Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

More Buyers Jazzing Up Their Cars Accessories Add Personal Touch

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

More Buyers Jazzing Up Their Cars Accessories Add Personal Touch

Article excerpt

Selecting a new car makes a statement about your style, a public proclamation of your individuality.

So say the salesmen. The fact is, the intoxicating thrill of owning new wheels fades as fast as that new-car smell once you realize your chariot looks just like thousands of others on the highway.

Automakers have an answer to this problem: Accessorize. From protective front-end covers called bras to rear-end spoilers, Americans are buying more accessories for their new cars and trucks.

"People want their vehicle to be them," said Kathy Bommarito, a General Motors Corp. spokeswoman. "They want to personalize it."

Most of the major automakers report accessory sales rose in 1994. Chrysler Corp. says it had its best year ever, with overall sales up 38 percent and truck accessories up 77 percent. Toyota's U.S. accessory sales rose 18 percent, a record for the Japanese automaker.

"It's a huge market out there, which is why you see stores like Pep Boys and Trak Auto," said John Koenig, manager of accessory sales and marketing for Toyota Motor Sales USA Inc. in Torrance, Calif.

Accessories should not be confused with options, more costly items such as air conditioning and automatic transmissions that usually are factory-installed.

Dealer-sold accessories sometimes are practical: roof racks, mud flaps and fog lights, for example. But just as often they are mere fashion statements, things like gold nameplates and fake roll bars whose only function is to look sporty.

Some of the most popular accessories are plush floor mats, running boards, pickup bed liners, custom audio systems and security devices.

Toyota says it found a hit with real-wood, stick-on dashboard trim. "It's an inexpensive way to make the interior of the car look very rich," spokeswoman Terri Epport said.

Auto parts stores and catalog companies such as J.C. Whitney Co. of Chicago also say accessory sales are up. They focus more on those who have owned their cars for a while or have just bought a used car.

Auto dealers have the edge with new-car buyers who are most likely to spend money on accessories when they buy their vehicles.

"Once they leave your showroom, they're going to go out and spend it somewhere else," said Dan Biggs, a Ford Motor Co. …

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