Seattle Automotive remains dedicated to installers, offers many extra services
Auburn, Wash.—From humble beginnings in 1983, Seattle Automotive Distributing (SAD) has become a major player in the wholesale parts distribution business in the Puget Sound region, SAD President Paul TeGantvoort said.
After purchasing the parts segment of Huletz Auto Electric in downtown Seattle, TeGantvoort began looking to relocate it within the Seattle area, eventually landing on King Street, just off Rainier Avenue, where a 13,000-square-foot facility became the first of what would be seven locations serving the region, TeGantvoort said.
The ACDelco parts line was the premier product group from the beginning, TeGantvoort said, with additional product offerings being added over the years including Motorcraft, Denso, KYB, Fel-Pro, and dozens of other parts lines. New lines continue to be added to the mix with recent additions including Blackjack Tire Repair product line and S.U.R.& R., a company that manufacturers fuel, brake, and other repair kits, he said.
“We are 100-percent wholesale, and we don’t compete with our customers,” TeGantvoort said. “We are dedicated to the installer and provide them with quality product lines, exceptional training programs, promotions, trips, give-a-ways, and more. We look for the premium repair facilities because we know we can make them happy.” He added that SAD is able to provide these programs with support from manufactures who share costs and reap the rewards of expanded business.
While TeGantvoort said SAD sent out 2,360 billing statements in May to dealerships, installers, and fleets, it has a major focus on its more than 115 ACDelco Professional Service Center Program customers that fly the ACDelco signage and have met strict criteria to be part of the program.
Providing training to SAD customers is paramount, TeGantvoort said. “Knowledge is power and we provide extensive training to our customers.”
“ACDelco training is No. 1 for us,” said Steve Paulsen, SAD sales manager who joined the firm in 1988. “We provide management training for owners, managers, and service advisors, and extensive technical training programs for technicians every month.”
Paulsen said instructor-led classes are held every month for Professional Service Center shops and others at the GM training center at Shoreline Community College and at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia. In addition, “Lunch & Learn” classes are held bi-monthly at shops or fleet operations on subjects that customers select. “The lunch courses could be on TPMS, brakes, drivelines, fuel systems, air conditioning, or whatever is sensitive to the customer’s needs,” he said.
Those classes are taught by local ACDelco trainers such as Marty Petkovits or others who may be flown in for a week of lunch classes. In addition, Paulsen said there is virtual classroom training on the Internet with a live trainer, as well as electronic Internet training where shop personnel can take more than 100 courses at home or in the shop at their leisure.
Other factory training classes from vendors such as Denso, KYB, and Motorcraft are also regularly offered by SAD, Paulsen said, as well as three-hour clinics geared for female consumers that are held at shops. “The ACDelco ladies classes have been extremely popular and very successful for the shops that have hosted them,” said Ted TeGantvoort, SAD operations and marketing manager, adding that 12 of the clinics will be offered at ACDelco Professional Service Centers in 2012.
In addition to training and clinics offered by SAD, the company sponsors a major trip each year for customers, the staff said. “They are open to any SAD customer who can earn the trips through parts purchases,” Paulsen said, adding that the trip to Mexico in 2012 was very successful and a trip to Costa Rica is planned for 2013.
Another popular event for SAD customers is the annual open house, held this year July 19, that features a product trade show, refreshments, barbecue dinner, and prize give-a-ways, the staff said. This year, a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS, a 45th anniversary edition, will be given away to one of SAD’s 115 Professional Service Center customers during a random drawing, said Ted TeGantvoort, who joined the firm in 1996 and said he also ran the ACDelco battery truck program that SAD has provided throughout the region for several years prior to assuming other roles at SAD.
A banquet for Professional Service Centers is also held annually and the fall event may be at the new LeMay-America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Paulsen said.
The quality of the parts sold by SAD is a top priority for the company and its customers, Paulsen said. While there is some offering of “good, better, best” parts, he said the most important issue is selecting vendors that offer OE quality or better parts because that is what their customers want.
“We don’t offer ‘white box’ parts because most of our Professional Service Centers and other customers want better or best parts,” said Ted TeGantvoort.
“Our sales are predominantly the better or best parts because our customers want longevity and performance from the products we supply them,” Paul TeGantvoort said. “We have a product return rate of only 1.3 percent because of the quality parts we sell, and we train the technicians properly on our product lines,” he said. “Electronic catalogs for repair customers must continue to get better, including showing all the pieces that go with specific repair jobs.”
While the SAD Auburn headquarters offers 50,000 square feet of double-decked space, Paul TeGantvoort said parts proliferation is a constant issue for parts wholesalers. “With expanded technology and increased SKUs for more vehicle brands, it is a challenge, but we have made major inroads with our in-house technology and computerization. Over 50 percent of our incoming orders are sent electronically,” he said. In total, SAD has an inventory of $9 million that has to be managed and controlled, said Todd Early, inventory manager.
One use of electronic technologies is through Federated Auto Parts, a parts distribution network that SAD joined four years ago, Ted TeGantvoort said. “It’s a great organization and it’s been very successful for us. I believe that joining Federated is the best thing we’ve ever done,” he said.
With about 130 employees, SAD operates 85 parts and battery delivery trucks from its seven warehouse locations in Auburn, Bellingham (16,000 square feet), Bremerton (10,000 square feet), Lynnwood (11,000 square feet), Olympia (10,000 square feet), Seattle, and Tacoma (13,000 square feet), Paul TeGantvoort said. The staff said SAD serves customers from the Canadian border to Centralia-Chehalis, as well as the entire Olympic Peninsula.
“A new Elite EXTRA GPS dispatch system now allows us to track all vehicles and deliveries, helping us with routings and assignments,” Ted TeGantvoort said. “Our customers know when specific parts deliveries will be made so they can schedule their technician service better,” Paulsen said.
Looking ahead, Paulsen said that the parts business will likely become more complex, but SAD customers appear to have a bright future as the DIY business drops and more DIFM business emerges. “Our shops care about the future and are committed to longevity in this business,” he said.