Article > Operations

Repair Shop Owner Wants to Do More Business with Automotive Aftermarket Parts Professionals

By Mark Phillips

Steve Weber, owner of S & S Service, Hamburg, N.Y., despises going to a dealer to get parts.
Mark Phillips
Like any self-respecting independent repair shop owner, Steve Weber, owner of S & S Service, Hamburg, N.Y., despises going to a dealer to get parts. Sometimes, it’s the only way he can get what he needs for his customers’ cars, he says.

S & S Service is a shop that does things right.

They make people feel comfortable and they’re easy to do business with. S & S Service has a modern building; clean shop; attractive lobby with cable television to entertain customers while they wait for repairs; a Web site chock full of useful information about hours, credit cards accepted and a form to request an appointment. If you‘re ever put on hold, which isn’t often or for long, a voice tells callers about specials the shop is offering and reminds them about service intervals.

And like any good business owner, Weber carefully tracks numbers and trends that affect his business. One of those numbers continues to give him heartburn: The amount of parts he buys from dealers. According to his figures, in 1999, 15 percent of the parts he bought for repairs came from dealers. The rest came from traditional jobbers and WDs. By 2004, the percentage of dealer parts soared — to 31 percent. It’s held steady, more or less, since then, Weber says.

To him, it’s like making a deal with the devil, he says. “The bill from the dealers is just too high. Half the time, the aftermarket part is available. It’s cheaper. And it’s better because it’s been re-engineered. But I just don’t know about the part.” He attributes that to a breakdown somewhere in communication. Then there’s the other 50 percent of the time he must buy parts from a dealer. “Sometimes, my hands are tied and the aftermarket doesn’t make the part.”

If S & S Service needs a part, Weber says the dealer isn’t the only call, and certainly not the first. Calls go out to WDs, jobbers and sometimes manufacturers to ascertain why or whether a certain part is available. But sometimes, he has to bite the bullet.

Weber has company. Research by Babcox, the parent company of Counterman magazine, shows that the typical repair shop gets 51 percent of its parts from a jobber/WD; 16 percent from retailer; and 15 percent from a new car dealer. Expediters, manufacturer direct and online rounded out the rest of the list.

Of the top four reasons a repair shop would go to a car dealer, the perception (and sometimes reality) that the dealer is the only source for the part was closely followed by quality/fit of the part. Further, a customer requesting an OE part and price were the other reasons.

The type of parts sourced by repair shops from dealers hasn’t really changed over the last few years. Electrical, emissions, fuel system, engine parts and heating and cooling were the top five categories.

Weber believes sometimes dealer parts are requested because technicians get conditioned to believing the aftermarket doesn’t have a particular part.

“The shop owners get used to hearing they don’t have it,” Weber says. “They just go and call the dealer. We need to know that the aftermarket is making that part. It’s cheaper and it’s better.”

If the aftermarket doesn’t produce a part, for whatever reason, that’s one thing. But if the aftermarket makes the part and the message isn’t getting through, that’s another thing.
  Previous Comments
avatar   Joe Bob   star   5/8/2010   8:22 PM

I do find it funny that people expect us to read their mind, and also expect us to have a part in stock that some random person at a gas station said we would. I've gotten rude comments on stuff and rediculous as me telling a woman that i wouldn't put R134a in her 88 cutlass, and she got mad because the guy at the Exxon station said i would....that's the kind of stuff that makes me wonder what the world is coming too

avatar   Rick   star   4/29/2010   5:17 PM

Dave is right. Some behaviour is simply unacceptable and/or just rude. Talking on the cell while attempting to do business with us, vulgar language, "don't you know who I am attitude", inability to have their mind read are all unnecessary from our customers. By coddling these repeat idiots in our stores we only encourage this behaviour. Customer service is not cognate to counterman abuse.

avatar   Chris   star   3/14/2010   3:38 PM

Oh, wait....:p

avatar   Chris   star   3/14/2010   3:35 PM

Yeah, I think I'm gonna go to the competition, hose myself in the eyes with carburetor cleaner, then sue them for $10 million because the can didn't say not to spray myself in the eyes.

avatar   Jay   star   3/12/2010   5:12 PM

Howardg...probably as many as it took the coffee cup people to have "Caution contents may be hot" printed on the cup...

avatar   hari   star   3/11/2010   5:09 AM




avatar   howardg    star   3/8/2010   2:55 PM

Hey Chris thats why fan belt sleeves warn you to " not install with engine running". My question is how many fingers did it cost before the warning got there

avatar   Chris   star   3/6/2010   2:07 PM

Somebody's been using my name. :p j/k

Anyway, there have always been and always will be fools like that. They are the kind of people that you take one look at and any belief you had in Darwin's ideas go down the drain.

avatar   Gabe   star   3/5/2010   3:24 PM

I think Dave is like me. I think he sees reactions from people and wonders what the hell is our world coming to. I think that is what his real issue is.

