accessory programs. In addition, NADA University offers an online training program, “Accessorizing Your Way to Additional Profits,” that lets you hear directly from many of these dealers who openly share the pitfalls and best practices of their experiences. [For more information, visit]

SN: Similarly, what advice would you offer to specialty-equipment companies looking to get involved with auto dealerships?

ET: There are still many concerns over vehicle warranties and liability issues when it comes to the specialty-equipment market. First and foremost, dealerships need to have confidence in companies they choose to do business with. These companies must be reputable, reliable and equally concerned about customer satisfaction and a long-term relationship.

SN: NADA is co-sponsoring the 2010 Dealer Day conference at the SEMA Show. What can dealers expect to learn from the program?

ET: We’ve developed Dealer Day at the SEMA Show specifically to address accessory sales opportunities for dealers. The half-day program will provide participants with the tools and resources they need to expand or build an accessory department. Participants will also receive the free online course, “Accessorizing Your Way to Additional Profits,” from NADA University’s Learning Hub. Dealers who attended last year had a lot of good things to say about the program. They said they walked away with information they could put to immediate use, and they made some good contacts and learned the “how to” needed to get started. What better way to learn than from your peers? And what better place to see all the latest accessories from the equipment manufacturers?


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