How Big Do You Want To Go?
That’s what you’ll be saying as we take you through the steps to begin a sale, guide a customer to the right wheels and then close the sale. All too often, a customer comes into a dealer’s store and asks which wheels will fit on their vehicle and are told "just pick out a wheel and I’ll give you a price." Here’s the right way to approach a wheel sale, or any other sale for that matter.
When asked which wheels will fit, your first question should be what is the year, make and model of the vehicle; and if it’s a truck, is it a 2WD or 4WD. The very next question will make the difference between an average sale and a huge sale.
"How big of a wheel do you want?"
The average consumer doesn’t understand plus sizing and therefore thinks the only diameter that will fit on their vehicle is the original size. Also, when you ask this question, it gets the customer thinking about a larger size than OE, which we all know will lead to a tire sale.
Help the customer visualize what they want. Talk about the aesthetic appeal of a large diameter wheel and a low profile tire for a car, or a wide rim and large tire for a truck. Everyone has an idea of how to improve the appearance of their vehicle, so all you have to do is bring their vision to reality. When they tell you how big, it’s time to guide them to the right wheels to select from.
Knowing what offsets will work on specific vehicles will greatly enhance your profit opportunities with this part of the sale. Most wheel suppliers offer offset application guides to help you. If you don’t have one, ask for a current guide and keep it where you and your salesmen can find it.
Over time, you will learn most all of the bolt patterns and offsets available for each vehicle. Let’s take a few examples and walk through the sale.
Your example customer has a 1999 Honda Accord with 15-inch OE wheels. I picked this vehicle for several reasons. The Accord is offered with two different bolt patterns depending on engine size. The 4-cylinder has a 4-4.5 bolt pattern and the V-6 has a 5-4.5 bolt pattern (see TR February 2002 for an explanation of bolt patterns). You must identify which model and engine size the Accord is in order to select the right wheels.
Several other vehicles have different bolt patterns depending on model, or engine so be as specific as possible.
What Can They Afford?
For our example here, let’s say the Accord in question has a 4-cylinder engine. Now we start to qualify the customer. You want to know what the customer is able to spend before trying to sell them a tire and wheel package that they can’t afford. If they ask about financing, have them fill out the paperwork. If the finance company gives them a limit of only $600, you need to show them a painted or polished wheel. If the limit is say $1,500-$2,000, start with some high positive offset chrome wheels.
Use your display wheels or a poster or catalog to show them any new styles. Explain to the customer which wheels will fit and which ones will not. This will save you a lot of time.
Ask them to pick out three or four styles that they would like in order of preference. Not all wheels are available all of the time. Call your supplier and give them the vehicle information and the styles of wheels they’re looking for.
Closing the Deal
After you have the availability information, it’s time to ask for the sale. Respond positively by saying: "They have the style you want in stock. When would you like to have them put on?"
At this point, don’t say a word. You have effectively made the sale, so let the customer accept the fact that they are making a major purchase and let them decide how quickly they can return for the wheels.
If the wheels are local and you have a spare person, ask for the keys and get the car on the rack while sending for the wheels. The best sale is the quickest.
If the wheel style the customer wants is not available, look for a pattern to determine their taste. Do they like a 5-spoke or multiple spokes? Do they like a swirl or something really flashy and cutting edge? Work with your supplier to find a similar wheel that is readily available. If you don’t act fast, the customer may lose the desire to purchase wheels and tires and spend their money on something else altogether.
Watch it with Trucks
Our next example will be a 1999 GM 1500 Z71. This truck comes with 16×7 wheels and narrow tires. It has a medium offset so a standard offset wheel will push the tire to the edge of the fender. If the customer wants a 10-inch wide wheel on this truck, they are going to need a 2- to 3-inch lift kit.
Many owners of these trucks have the older 1988-98 classic body Z71 which could have 15x 10 wheels and 33×12.50R15 tires. Owners of later models expect to come in and do the same with the new body trucks. Guess what? You can’t.
The larger brakes on newer models mean 16-inch is minimum and 10-inch wide wheels stick outside the fender by almost two inches.
Stay with a 16×8 wheel and a 285/75R16 tire. This will clear on most of these trucks. Remember to always check your clearances before letting the customer drive off.
With a lift kit, the truck can handle a 315/75R16 tire on a 16×10 wheel. Again, guide your customer to the truck/SUV wheels in the catalog or on the floor. Let the customer know that only aluminum wheels will fit on this year/model truck; steel wheels hit the calipers.
Qualify the customer as before and make the sale. If you have a 2WD 1500 and the customer wants a wide tire and wheel, then suggest a 16×10 wheel and 275/65R16 or 285/60R16 tires. This setup will work on a stock truck and clear with no modifications in most cases. Personally, I thing it really looks best with fender flares and running boards.
I hope that my last few columns have given you the confidence to sell larger tires and wheels. As you can see, the potential is enormous and so are the rewards.
In an economy where every dollar counts, an active wheel business gives you the power to promote your business, draw new customers and increase sales. As with most anything, the amount of return is directly related to the effort you put in.
If you have any questions for Scott concerning custom wheel fitment, marketing and sales, contact him at [email protected] or write to him at Tire Review.