Cool idea … but will they buy?

A Mercedes owner must take their vehicle into a Mercedes dealership for service techs to carefully remove and replace the premium wiper blades. That service visit, with parts and labor, typically runs a few hundred dollars.

ClearBlade’s benefit is that it is a simpler design that can be popped into place by vehicle owners in their driveway. And that simplified construction will enable it to sell for as little as $15 to $30.

ClearBlade was granted a patent for its design in 2016, and the company even mentioned its Mercedes competitor in its patent application to drive home the point of its difference.

With the help of Thrower, whose female- and veteran-owned Supplier Development Systems operates out of Birmingham, Ala., ClearBlade has sourced all the individual components of the system and established a manufacturing venture in India with Padmini VNA Mechatronics to mass-produce it.

The ClearBlade group is now calling on a list of vehicle manufacturers to talk about opportunities.

“It comes down to a simpler design,” Thrower said, “and a simpler design means simpler manufacturing, which means a much lower cost.

“So it becomes a component that you can put on a Ford Festiva or a Nissan Versa. See the attraction? You can afford to give lower-priced vehicles what’s perceived as a Mercedes windshield wiper.”

So far, Thrower has put the ClearBlade team at the table with automakers in the U.S., China, Europe and India.

In calling on one Midwestern U.S. automaker, Thrower and ClearBlade reps flew into town and rented a Ford Explorer at the airport. They left the rental car property and pulled over to the side of the road. Thrower got out and removed the Explorer’s wipers and plugged in a ClearBlade system to replace them.

“It took three minutes,” Thrower said. The purchasing managers they met with were positive about the product but particularly intrigued that it could be snapped onto an existing windshield with no concern for factory specs.

When the ClearBlade team returned to the rental agency, Thrower removed the ClearBlade parts and put the Ford factory wipers back on.

“We hijacked their vehicle for a demo,” Thrower said. “But it made a good point.”

Thrower is pursuing other marketing strategies. One of them is to sell directly to the aftermarket, and the group is having discussions with one auto parts retailer that would package the system and merchandise it under the chain’s brand name.

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