April '19

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APRIL 2019 THE SHOP 9 He also recommends targeting other potential tow vehicles that may not have received the factory treatment. "Shops should look to supply the smaller crossover vehicle and minivan markets, as many of those vehicles don't have towing items included from the factory, leaving room for aftermarket upgrades." SAFETY FIRST ISSUE: Often unknowingly, cus- tomers are underestimating the dangers of improper towing. Related to the above issue of factory- equipped tow vehicles, customers often don't follow—or are not even aware of— the important weight ratings and other information needed to ensure safe towing. "The majority of consumers do not always fully understand all of the compo- nents required for a proper towing package that is rated to tow the trailer they have selected," says Tom Romero, manager of technical training for Horizon Global, which includes the REESE, Draw-Tite and Tekonsha brands. "Consumers feel that if their towing vehicle is equipped with a towing package, it can tow any trailer they select—not true! Every towing compo- nent including the tow vehicle, hitch (fifth wheel, receiver hitch, gooseneck hitch, weight-distribution hitch), ball mount, hitch ball and safety chains must meet or exceed the trailer's gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)." Some customers may not be aware of product distinctions, Romero notes, while others may simply choose not to spend the money it takes to properly outfit their towing rig. "Oftentimes, consumers push back on spending more for the proper towing equipment. It's important to point out to the consumer that they have tens of thousands of dollars invested in their tow vehicle and trailer, and their family's safety while towing is priceless." Professionals understand that proper towing takes a system of products working together. "Tongue weight, along with the weakest link in the towing setup, is the biggest mis- conception within this industry, and not having the proper hitch to be safe on the road," says Lisa McCrory, product manager for RV Private Label at Keystone Automo- tive. "Trailer tongue weights continue to get higher and the hitch ball may be the weakest link, as an example." RESPONSE: Present towing solu- tions with a systematic package approach, and educate customers on their safe towing responsibilities. Again, communication and education are the starting points with customers looking to properly outfit a vehicle for towing. Shops are encouraged to ask a lot of ques- tions and frankly discuss all that's needed to keep everyone safe on the roadways. "Yes, we call it upselling, but when it comes to towing, it's all about safety," McCrory explains. "Are they pulling a travel trailer or utility trailer, using it for a bike rack, or do they plan on hauling their buddy's one-ton across the country with a Dodge Dakota? Do they need wiring, tow lights, weight distribution products or even upgrades to their transmission or suspension? Make sure they want to come back—not have to come back—and recom- mend you as the place that made sure they were all set to go." Romero notes that Horizon Global/ REESE has worked with OEMs to design and supply hitch prep kits that contain properly matched components—an approach that may make getting into the towing market easier for first-timers. "For dealers and installers who previously shied away from fifth wheel and gooseneck installs, the ease and simplicity of selling and installing hitch accessories to a con- sumer with an OEM install prep kit allows them to get into this business," he says. Shops can also utilize industry information to stay informed and educate customers. "Our brands provide many resources to support professional dealers, installers and even consumers on proper towing system education," Romero says. "Our catalog guides, tech support and our websites con- tain helpful tips, videos and FAQs." PRODUCT KNOWLEDGE & TECHNOLOGY ISSUE: With high-tech vehicles and products being released at a fast pace, it can be difficult even for seasoned pros to keep up with the latest advancements. Staying up-to-date on the latest towing products, vehicles and trends isn't just good Consumers do not always fully understand all of the components required for a proper towing package. (Photo courtesy Horizon Global) Resources are available to support professional dealers, installers and consumers on proper towing system education. (Photo courtesy Horizon Global)

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