If the showroom is the centerpiece of a dealership, why not use that spot to show off decked-out vehicles?

That’s what accessory provider Kevin McGowan wonders. “Why would you want your showroom to contain a white Sonata that’s the same found at any other Hyundai dealership in town?” says the owner of Auto Trim Restyling in metro St. Louis.

Use the dealership’s premier display space to highlight accessorized vehicles to boost customer interest and profits, he says.

“A displayed car with a couple of extras on it can convert a ‘need’ guy into a ‘want’ guy,” McGowan says of some car shoppers. “When you change him from need to want, you’ll have more gross.”

McGowan and other accessory experts participate in a panel discussion entitled “Maximizing Dealership Profitability With Accessories,” put on by the Specialty Equipment Market Assn.

The title is designed to draw dealer interest, but the fact is many dealers falter when it comes to selling aftermarket products to car buyers. Reasons range from indifferent salespeople to lack of an effective sales process to dealers supposedly charging too much compared with independent competitors down the street.

Whatever the reasons, most people in the auto-retailing industry agree dealers aren’t getting a big enough share in the $36 billion a year automotive aftermarket business.

One industry observer reckons only about 10% of dealers are good at accessory sales. The panel discussion is intended to offer ways to improve.

“Get a manager for the new and used department who at least likes cars,” says panelist Ed Woods, general sales manager at Parkway Ford Lincoln in Winston-Salem, NC. “It seems a lot of them sell cars like they’re selling widgets. Passion is a big part.”

A tricked-out displayed vehicle can excite shoppers, he says. “Accessorizing gets them emotional about the purchase and it increases customer satisfaction.”