Article > Opinion

Getting Your Fair Share?

By Brian Cruickshank

Import OEs have aggressive wholesale programs that are designed to steal business away from you. What are you doing to stop it?

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with Dana Underhood Group President John Washbish. I was conducting an interview that you'll get a chance to read on in a few weeks.

During that interview, John asked me a question that he wanted me to ask you: Are you getting your fair share?

Specifically, what percentage of your business is in foreign nameplate parts? John says it's one question that he and several others at Dana have been asking, and no one has come up with a good answer.

The reason John is concerned boils down to mathematics. Very few parts stores can claim that the import parts market makes up more than 15 percent of a store's overall business. Considering the number of import vehicles in the United States, you'd think that number would be closer to 20 or 25 percent. Since a third of the vehicle registrations in North America are foreign cars, why wouldn't a third of your parts sales be for foreign cars? Where is that difference between 15 and 33 percent?

I'll tell you where those dollars are going: straight to the dealership parts department. If you look at the Professional Automotive Repair Technician Survey Sales Supplement you received with your September issue, you'll notice some strange things when it comes to certain part categories. We've noticed (and so has Dana) that certain parts for foreign cars, particularly electronics and fuel injection, are sourced through the OE dealer.

Why is this? Why do your professional customers feel that the typical aftermarket import parts supplier parts fall short of the OE equivalent?

For whatever reason, technicians are fanatics about fit, form and function when it comes to import nameplate parts. Aftermarket manufacturers are wrestling with the answer, but I think part of it rests with the stores themselves. Much of the sales burden falls on your shoulders. Many OEs such as Honda, Volkswagen, Subaru, Saab, Volvo and Nissan all have aggressive wholesale parts programs that are stealing business from you. These programs offer perks like factory technical assistance, special pricing programs, custom publications and delivery.

Don't let these guys eat your lunch. Go after that import nameplate business with the same aggressiveness that they are. After all, you should be getting your fair share.

Correction: The aforementioned Professional Automotive Repair Technician Survey Sales Supplement included an incorrect statement. On page 22, the fourth sentence of the analysis should have read: "Taking all criteria into consideration, this is one product category where a low price matters less than it did even a year ago. Last year, more than 14 percent of respondents indicated that price was of major concern when sourcing reman calipers. This year, the price-conscious crowd dropped to a mere 5.8 percent of respondents."

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