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Dealers Find Profit in VIN Etching By Jim Stickford Used Car News Staff Writer The practice of etching VINs on vehicle windows has become popular in the past few years, offering dealers the chance to create a new profit center. Greg Goebel, a vice president with Leedom & Associates, a dealer con­sultant firm in Sarasota, FL, said that VIN security etching products have become popular for a rea­son. “It’s pretty simple,” Goebel said. “Dealers etch a car’s VIN on all the glass parts. It turns out glass is one of the biggest items sold at chop shops. “Side glass can go for as much as $500 or $600. But if there’s a VIN on the glass, it becomes harder to sell on the black market and the car becomes less attrac­tive to thieves.” What dealers charge for etching varies, Goebel said. It depends what method is used to apply the VIN and the cost of materials and whether the service depart­ment does the work. But prices can range from $25 to $160 and more. “It’s a nice profit cen­ter,” Goebel said. “It returns profits to dealers the way rustproofing used to. A lot of dealers used to put rustproofing on cars and up sell the cost on finance. Now they can do the same with VIN etching. Bruce Bodenstein, a vice president at Mark-N-Gard in Charlotte, NC, said his company has been selling the hardware and software used in window etching for almost 20 years.

“Insurance compa­nies give people a discount if they’ve used the service.” Steve Olave

“What we do,” Boden­stein said, “is scan the VIN into our computer system. We used Palm Pilot-based technology. Our system uses a printer that produces a sten­cil with the VIN. The stencil has an adhesive back, which is used to affix the VIN to the window.” Then, Bodenstein said, an etching compound is applied over the stencil. It sits for three to five minutes and the stencil is then removed. “We use chemicals to etch,” Bodenstein said. “Some people use sand blasting techniques. Law enforcement agencies around the country recognize the value of this. In fact, most of my cus­tomers are law enforcement agencies. I’ve just started marketing to dealers.” Steve Olave, used-car manager for Ross Downing Chevrolet in Hammond, LA, said his dealership has been doing VIN etching for a while. “It’s a good theft deter­rent,” Olave said. “Insur­ance companies give people a discount if they’ve used the’ service. We charge $195. I’d guess parts and labor costs are, maybe, $50. It’s a good profit cen­ter.” Olave sells it as a fea­ture benefit. He estimates that it is used by 30 to 40 percent of his buyers. “It’s another way we can service the customer while making money,” Olave said. “It’s been very successful for us.” From an article in the Oct. 21, 2002 Used Car News.

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