Is it true no Jeep Wrangler or Ram pickup buyer leaves the dealership without at least one accessory on their new vehicle?
Well, just about, says a thankful Pietro Gorlier, head of Mopar, the parts, service and accessories unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Mopar (a contraction of “motor” and “parts) began in 1937 as the name of a line of antifreeze products.
At this year’s Chicago Auto Show, Mopar debuted a tricked-out outdoor-sport-themed ’19 Ram 1500 with features including a lifted suspension, wheel flares and off-road running boards.
At the show, Gorlier talks to WardsAuto about what he considers the wonderful world of accessories, how dealers can sell more of them and his own personal ride, which sounds like something to behold.
WardsAuto: How are things going these days for Mopar?
Gorlier: It’s a pretty good time for us. In the space of a few months at FCA, we’ve launched the Wrangler and the new Ram, which are among the top three vehicles for accessorizing. It’s the perfect recipe for success.
Part of our strategy is to have the vast majority of accessories available when we launch a vehicle. That’s not necessarily an easy process. The development of a vehicle takes a while. If you start too early with accessories, you risk developing (an aftermarket product) and then having to change it if a vehicle design change occurs.
For the Wrangler and Ram, we’ve developed a portfolio of about 200 accessories. Between the two, we’ve invested almost 200,000 collective hours of design, engineering, testing and validation.
WardsAuto: So Mopar people work in concert with vehicle-development people?
Gorlier: Yes, our teams work with theirs.
WardsAuto: To your point, there’s a sweet spot where you don’t want to get too far ahead of the process.
Gorlier: Yes. But you start early with defining the portfolio, particularly for the Wrangler where you have a history of forever of things you can do. Then you start designing, then tooling. Ultimately, designing an accessory is not that different than designing the component of a car. With both, you need the function and perfect fit and finish.
WardsAuto: The distinction would be that a component made for the vehicle definitely will go on the vehicle. On the other hand, you’ve got to sell the accessory, right? There is the imponderable of whether it will end up on the vehicle.
Gorlier: All the accessories are designed to be installed in and on the vehicle, at whatever point. Sometimes we install them directly in the plant. There are cases where accessories become an option.
WardsAuto: Sure, but no customer says “Gee, I don’t want those side mirrors installed on my vehicle.” Those things are going on the car. With an accessory, it’s a customer choice.
Gorlier: What we’ve done that’s proven to be very effective and unique, is to create custom shops. These are small production lines near the (assembly) plants. We take the vehicle from the plant to the shop, install accessories and deliver the car to the dealer already customized.
There are three advantages to this. First, we use the same fit and finish and quality processes of the production plant. Second, the accessories are incorporated into the price of the vehicle. Third, it increases the vehicle’s residual value. When you are selling a car, no one is determining value on what was installed after the first purchase.
WardsAuto: Which is more frequent, putting on the accessories before the car goes to the dealership or putting them on at the dealership after customers go down the list and pick what they want?
Gorlier: There still are more accessories installed at the dealerships. But we process about 300,000 vehicles a year in our custom shops. And it’s growing every year.
WardsAuto: Somebody said no Wrangler or Ram buyer leaves the dealership without at least one accessory on their new purchase. Is that the case?
Gorlier: It’s pretty true. Ninety-eight percent of Wranglers have at least one Mopar accessory. I’m sure there’s 2% with something we don’t do. But it is not uncommon for people to spend $15,000 on accessories and performance parts for their Wranglers.
It’s also the vehicle that’s more structurally modified with things like lift kits and bigger wheels, different bumpers and winches.
At Moab, UT (a popular off-roading destination) you don’t see one Wrangler the same as another.
WardsAuto: Rams and Jeeps are no-brainers for accessorizing. But what about standard, regular vehicles. How do you sell Mopar stuff to that customer?
Gorlier: There are different accessories for those vehicles, and we need different people working on them than those who work on accessories for the Ram and Wrangler or performance parts for the Dodge Challenger. It requires a different mindset.
The Pacifica minivan accessories would be more like wireless smartphone chargers or DVD players.
WardsAuto: So Pacifica accessories wouldn’t be as flashy, if that’s the right word.
Gorlier: Yeah. Nobody is going to lift a Pacifica.
WardsAuto: It would be an interesting look.
Gorlier: A lot you can do for a Pacifica owner is to make life inside the vehicle more comfortable. And then things like running boards.
WardsAuto: On Pacificas?
Gorlier: Yes, but they are not side steps.
WardsAuto: What are they?
Gorlier: They are more integrated into the car.
WardsAuto: It’s been said dealers typically don’t do a great job selling accessories. Dealers might say it’s tough enough sometimes selling the vehicle, let alone add-ons. What advice would you give to dealers to better sell accessories?
Gorlier: There are dealers who do an outstanding job selling accessories, and there are others who struggle. If you want to effectively sell accessories, you need to install them on a vehicle and display it so people can see what it looks like. People see it and say, “I want that!” This is why the custom shops are important, because the vehicles arrive at the dealership already accessorized. They don’t have to manage the process at the dealership.
WardsAuto: So that becomes a display car?
Gorlier: Yes, and those cars have a higher turn in the dealership. Another point is accessorizing and customizing a vehicle are among the top five reasons a customer chooses a particular vehicle. So my comment to dealers is the reason you need to sell accessories and be engaged is not just to make more money, but to turn your inventory quicker. Also, that customer becomes more loyal to the brand.
WardsAuto: What do you drive?
Gorlier: A Ram.
WardsAuto: I would imagine it’s accessorized a lot.
Gorlier: It is. But it becomes yours. You cannot miss it.
WardsAuto: What are some things on it?
Gorlier: Well, it’s lifted. It has custom wheels, a different exhaust. It’s sort of an experimentation of everything you can do. My daughter, who is very interested in cars, would be shocked not to have a vehicle that hasn’t been upgraded.
WardsAuto: How old is she?
WardsAuto: Oh, I thought she was of driving age.
Gorlier: No. But at 10, she pays attention. Her classmates ask, “Why do your family’s cars always have stripes and make different noises?”
But it’s all part of human reality. We all wear clothes, but we want to express our personality by choosing what to wear. That’s the same with cars. My daughter would want stripes on a Pacifica.
WardsAuto: Would you?
Gorlier: I don’t know. But I’d definitely spend money to personalize it.