Options drivers love the most …

Helping customers to choose the right options, and highlighting standard equipment and ‘hidden’ features is central to the sales process. These have proved to be a hit with customers in the dealership, helping retailers to close sales on both new vehicles in their showrooms, as well as on the used car forecourt.

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Today’s drivers are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing options for a new car, providing them with the opportunity to personalise a vehicle to ensure it meets their practical needs in terms of equipment and their emotive desires through their choice of exterior colour and interior trim.

Alongside a vast array of optional equipment, a number of vehicles over the years have featured more practical ‘hidden’ features. These items of equipment that have proved to be a hit with customers in the dealership, helping retailers to close sales on both new vehicles in their showrooms, as well as on their used car forecourts. This is underscored in a recent survey into the nation’s favourite hidden car features by video solutions specialist, CitNOW, which intriguingly revealed Volkswagen Golf GTI golf ball gear knob as being the most popular.

The iconic dimpled gear shifter topped a poll of 2,000 drivers to find the most popular secret features that some owners didn’t even realise were fitted to their vehicles. Other much-loved items included Skoda’s integrated umbrella, the dashboard vase in the Volkswagen Beetle, Vauxhall’s integrated FlexFit integrated bike rack on the Corsa and Honda’s Magic Seats on the Jazz and Civic models that enable a flat load space to accommodate bulky items.

Further unexpected features which were found to delight customers included Mini’s ambient lighting system which allows the colour of the cabin lighting to be customised to suit the driver’s mood and the Mini convertible’s ‘Openometer’ which records the time spent travelling with the roof retracted. First introduced on the Almera in 1996, the Nissan ‘curry hook’ still features on today’s models and has proved to be a very practical item, helping the UK’s most popular takeaway meal to be safely transported home without speed humps or potholes causing a mess in the interior.

Renault’s clever Boot Chute fitted to the Modus is another practical feature that’s proved popular in overcrowded car parks, by allowing drivers in tight spaces to gain access to the luggage compartment without having to lift the whole tailgate. Beyond the more functional items, the integrated perfume dispenser fitted to Citroën’s DS3 has proved to be a popular alternative to the ubiquitous Magic Tree air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror.

According to Oliver Parsons, CitNOW’s Head of Sales and Client Services, unexpected features can be a deciding factor when it comes to securing a sale: “The Volkswagen Golf GTI golf ball gear knob was voted as the most iconic hidden feature. It might even be the difference between someone buying the Golf GTI or looking at a rival!”

All these secret or fun features will delight a buyer who’s bought a car before realising they got more than they bargained for, so why not help to reveal them to foster an emotional engagement – it could even sway them into making a decision to buy.

While the variety of options available to today’s new car buyers is unprecedented, care still needs to be taken when specifying them on a vehicle to ensure a strong residual value and showroom appeal when it comes to part exchange or resale. And with most retail purchases being funded by personal contract purchase (PCP) financing that is directly linked to a car’s forecasted residual value, it is arguable that specifying the right options from new has never been more important.

For example, a customer is unlikely to recoup the cost of leather seats if they specify them on a supermini, such as a Ford Fiesta or Volkswagen Polo, while not including leather on an executive car, such as a Mercedes-Benz E Class or Audi A6, is likely to make it less appealing and less valuable when it comes to resale. Colour choice also has a significant impact on residuals in specific vehicle categories, so while a Porsche 911 finished in Racing Yellow may be highly desirable, a volume product such a Ford Focus in a similar hue will possess less forecourt appeal than a Focus in a more conservative tone, such as grey, black or silver.

Helping customers to choose the right options, as well as highlighting standard equipment and ‘hidden’ features is central to the sales process and is just as important when it comes to third-party brands in the showroom, such as Autoglym’s LifeShine Vehicle Protection System (VPS). Featuring unique Carbon Shield Technology, LifeShine provides dealers with the opportunity to offer customers a highly effective means of maintaining the pristine appearance of a new or pre-owned vehicle, whilst securing incremental revenue.

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