Last fall, Ciener-Woods Ford made $100,000 in front-end profit in one month, selling approximately 25 high-performance specialty vehicles from brands such as Saleen, Roush, Foose, Steeda, Shelby and LA West.

What makes this story unique is the dealership, a seven-time Ford Chairman award winner, is in the small town of Kernersville, NC, whose population is only 10,500.

Ciener-Woods also is the seventh best-selling Mustang GT store in the world, according to General Manager Ed Woods, who is a co-owner with President David Ciener.

“It was just a niche we found,” Woods says. The dealership began playing with accessories in the early 1980s to differentiate itself from other dealerships in the area. That led to the in-house creation of the “Ciener Edition,” a series of accessorized Ford vehicles the dealership uses to brand itself.

The Ciener Edition vehicles were so popular Ciener-Woods expanded its specialty offerings, adding the Saleen line in 1986 and the Roush brand in 1995.

The dealership heavily advertises the specialty vehicles both online and in the local papers. “People pretty much know we’ll have the high-perfomance vehicle they’re looking for,” Woods says. The dealership recently shipped a Shelby Mustang to Phoenix, AZ, and gets steady inquirys from Tennessee, West Virginia and other surrounding states.

Along with the high-perfomance vehicles, Ciener-Woods accessorizes other vehicles and has three versions of each – “Basic,” “Medium” and “All.”

A third of all the vehicles sold leave the dealership with some sort of accessory, Woods says. With the combination of specialty vehicles and the accessories, Ciener-Woods averages about $3,000 in front-end profit per new vehicle sold. Vehicles without accessories bring in an average of $1,500 profit per sale.

The dealership was doing so well with accessory sales, salespeople were making as much $3,000 on commission with vehicles. That prompted Woods to put a $500-per-vehicle cap on the commission a salesperson can make selling accessories.

Accessorized vehicles tend to be easier to sell, according to Woods.

“There is not as much negotiation,” he says. “On the accessorized vehicles, we negotiate from the sticker price down. With unaccessorized vehicles, we work from the invoice price up.”

The dealership has at least two accessorized vehicles of each model in the showroom and on the lot. Woods says doing that drives more sales than leaving the accessories in the parts department or showcasing them on a shelf in an accessories store at the dealership.

“Most buyers don’t have the imagination to visualize the accessories on the vehicle. They need to see it,” he says.

For dealers who are hesitant to deck out several vehicles for fear customers won’t buy them because they’re more expensive, Woods asks, “Did you ever think you would pay $5 for a cup of coffee?”

Despite the dealership’s success, Woods says he does not want other dealers thinking accessories are the “Holy Grail” that will make a dealer profitable. “We’ve had our dings in this market, and it’s been tough,” he says. “But it is a lot better than being out of business, and those vehicles are a lot more fun to sell. It sure is better taking someone on a test drive in a Shelby or Saleen than one of the other cars.

Woods offers another note of caution on selling accessories: “Don’t get burned on the lease vehicles. Remember, accessories on those leased vehicles aren’t calculated in the residual values.”

cbanks@wardsauto.com