Thriving in ever-competitive parts market
Wichita, Kan.—The OEM wholesale parts climate has changed in recent years, with challenges placed on dealers to carefully control their inventory and provide parts even quicker or risk losing a sale, said Robert Bailey, parts manager of Rusty Eck Ford, which boasts a $1.7 million inventory in a two-story warehouse the size of a football field.
Although previous vehicles may have only a couple of choices, say, a chrome or non-chrome bumper, “You have six different choices on a Fiesta,” he said, and he has to keep a close eye on sales reports to track rapid changes in what sells.
“Every dealer can have their parts tomorrow, so you’ve got to have a quick reaction to have it on the shelf now. At the same time, you have to have a faster reaction to phasing inventory out as those markets shift, so you’re not stuck with bad inventory.”
Ford no longer accepts returns on any parts except for special orders, and those are within 60 days, Bailey pointed out. As insurance companies have leaned on collision repair shops to lessen their cycle time, they’ve gotten more demanding, too, he said.
“Especially with the domestic Big Three, there is at least one large wholesale operation in every market. So if you’re not the one who can provide it today or the first thing tomorrow morning, they’re calling the next guy. Here in my market, I actually have five out-of-state dealers pushing to sell in my area. Everybody’s trying to jump into the market, because everybody needs to squeeze a few more pennies.”
Powertrain available next-day without tying up inventory
Conversely, inventory needs for engines and transmissions have eased, Bailey said, for a couple of reasons: reliability has increased, softening demand, and Ford’s contract remanufacturer, AER, stocks enough inventory in its Kansas City distribution center that “I can have just about everything the next day: engines, transmissions, and anything on the remanufacturing scale.”
With area dealers, Rusty Eck hits 75 percent of the state
Partnered with Hatchett Buick GMC and Parks Motors (Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep) the group delivers Monday through Friday in a 125-150-mile radius.
“We send out seven trucks in all directions to make sure we can deliver to all shops by 3 p.m. every day,” Bailey said, noting that if out-of-town shops order in-stock parts by the 9:30 a.m. cutoff time, they can have mechanical and collision repair parts the same day. That benefit means the group serves not only independent repair shops but dealerships that don’t stock the needed part. And for in-town customers, Rusty Eck offers four scheduled routes leaving every two hours, beginning at 9 a.m., which avoids the need for “hotshot” deliveries.
The parts department has one upfront (retail) counterperson and three back counterpeople to take care of the dealership’s service department and collision repair center. The five wholesale parts specialists have 150 years of combined experience, and four are master-certified by Ford, with the fifth one training for it.
Bailey said his department is supportive of CollisionLink’s online ordering process, but aside from a few large shops regularly using it, progress in getting more shops to adopt it has been slow.
“For body shops, when they put their estimate into CollisionLink, it will first flag any aftermarket parts for potential price-matches, so we don’t have to do separate requests for price-matching,” he said. “Then it pulls the rest of the information they provided: the VIN and the parts list described, then it does a preliminary VIN scrub to check for accuracy and sends the order over to my guys to do a secondary VIN scrub to make sure we have accurate parts on the ticket. They confirm whether or not the price is going to be where the shop needs it to be, and orders are submitted directly from there.”
That process is no extra work for his staff, although when asked about PartsTrader, Bailey said it is onerous both for the shops mandated by State Farm to use it to save the insurer money, and for parts departments with no other choice but to use it to support their customers.
“You have to do all of the regular estimates you were going to do and send them back to the shop, and then you have to do them in PartsTrader again, under a time constraint, and give them the opportunity to price against it with salvage and aftermarket parts. Body shops hate it. It’s extra work for them — they’re doing their estimates two or three times. And we do all the legwork to save State Farm some money and pay them for the ‘privilege’ of doing it.”
Medium and heavy-duty trucks big business
With parts and expertise for medium- and heavy-duty trucks including Sterling and L-series, Rusty Eck Ford is the only stocking dealer and support center in the area, Bailey said, drawing business from a wide area.
“We field phone calls from Nebraska and Colorado, and there are even shops in California we have relationships with.”