Shops: As loyal as they need to be

Jan. 1, 2020
Several of the OEMs continue to open new satellite service facilities to obtain –– get this –– more service business. They have the gall to think that by being in the right place with the right parts they can increase their se

Several of the OEMs continue to open new satellite service facilities to obtain –– get this –– more service business. They have the gall to think that by being in the right place with the right parts they can increase their service business.

These same OEMs have let this crazy thought creep into the parts side of the business. If they have the right parts in the right place, they think some independent repair shops will buy parts from them instead of from the aftermarket.

This is almost too hard to believe. Oh, those dirty, rotten, no-good dealer scoundrels! They’ll sell to anybody who will buy. Imagine the inequity in that. It’s appalling.

Wait a minute. It’s not those scoundrels who are at fault for taking your business...it’s the other ones –– the shop owners themselves. You’ve provided them hot shot delivery for 20 years and extended them credit when they couldn’t get credit from their own mother. Why are they looking around anyway? Don’t they know the meaning of loyalty? To think they would buy parts from car dealers...the enemy...for God’s sake! How can shops owners possibly justify buying from their competitors, not to mention your competitors? (No, we don’t have to talk about how you sell parts to car dealers on an as-needed basis.)

Chances are you’ve had some of these thoughts. But it’s not some conspiracy aimed at you personally. Rather, it is a national phenomenon that is growing expeditiously. According to the National Automotive Dealers Association, dealers increased their wholesale business by about 7 percent ($1 billion) from 2002 to 2003. Prior statistics reveal that this is a trend, not an anomaly.

Who’s driving this? Are the dealers out making calls on your customers? The smart ones are –– they’re going where the money is. In what seems to be a contradictory business strategy, the OEMs are providing technical magazines to independent repair shops. On the surface that seems to be a competitive move against their own dealerships. In fact, however, it’s an astute business strategy that helps them pick up business at both the dealership level and the repair level. The OEMs realize that their dealers won’t get all of the business out there. First of all they don’t have enough bays. Second, all consumers aren’t going to choose dealers for their repair work. With the proper technical information provided by the OEMs to the independent shops, it is likely that the shops will buy the “proper” parts to make a repair.

If you have read our cover story on shops buying from car dealers, then you know the aftermarket itself is driving shop customers to the dealers by not meeting shops’ quality standards, as well as confusing them with an archaic replenishing system. It’s fit, form and function, or forget it. That is, assuming the right parts have been ordered and delivered.

A couple shop owners we interviewed said they make two calls to their jobber sources before calling the dealers. If they continue coming up dry from their aftermarket suppliers, how much longer will they bother to make those first two calls? What obligation are they under?

Here’s my advice. At all costs, do not give your shop customers the opportunity to buy from someone else, be they dealers or other competitors for that matter. Your customers do not want to chase parts. That costs them money. If you don’t have the part, it’s your job to get it even if you have to buy it from a car dealer. If you don’t, they will. You may not like the sound of this, but that’s the new price of loyalty.

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