Establishing the parts connection
Seattle, Wash.—Advantage Parts Solutions is not the typical OEM wholesale parts program with hub and delivery operations, but its success is measured in how its clients “recognize our comprehensive approach and value the information we provide,” said Troy Olason, business development manager for the Western Washington market.
Founded 30 years ago in Vancouver, B.C., Advantage has grown in markets across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Today, the company connects 2,500 OEM parts and service suppliers with more than 300,000 independent repair businesses.
Olason, a 34-year veteran of the automotive industry, covers a territory from Olympia to the Canadian border, including parts of the Olympic Peninsula. He visits about 150 collision repair shops each month to collect data and promote parts purchasing from 23 non-competing dealers in his region.
“I have several dealers that cover my entire market, such as Bill Pierre Ford, BMW Northwest, Northwest MINI, Bellevue Nissan, Renton CDJR, Sandberg Volvo, Infiniti of Bellevue, Roger Jobs Porsche/Audi, and Ferrari of Seattle,” Olason said. “We also have dealers in the northwest area of the state that offer top-notch service to shops on a more localized basis.”
Advantage Parts Solutions does not have a delivery apparatus, but Olason said many of his dealers are members of delivery groups. “Obviously, using your own trucks allows for faster and more flexible deliveries, but may not allow you to cover the area desired.”
A former NASCAR NW Tour crew member, apprentice technician, dealer parts counterman and driver, and a service and parts director, Olason said he also spent 15 years with Page One Automotive dealing with OEMs and automotive journalists. “I’ve been around OEs and dealerships, plus collision shops, my entire career so I have a good understanding of what each needs.”
As a consultant for each dealer, Olason determines the specific needs of independent or multi-store collision facilities and provides that data electronically after each call to OEM parts suppliers to build relationships that rely on high quality service. “By creating comprehensive reports that provide critical information for our dealers, we can build a game plan together that will best serve the body shops,” he said.
“It’s a very exhilarating relationship with Troy,” said James Barlow, parts manager at BMW Northwest in Fife, a 30-year veteran of the dealership. “The regular communication with body shops and getting our message out there about what we offer is invaluable. The thoroughness of the messages we receive from Troy is excellent and we’ve gained business as a result of his efforts.”
With six staff in his parts department, three dedicated to wholesale currently, Barlow said with Olason and the Advantage program, the store is revitalizing and customizing its wholesale program to expand daily deliveries from Blaine to Centralia, plus destinations such as Issaquah, Silverdale, Port Orchard, among other destinations for the BMW operation and nearby MINI store that he also oversees. The two offer a combined $1 million inventory with 2,300 BMW and 900 MINI body parts.
“We will be adding two additional people and delivery vehicles as we grow our wholesale business using Advantage and Troy as our outside liaison, our eyes and ears, to obtain valuable input from existing and prospective customers. Thus far, it’s created a new level of service for us with Troy’s representation, and its allowing us to be more flexible about serving our customers,” Barlow said, adding that part of the flexibility may involve night-time delivery or other customized delivery to meet customer needs.
Olason said the industry has changed consistently since he left the fixed operations segment of the business. “Electronic parts procurement programs, price matching, smart inventories, and other aspects have altered how shops secure their needed parts. As we work with dealers and match them to body shops, we want three things to happen: 1) expertise in parts ordering, 2) excellent effort from the dealer to deliver parts on time, and 3) transparent communication - good or bad.”
The Advantage Rewards program is now being launched to collision facilities in Washington, Olason said. It rewards shops that purchase parts from non-competing OEM suppliers and allows them to accumulate points to redeem from thousands of products in an Advantage online catalog.
While Advantage in Washington currently is only involved in collision parts, many Advantage operations in other areas also deliver mechanical parts to independent shops. “We will expand to mechanical parts, likely in 2019, with a completely different line card for each region,” Olason said. “For example, a shop in Bellingham that needs an alternator is not going to wait for a part to come from Seattle.”
Olason also said that Advantage will be reviewing expansion into Oregon as the company is represented in the greater Los Angeles area, San Francisco/Oakland region, and Sacramento. “It would only make sense to bridge the gap at some point, and Alaska is also on my radar, as is Eastern Washington.”