Toyota has been focusing on its accessories/customization business since 2017 and has seen those revenues more than double in that period, said Chris Nielsen, executive vice president of product support and chief quality officer for Toyota Motor North America.
“I think we realized that we really weren’t doing everything we could to support the customers” and their desires for customization before the push began, Nielsen explained.
“Most of the accessories that we develop are sold as dealer-installed options or were things that we would add to the vehicle, sometimes removing the OE parts and adding accessory parts at the end of the assembly line,” he said.
Working with trusted partners, Toyota expanded its factory-authorized accessories list to include well-known brands and also developed its own products — including a popular factory-installed 3-inch lift kit — that would increase the vehicle’s clearance without interfering with its onboard suite of driver-assist and safety systems.
“We were getting cold because the aftermarket was taking us [body-on-frame] products and putting these 3-inch lifts on them, and we said, ‘Why not make our own lift that is compatible with our Toyota Safety Sense,’ and that’s been a big success,” said Greg Bernas, who oversees the automaker’s accessory development program. “But installing the lift kit takes something like seven hours at a dealership so we looked at it as a win-win to bring this in-line.”
There are still significant accessories in Toyota’s growing parts catalog that will remain dealer-installed, Bernas said. But allowing the plant assembly to install labor-intensive accessories or alternative parts — upgraded wheels, for example — allows the automaker to save the original part for later use.
Even though it may mean fewer service labor hours, Toyota dealers are largely welcome to the move, said Steve Gates, chairman of the Toyota National Dealer Advisory Council and a longtime Toyota dealer in Kentucky.
“Many dealers, including me, have not done a good job selling accessories after the fact. We try, but you almost hate to burden somebody to talk about accessories,” Gates said. “I’d just rather have the factory do it.
“We corrected a lot of problems from accessories installed in aftermarket shops.”