At the end of January, the Auto Curators team took a break from our much-loved stomping ground of Surrey, Sussex, Greater London, Hampshire and Scotland. It was time for a team trip to one of the highlights of our year, the Xpel Paint Protection Film Dealer Conference. If you follow me on social, you’ll have seen a few snaps from the trip. But, I think it’s always important to write a round-up on our website. This conference is as important to you, our customers, as it is to us. That’s because it ensures we continue to offer you the very best service possible.
Technology moves continuously in our business. Cars change all the time, driven by design, cost management and environmental concerns. Paint chemistry, vehicle shapes and substrate behaviours consistently evolve. As Xpel Paint Protection Film Dealers, we need to understand all of these changes to provide the correct solution for you.
As a side note, it’s also fair to say that the trip is a lot of fun, so as a team, it’s great to do something like this together. Paul hired a small piece of the American dream, a Ford F-150 pickup truck, to get us from Houston airport to San Antonio and back, so we all enjoyed the road trip part too!
Xpel Paint Protection Film Dealer Conference 2020:
The two-day Xpel Paint Protection Film Dealer Conference is always a fantastic opportunity to share ideas and learn from other professionals in the same field. There is a solid base of practices to work from when installing PPF. That said, there are also a lot of tweaks that individuals incorporate to help make the job easier and raise the quality of the install. Sometimes, these can be quite counter-intuitive, so having someone explain or show you how their method works can be incredibly enlightening.
The Auto Curators team left our bases in Hampshire and Scotland a day or so earlier than we needed to… We also wanted to take the opportunity to visit the Xpel HQ facilities, located around San Antonio, Texas.
When we arrived at the conference, we joined 307 Xpel Paint Protection Film dealers attending, from all over the world. Including the USA, the UK, Mainland Europe, Sweden, Dubai, Australia, Japan and Korea.
Installation competitions are a fun part of the conference.
Paul and Matt both had a go at the competition this year, and it was tough! Seventy people start. The first round is to install a front wing and a two-piece wing mirror. But the tricky part is completing this in just 7 minutes, to a retail-ready standard.
Now the thing is (here come the excuses), we work to produce the best quality job we can, not the fastest. So, working under a time pressure like that wasn’t very easy. The judges are basing their marks on three things. All fluid being eliminated, all the edges being perfectly aligned and stuck down, and minimal contamination under the film. The judges make allowances for the fact we work on white cars, on a carpet, in a hotel conference facility. This is all a far throw from our usual clean working environment! Getting the wing on the car wasn’t too much of a problem, but wing mirrors are a nightmare at the best of time. These proved to be the downfall for both Paul and Matt.
Seventy contestants take part in the first round of the competition; just 14 can make it through to round 2. We need to get practising for next time!
- A 40% thicker film was launched this year. This is intended for applications that will benefit from even more protection, mainly aimed at the track day/racecar market. That said, this new film has applications for regular road cars too, in selected areas.
- We were also advised that an opaque black PPF product will launch at some point during 2020.
- Additionally, the software programme we use as a database, and to control the cutting plotter, (DAP (Design Access Programme)) has a significant update coming. We were able to use the new software, DAP 11. It was helpful to explore the new features and benefits with the team responsible for developing it. We also gave input on features we’d like to see introduced, and on existing features that we felt could work better in a real-world situation.
We learnt some brilliant techniques for managing film over particularly awkward shapes and really large panels. For example, the latest generation of Aston Martin’s, such as the Vantage or DBS Superleggera both have huge ‘clamshell’ bonnets, where the front wings and bonnet are all in one. This has required the introduction of a 72” wide roll of film, bigger than any plotter available. This means we fit the film in bulk, not using a pre-cut pattern, and it needs to be managed quite differently. We learnt some great new techniques to make the best of this new film that we’re already putting into use with all our installs.
Highlights & Takeaways:
This year, the new format for the ‘Advanced Install Class’ was brilliant. It was led by Chris West of CCA Motorsport in Alaska. Chris has won the XDC competition five times and came second in 2019. He travels America as a trainer and problem solver, helping PPF installers with challenging and prestigious installs. His insight into best practices, different installation techniques, and managing common issues was worth the flight and ticket cost alone!
Additionally, our guest keynote speaker on Saturday afternoon was superb. Given he had the post-lunch slot, on the second day of the conference, when people were a little tired and emotional (there is a big group dinner on both evenings, where perhaps a little too much food and drink is consumed!). I think it’s fair to say there was a distinct lack of energy in the room, but Las Vegas musician and speaker, ‘Marvellous’ Mark Kamp had the whole place jumping! His message, as a motivational speaker, was that everyone should be a rockstar in their business, playing the ‘chords of change’, and really looked to inject energy into everyone’s business plan. 300+ people all banging drumsticks on the tables was quite an experience!
We’re proud to be an Xpel Paint Protection Film Dealer. We choose to align ourselves with Xpel because they share our core values and desire for excellence in everything we do. The phrase ‘that will do’ isn’t in their vocabulary, and we love that.
Once again we have come away from the conference reassured that by offering you Xpel PPF products we are offering our clients in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, London and Scotland the very best.