Dave I got called, "A racist redneck, mother f***er and almost had a fight break out in my store between our customers and this guy. All because I asked, "Are you all set to check out!" Supposedly I looked at him, thinking he was going to steal something. When in actuality he was walking towards the end of the aisle when I asked him that. WHy did he go off!? I don't know! From experience in Baltimore, MD. is was a couple of reasons. He was racist maybe. He really was trying to steal something, and didn't like that I was doing my job. Or he was causing a diversion for someone else in the store to steal something. But I knew it was just a game he was playing. But I hate those games! I don't play them, and those are the times when I think screw the job! I am telling this dude what I really think. The world is jacked, and there are some major freakshows out there. There are also alot of ******* and complaining people. It sucks! But just realize there are more good people than these people.

avatar   Ed   star   3/4/2010   3:17 PM

Dave, nine years in auto parts in two different states and I still don't get the "what have you done for me lately?" attitude from my customers. I get it initially when I take over a store when the manager has allowed the customer to run the store, but I make it perfectly clear that I am nothing like the previous guy and that, that is the sole reason why he got replaced. If you are constantly warrantying an item out, well past it's original warranty, or honoring the competition's warranty, what kind of bottom line profit are you missing out on? At what point does that customer transition into a scam artist?

avatar   Chris    star   3/4/2010   3:10 PM

Yea overworked underpaid and not appreciated...........It's in the job description when you get hired on...........

avatar   Dave Elliott   star   3/4/2010   11:19 AM

Oh I'm used to it Chris, I just have a hard time getting used to the mindset that causes people to behave that way. Like I said, I take care of it, even to the point of covering another parts house warranty when they wouldn't cover it for one of my "good" customers, who swore they wouldn't buy anything else from "Brand Z" any more. I knew that would last only a few days because they have the selection on some things that I don't have it on. I understand that too. If it's in the bay, and they have the part can they afford to wait two hours for mine? No brainer.....they can't. It's just not as much appreciated these days. But we do it anyway, and use that fake smile, because its what we do.

avatar   Chris   star   3/4/2010   9:14 AM

It comes with the job you should be used to it by now. Any job that deals with customer service is gonna require you to baby or use "fake' friendliness.

avatar   Dave Elliott   star   3/4/2010   8:56 AM

No Ed, not bitter, just real. I've seen that time and time again. It's always what have you done for me lately? like TODAY. It's a day to day relationship and alot of the mechanics here in my town, not ALL, but alot, have to be babied. And we do it, but when something is so blatantly obviously not our fault, and I don't take care of it, I'm the bad guy. I'm just sayin......

avatar   Ed   star   3/3/2010   2:45 PM

A little bitter there, aren't ya Dave? You have to be like teflon, don't let anything stick. I'll give you a real life customer description. Guy comes in, as he is walking past the parts counter, he YELLS out his year, make, model, engine and part he is looking for, as he continues on his quest for something else out on the sales floor. This customer repeatedly does this process everytime he comes in. What is your take or response to that? Get irritated? Become short with the customer? Show that you don't appreciate his business? I did none of the above, I made him my friend, I smiled and answered every question politely with a "sir". Come to find out, he had a furniture business, so I set him up a commercial account. His behavior has since changed a little bit to what we all consider "normal", but he really is a friend, in fact, he baked two apple pies for our store employees the other day.

avatar   Gabe   star   3/2/2010   3:29 PM

Sounds like Baltimore! LOL

avatar   Dave Elliott   star   3/2/2010   11:28 AM

No Gabe, not OUTSIDE the store. Take that for what it's worth. I'm just sayin......

avatar   Dave Elliott   star   3/1/2010   1:43 PM

mchester, I commend you for excellent customer service. But shopping for a customer is a little over the edge as far as I'm concerned. Now I understand about handicapped and all, and maybe if its a single item and it's on my way, I'd pick it up and they could pay me for it. I wouldn't mark it up or charge for gas, cause it's on my way. Customers are sometimes a funny breed of cat. They will push you and push you just to see how far you'll go for them. Soon they are taking advantage of you if you're not careful. In my part of the country, you could do all that for someone, and take the best care of them but just make one mistake.....All that extra stuff is forgotten. You become their enemy and they go down the road until the same thing happens there. Soon it will be your turn again and all is forgiven, until the next time. I will say that I hope the whole country is not like it is around here....

avatar   mchester   star   2/25/2010   5:49 PM

i am not sure if anyone else runs the way i do but let me tell you i have had instances where a handicapped customer couldn't go shopping for herself and i did it for her with a small markup for gas. i will go WAY above the call of duty to find what my customers need and the one thing no one seems to remember is there are sooooo many sources out there at your disposal. so i am wondering why can't the aftermarket be the first call and let us play middle man? i mean shoot we want the business too!

