Lou Fusz and Plaza meet needs of wholesale parts customers
In-stock parts, early-morning and hotshot deliveries lower customers’ cycle times
St. Louis—There’s a nip in the air on this early April morning, the sun still hanging low on the horizon as 30 local and seven out-of-town delivery drivers for the Lou Fusz Automotive Network load their trucks in a flurry of activity for the first deliveries of the day. By 8:30 a.m., the depot on North Lindbergh Boulevard is much quieter and mostly vacant, its shelves barren of the parts picked up from area dealerships as early as 6:30 a.m.
It’s a daily routine that’s taken place since September 2000, when the Lou Fusz dealers consolidated parts deliveries from its nine wholesale parts departments, which still handle all parts orders, said Wholesale Parts Coordinator Dave Schell, who at 43 has almost 28 years under his belt with the Lou Fusz organization.
An alliance of the Lou Fusz dealerships and Plaza Motor Co. is meeting the demand for quicker deliveries for collision and repair shops of the 25 nameplates sold by the two companies, Schell said. The Network, which has teamed up with Plaza Motor Co. since October 2012 to deliver local and out-of-town wholesale parts, focuses on getting more parts out on early-morning runs for greater customer service.
“Our dealerships have upped their game. They all start around 5 or 5:30 in the morning,” he said. “It helps to cut down on the shops’ cycle time.”
Shops in the St. Louis metro area are served three times a day on the Missouri side of the river and twice a day in the east metro area, while daily deliveries serve roughly a two-hour radius. Hotshot deliveries provide for fill-in stops for last-minute orders or air freight orders that arrive after the first wave of parts distribution takes place in the morning.
For the past year the Network has pushed for as many parts to be delivered as possible in the early morning, said Wholesale Parts Sales Representative Joe Mengler. It’s a competitive advantage at a time when there are more wholesale players in the market, he said, and OEMs push for more mechanical parts sales.
Still, Mengler said, he and the two other wholesale representatives for the Network, Dave Sieber and Powertrain Specialist Mike Schmitz, have been able to grow their business by expanding sales into additional nameplates from satisfied customers who are used to regularly seeing the delivery drivers.
“We’ve been able to prove our service on the other car lines,” Mengler said. “Our other biggest plus is our inventory. We find more and more manufacturers backordering parts. And if we have it in stock, it doesn’t affect us. It gives us the ability to service our customers.”
Through its alliance with the Lou Fusz Network starting October 2012, Plaza Motor Co. was able to give better service with better efficiency, said Wholesale Parts Manager Paul Heck.
“We only had three trucks; they have 30,” he said. “They have three salesmen. With me, there are four of us. It gives us more opportunities and better service for our customers. We run hotshot deliveries with our own truck and we use our own van to go into the Springfield, Ill.—area for Fusz and Plaza.”
The dealerships participate in all OEM-sponsored programs, such as electronic ordering through OEConnection and Auto PartsBridge, a growing trend as more insurance companies ask shops to use electronic parts ordering systems, Sieber said.
“Manufacturers have more programs all of the time that we fully support,” Mengler added.
The dealerships also participate in PartsTrader, Schell said. “It’s a new way of ordering parts, and we do it, and we’ll price-match or do whatever it takes.”
Price-matching programs in which collision repair shops can submit estimates listing aftermarket or salvage parts, as well as rebate incentives for using OEM parts, are also popular and available from most makes, Schell said. “It’s definitely something all of the independents need to look at using. If you want to find those few extra points, it’s there if you want to use the program.”