When it comes to after-market products, put your money on truck owners.

They outspent car owners by an average of $128 per vehicle, says James A. Lang, president of Lang Marketing Resources Inc of Wyckoff, NJ.

"Cars averaged $331 in aftermarket products during 1998 compared to $459 for the typical light truck," he says.

The research and consulting firm's analysis does not include automotive crash parts, sound accessories, audio equipment, tires, wheels and such. Dollar amounts do not include installation.

Between 1993-98 aftermarket product use increased an average of $16 per light vehicle at user-price.

"Light trucks recorded a significant increase in aftermarket product use over this 5-year span, while cars actually declined in current dollar product consumption," says Mr. Lang.

In 1993, the average car sported $341 in aftermarket products, declining to $331 in 1998, about a 3% drop.

In sharp contrast, aftermarket products for light trucks increased from $405 in 1993 to $459 in 1998, about a 13% gain.

Says Mr. Lang, "Light truck owners are voracious consumers of accessories and light trucks generated over half of 1998 accessory dollar volume.

"This trend of greater aftermarket product use by light trucks will continue. With light trucks capturing a growing share of vehicles on U.S. roads, this is a strong positive note for aftermarket product growth over the next several years, especially accessories.

Warranty audits that could result in costly chargebacks are on the rise across the industry.

CPA Craig Nelson - with the dealer accounting firm of Virchow, Krause & Co., Madison, WI, a member of the AutoCPA Group - offers these six solutions to avoid chargebacks:

* Make sure technicians physically verify time spent on the job, especially if manual sheets are still used. Computerized time tickets avoid this problem.

* Supporting documentation for the work should be attached to the RO. This includes sublet invoices, towing slips and rental agreements.

* ROs signed by the customer are mandatory. If work is added after the vehicle is brought in, have the owner sign the RO ticket at the cashier's office upon vehicle delivery.

* Don't use parts not purchased from the factory.

* Technicians' RO notes should be complete and legible and cover all testing and repairs performed. Most computer systems enable technicians' notes to be inserted by the service manager, warranty clerk or the technician himself.

* All warranty work must be approved by the customer, including that arranged after the vehicle is brought in. Notes should show that the customer approved work before it was done.

Mr. Nelson says, "The best approach to limit exposure and avoid chargebacks is to follow the guidelines provided by the factory and know what to expect."

Childress Buick/Kia in Phoenix has opened a new resale sales center called Childress Automotive.

The new facility, at the Crossroads Shopping Center, will specialize in resale and also offer body shop and maintenance services.

"We are pleased to offer our valued Sun Cities customers this branch dealership to better serve them," says Rusty Childress, president of Childress Buick/Kia. "Our customers have asked us to provide this convenient location for them."

It is believed to be the first call-in auto phone line sponsored by a franchised dealer. Sponsored and staffed by Burt Automotive Network in the Denver market, the "Burt Auto Help Center" offers Colorado consumers 24-hour availability for answers to questions about a range of automotive topics.

Says Burt executive vice-president Lloyd G. Chavez, "We address whatever is on a caller's mind, no subject barred. Where to get the best price on a car we sell or a competitive make, who's the head of General Motors, what year the Ford Thunderbird came out, are side airbags good or bad? You name it."

Mr. Chavez says he'd like the service to enhance Burt's goodwill in the community as a customer-friendly dealership.

A full-time staff of six has been hired to conduct the center, which complements Burt's Internet web site - www.burt.com. The center phone number is 1-877-400-AUTO.

"We have more accumulated knowledge and years of experience than any other dealer around," says Mr. Chavez, whose dealership dates back 60 years. "We know that by sharing information, we help educate consumers, who then make wise buying decisions. And wisdom in car buying is needed now more than ever."

Burt's seven dealerships are concentrated south of Denver in Englewood, CO. The Chevrolet franchise was its first in 1939. Other franchises and their dates of acquisition include Toyota, 1966; Subaru, 1970, Ford, 1993; Kia, 1994 and Buick-Pontiac-GMC and Nissan, 1998.