avatar   Tom   star   2/24/2010   1:59 PM

Ed Thanks for the heads up. I've tried to get an answer from above for this. I don't believe I have access to these options. It's really not my call. I just do as I am instructed.

avatar   Ed   star   2/23/2010   5:37 PM

Tom, when the computer asks for it back, you can still override it, the computer which automatically detects when something has not sold even once in 12 months, does not have final say. In fact, before it even gets to that point, it asks you Stock Adjust Max/Min Reductions, but most managers don't even use the View option on those lines, they just release all the recommendations. Even beyond that Tom, you still have the option when you are faced with a list of overstock returns to pend it and assign a new max to it.

avatar   big muscle   star   2/23/2010   3:26 PM

Yeah, the parts stores should be selling aspirin, band-aids and tums. Not Candy.

avatar   Tom   star   2/23/2010   3:23 PM

I want to know when I'll be able to get my rotors turned at the grocery store.One stop shopping!!

avatar   howardg   star   2/23/2010   2:52 PM

I aure am glad I left the professionals favorite brand at my old job I was waiting for the milk cooler and the bread rack to show up anyday nevermind the parts for the shops that work on cars and trucks. The chocolate covered cashews was such a high profit item I guess the left over managers from circuit city and food lion decided that profit on crap was more important than building long term business relationships with garages. So much for target marketing. Customer service always suffers when the higher parts of parts stores know nothing about parts stores.

avatar   Will   star   2/23/2010   2:10 PM

Ed, Napa tried the candy/beef jerky bit for a while. The stuff was past its Recommended Date of Use when we got it in 2002. What does that say about inventory control? Tom, we used to control our inventory at Napa when I was there. You looked at popular sellers and deleted the B.S. that you maybe sold 1 or 2 a week of. If a warehouse was close to your location then it wasn't a problem to go get. Now some yoyo in a tie wants to tell you what to stock, but they aren't manning the phones with shops all day and listening to what we tell them needs to be on the shelves.

avatar   Tom   star   2/23/2010   1:24 PM

I recall when the store manager could control his inventory. If said manager wanted to stock it, he did.Now if it doesn't sell it goes back. Good idea in theory, but It takes awhile to build on a product.Tell your customer that you will stock it and then it gets taken away.That customer will remember that forever.Have you ever said I'm sorry I don't have that $400 dollar hub bearing for your truck,but could I interest you in a air freshener or the latest best injector cleaner I have on sale. Sometimes it's hard being on the counter and hitting your sales goal.I've also seen managers totally overstock there store and destroy a P&L. I stated out in a mom n pop. It was all about profit and having dusty boxes of wax didn't go over to well.

avatar   Ed   star   2/23/2010   1:17 PM

Will, at one point we sold Professional's Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies and at Christmas time we sold PF Chocolate-covered Cashews. It was crazy, people were more upset over the fact we were not selling the chocolate cashews anymore, than not having their fuel pump in stock. To which this reminds me of an old Counterman article, what seperates a jobber from a WD? The kind of candy/nuts he sells. Tom, you can overcome that lost sales by selecting "Pricing" as the reason. You will get a Price Shop Inquiry, then you have your chance to say what you want about that situation.

avatar   Kim   star   2/23/2010   12:51 PM

Promo items have to be stocked somewhere. Ours are stock at our warehouses, along with ours parts. Warehouse pickers and stockers only need to know numbers, not what they are putting away or pulling. (although it would be nice if they could describe it over the phone sometimes!) I worked the counter most of career, now work with the warehouse. what an eye opening experience. Even the warehouses don't have room for EVERYTHING! to supply EVERY store!

avatar   Tom   star   2/23/2010   12:44 PM

On the subject of lost sales. It was mentioned having a fuel pump and not the strainer. Here you can only lost sale the strainer not the pump, even though you lost the sale on both. Have presented this to higher ups to no avail so far.Someone needs to follow up on this.I also agree with Will on the internet access, it would be nice. It seems the less phone tag that gets played usually has a better success than too many chiefs and not enough indians.

avatar   Will   star   2/23/2010   11:54 AM

Ed, I never understood the need for a AUTO PARTS place stocking grills or basketball or anything not related to automotive repair. I thought we sold parts for cars and trucks, not the Paul Jr. Designs Coleman Grill. Guess times are changing all the time. What's next: Bathroom fixtures or sofa covers?

avatar   Will   star   2/23/2010   10:28 AM

Dave, great point. Warehouse's used to keep nearly everything but the kitchen sink in stock. I love "Lost Sales" on the the warehouse side. It reflects on them as well as the store. Again though, we can't stock everything for every car. Wish we could because sales would be outstanding and delivery times would be better and the sun would shine down on us and the sky would be blue all the time.

