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Dealer’s Voice: Do homework before buying accessories

Automotive accessories have evolved and moved in exciting new directions

Published March 28, 2013

Accessories have come a long way since chrome mag wheels and auxiliary dashboard gauges.

When I first began driving in the 1970s, automotive accessories were all the rage. In fact, accessories sometimes created as much wow factor as the cars we drove.

Car enthusiasts who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s may recall how cool it was to drive a car with chrome mag wheels, raised white lettered tires, a raised rear suspension, noisy exhaust, bucket seats with a custom gearshift lever knob, rear window louvers, and the list goes on. Believe it or not, even fuzzy dice had street cred back in the day.

Back then, add-on auto accessories were fairly simple compared to today’s fancy high-tech gadgets, but they provided a lot of driving enjoyment, and added undeniable eye-appeal.

Over the past four decades, automotive accessories have evolved and moved in exciting new directions. TV shows and automotive aftermarket shops have helped to popularize the growing trend of “hot- rodding your ride,” a trend which shows no signs of slowing down.

As a long-time car enthusiast and working over 35 years in the car business, I’ve come to witness another popular trend in automotive accessories — namely, the proliferation of safety and entertainment features.

The number of safety and entertainment accessories available on cars and light trucks today is in the hundreds, if not thousands. Accessories are a key selling feature on new vehicles, and many manufacturers and dealers cater to this segment of the industry.

On the safety side, there are alarm systems, back-up cameras and parking sensors, hands-free mobile phone devices, fog lights, digital tire pressure gauges, roadside tool sets, GPS systems, not to mention items designed for pets (car seats, harnesses and hammocks), and much, much more.

For in-car entertainment, many accessories are designed to make driving more pleasurable, including temperature-controlled seats, power adapters, tinted windows, custom upholstery and carpets. Those of a certain age may appreciate the evolution of in-car audio systems, from the clunky 8-track tape and compact cassette players in the ’70s and ’80s to the multi-disk CD changers of the ’90s to the custom digital audio and infotainment systems of today.

Most new car dealership and manufacturer websites feature pages that showcase a wide assortment of automotive accessories, complete with photos and pricing. These websites even allow consumers to add accessories to a purchase price when calculating the costs of a vehicle.

Most vehicle accessories can be purchased directly from local new car dealerships and worked into the price of any vehicle (new or pre-owned). Dealerships also sell accessories through their parts departments, online and over the counter.

If you are in the market for a new or pre-owned car, now is the time to research the myriad of accessories available for your desired make and model. Or, you may want to purchase an accessory for your current vehicle.

My recommendation would be to consider purchasing accessories that add value to the driving experience. Every car owner has their unique needs.

Whether you look for accessories designed to enhance the safety, performance, entertainment or visual appearance of your vehicle, research the pros and cons of the products you are considering.

When purchasing accessories, consider how they will affect the resale value of your vehicle. If you plan on purchasing an array of flashy expensive accessories, your vehicle may have a more limited appeal for potential buyers.

The world of automotive accessories certainly has come a long way since the advent of chrome mag wheels with raised white letter tires, auxiliary dashboard gauges and, of course, fuzzy dice.

Given the amount of time that the average driver spends behind the wheel, choosing the right accessories can make your driving safer and more enjoyable. Do your homework and choose products that complement your driving habits and lifestyle.

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