LANSING, Mich. — Diamond Brite, a long-lasting auto "wax," has made David Persell a millionaire, but he says he got into the business because a car dealer made him mad.
Diamond Brite is teflon acrylic, the same paint sealant that auto dealers and franchises such as Troy-based Ziebart Inc. sell for what amounts to a long-term wax job.
In fact, the Ziebart sealant must be reapplied every few years--for anywhere from $150 to over $200 per application. Diamond Brite sells for about $16 for a 16-ounce bottle.
Persell claims that the only difference between Diamond Brite and the other products is that the customers apply the wax themselves.
"The scam is everybody and his brother wants to sell you labor," Persell said. "Everybody wants to put it on for you."
Anyone who has been hit with an auto-servicing bill totaling hundreds of dollars, most of it for labor, probably would understand Persell's ire.
Persell said he walked into a Lansing, Mich., Oldsmobile dealership several years ago because he was interested in a paint-sealant job on his 1982 Corvette.
While he was in the dealership, he wandered into the service area and saw a young man, listening to a portable radio and smoking a cigarette, applying the sealant to a car just like the suburbanites in their driveways on a weekend afternoon.
Persell decided he would just as soon apply the sealant to his Corvette himself and offered the salesman $20 to fill a soda pop bottle with the chemical. For his trouble, he was thrown out of the dealership, he said.
Persell was no more successful elsewhere.
"I turned to the Yellow Pages and called every distributor I could find . . . and no one would sell it to me," he said.
Dealers charge consumers for a warranty on the job and experienced hands to do a job that is as easy as applying a coat of wax, he said.
"It takes an ounce and a half to do a whole car," Persell said. "It's all marketing. You get a warranty and a window sticker and you get a sales pitch.
"The next thing you know you're looking at $179 for an ounce and a half of chemical put on by some kid when you're not watching."
While Diamond Brite buyers do not get a warranty, Persell offers a "diploma" through the mail from "Dr. Dave," testifying that the purchaser "is not too dumb" to apply the sealant.
Persell said that about a year after getting kicked out of the dealership, he was finally able to obtain a gallon of acrylic teflon. A salesman who sold the chemical to dealerships met Persell behind a fast-food restaurant and sold him a gallon for $160.
He said friends quickly bought up his surplus and that he arranged to buy more from the salesman. Eventually, he tracked down the producer of the chemical and made arrangements to buy the acrylic teflon directly from the manufacturer.
Persell and his wife pumped the acrylic teflon into plastic containers and sold it at auto shows. They test-marketed it in a store in Lansing and had the chance to present it to K mart Corp. last fall.
"They have a product review committee," he said. "One of the guys who was on the committee had just bought a new car and paid $200 to put this paint sealant, this never-wax-again stuff, on at the dealership."
K mart ordered 2,550 bottles each of the 8-ounce and 16-ounce sizes.
"How long does it take for dealerships to get caught ripping people off?" Persell asked. "It is a complete consumer rip-off."
Diamond Brite's 1989 sales were over $600,000 and Persell projected that sales for 1990, including K mart and offerings on cable television's Home Shopping Network, would top $1 million.