avatar   Dave Elliott   star   2/23/2010   9:09 AM

When I worked for Chief Auto Parts (a blast from the past ain't it?) Our warehouse goal was 96% fill rate. We had a certification program for store managers that included a top 600 items. If you didn't have them, you better be able to show that they were on back order. they also had a top 200 program of 'NEVER OUT" items. And that also applied to the warehouse if I'm not mistaken. I also use to the point of abuse, the lost sale function. I'm also not afraid to put an item in stock and set a min/max on it. The thing that kills my soul though is having a fuel pump in stock (or even 2 of them) and not stocking the strainer for it. Drives me nuts like a steering wheel in my pants.

avatar   WILL   star   2/23/2010   6:46 AM

No Gabe, Nashville has been on line since the "O" bought out Mid State Automotive nearly 10 years ago. When they don't have the part, we hit Springfield. Some parts I get calls on they just don't stock. The new system is good but some things you still have to wait for as you know. Calling Customer Support lines takes to much time when we're slammed. Wish we had better internet so we could search out some of those OTC tools and other odd items. Maybe someday in the future....

avatar   Gabe   star   2/22/2010   10:29 PM

Wow Will! We don't have that problem our Brooklyn Park DC usually has everything, if not Des Moines, and Springfield are just a couple days out. I am also finding that the new E-mail system to find pricing and availability on a special order part is working pretty slick. It seems to have freed up some time too, because responses that don't get an immediate response are usually being replied back to in an hour. Is your DC a new one? Or what is the deal? 80% of the time our DC has what we need. Or you just work in a very busy, large population area.

avatar   Will   star   2/22/2010   2:28 PM

Gabe, I find myself doing the same. The problem we encounter is "STOCKING" at the warehouses. Lots of lost sales because parts are on Backorder/No release date or just unavailable from any warehouse or store in the general area. I've ordered so many catalogs to give my shop guys just to speed them along. Moog books in the hands of a good tech makes Ford and Dodge parts easier to deal with. Disco catalog: big hit with body shop and restoration guys I know. BWD is a BIBLE in our store! We have 3 illustrated guides floating around here.

avatar   Gabe    star   2/21/2010   4:52 PM

Will I saw that Never say No! I was at a recent training class and I learned to, "Give them the pickle!" If a guy asks for an extra pickle, give em the pickle! By the way I flip through the paper catalogs alot when we are slow. It is amazing the stuff I find in there. I never thought we could get. Look at your BWD, conduct tite catalog at all the electrical connectors, and stuff you can get. Or the disco catalog for every body clip, plastic retainer clip you can think of. I flip through the dorman books too it is amazing what they make that is not listed in the computer.

avatar   David Elliott   star   2/18/2010   10:09 AM

How did the letters get in alphabetical order anyway? Is it because of that song??????

avatar   Chris   star   2/17/2010   9:43 PM

Trust me, if they put them in alphabetical order, typing would be a great deal harder!

avatar   Dan   star   2/17/2010   6:49 PM

Tom: if they put the letters in alphabetical order the geeks would never be able to type!!

avatar   Tom   star   2/17/2010   4:31 PM

Hey Howard It's GREEN as in LIVE GREEN.No worries I can type 10 words a minute too. Why don't they put the letters in alphabetic order??

avatar   howard g   star   2/17/2010   3:53 PM

I wish the Greeg Mafia would go to Wal- Mart sized stores. Having the extra inventory would make life so easy

avatar   Dave Elliott   star   2/17/2010   12:40 PM

Tom....Good show. You are exactly right. The intranet is very helpful to us here in the mafia. I love the Borg Warner site. we usually leave it pulled up to use in place of activ-ant. I do agree with you about the customer not having any appreciation and the GO TO THE DEALER next time line. Shops and walk in's need to accept the fact that their obscure part for the 29 year old car on their rack is not on the shelf. Now if they wanted to pay enough for it for me to have a Wal Mart sized store??????? That's another story.

avatar   Will   star   2/17/2010   12:19 PM

Tom is right! Here at the "Green Mafia" (love that Tom), we can access MOST of our suppliers or get a customer servive number to call. Some stuff you just can't get because car makers won't release certain items for aftermarket to create. I remember when the Coolant Cooled Alternators came out for Caddys. Took months to see those come in. Now you don't get much call on them. Dedicated counter people will exhaust every possibility to get the sale (even calling the dealer). NEVER SAY NO

avatar   Joe   star   2/16/2010   4:00 PM

Thats actually the smartest crap on here i've heard. I'm not too sure about the cheaper aftermarket "re-engineered " part v.s. oem. Sometimes there is no comparison.

Advertise     Contact Us     Subscribe    
Babcox Media •
3550 Embassy Parkway, Akron, OH 44333
330-670-1234 • (FAX) 330-670-0874
Babcox Website Counterman: Home