It has been a few years now since GPI / CarQuest acquired WorldPac, Advance Auto’s acquisition of AUtOPART International, NAPA’s alliance with the ALTROM Group and recently, Uni-Select acquired one of the oldest and most trusted import auto parts companies in the country, Beck/Arnley. The growth of import vehicles and import parts in this country is exploding. It’s simply a matter of staying ahead of the curve if you want to be successful in the auto parts business in the future.
The first six letters of the word “important” are “import”. It’s time to become aware of the makeup of vehicle registrations in your market. There are probably a good number of you who still believe that your markets are heavily dominated by domestic vehicle registrations. You may be surprised to discover, that there are more imports registered out there than you think! This is especially true, if in your community there’s a tech school, community college, junior college or university. Typically, import vehicles are very popular with students attending institutions like these. If you doubt this statement, spend a lunch hour driving around the campus of one of these local schools. You’ll be amazed at what you discover.
Another place where there are many import vehicles showing up is with small fleets. The dependability and efficiency of import vehicles has been proven and recognized for years. I’ll bet you wouldn’t have to look around too many of the auto parts store fleets in the country to determine this for yourself in a heartbeat. In my travels, I see dozens of Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota vehicles, cars as well as trucks, utilized throughout our industry. These vehicles are getting nearly 30 miles to a gallon of gasoline and they are running for 200,000 to 300,000 miles with nothing but normal maintenance. And everyone reading this article knows, parts store delivery drivers give these vehicles a good workout.
I am familiar with one import auto parts distributor in the upper Midwest, who is presently converting almost his entire fleet of vehicles over to Toyota Yaris cars. These extremely fuel-efficient models are saving this distributor thousands of dollars in fuel costs and they are confident that dependability will not be an issue either. They are keeping very good records of this transition and I am confident, that after just a couple of years, the results will be astonishing.
The news with regard to poor sales activity, plant downsizing, closings and layoffs among the big three U.S. auto makers is not encouraging for any of us. But it is a reality. The big and huge SUVs that used to roam our streets and highways so predominantly are slowly becoming a thing of the past, as a public that cannot tolerate the pain of $4 per gallon gasoline turns to more fuel-efficient vehicles. What used to be “foreign” to the whole country is now our country’s salvation.
Almost every major import vehicle nameplate has manufacturing facilities in this country now. And certainly, more and more people are referencing the type of vehicle they drive simply by the model name, with little regard for whether it’s foreign, or domestic and certainly don’t care where it was made. The only stigma that remains regarding import vehicles, is one of prestige from owning a BMW, Infinity, Lexus, Mercedes, or other premium import automobile.
Tradition is important in many families. Children grow up and decide to purchase and drive the same brands of automobiles that their parents drove. That was true when I grew up and I know that it is still very common today. But, the difference is, in my day, all of that tradition drove the sales of the big three domestic car companies and today the same tradition is driving the sales of all import vehicles.
So, are you “on board” yet? Is your buying group, warehouse distributor and store owner all working together to keep your store on the leading edge of this fast growing market? How have you identified your company to your customers making them aware that you have parts for the import applications that they need? You see, the problem is that too many folks believe that the vast majority of import parts still need to come from the dealer. That’s just so wrong! But, unless you get the word out, they don’t know any different. It’s time to be pro-active!
Life is change and growth is optional. Make a conscious decision to do a more effective job of stocking and selling import parts this year, than you did last year. The opportunity is all yours now!
Gary is the national sales manager for Precision Parts Remanufacturing in Oklahoma City, Okla. He also coordinates the activities and communication for a group of more than 30 import specialists from across the country called S.I.P.S., the Survival of Import Parts Specialists.