Dealership’s bet on Mopar parts inventory pays off with sweat equity
Signal Hill, Calif.—Glenn E. Thomas Dodge Chrysler Jeep is among the oldest dealerships in the U.S., founded in 1909 by Walter L. Thomas as the Long Beach Auto Co., Parts Manager Chris Brodeur, who started at the dealership in 1986, said.
“My dad, Tony, who had been a technician at the dealership since 1977, got me a job as a parts driver and I worked my way up until I was promoted to parts manager about 12 years ago,” Brodeur said. “And I have worked on growing the parts business since then.”
Brodeur was quick to credit Robert “Bob” Davis, president of the dealership, and John Davis, general manager, for having the vision and insight to help his department become what it is today.
“Bob has been more than my boss,” Brodeur said. “He’s been a mentor, someone who knows my kids’ names, my wife’s name. And his son, John, who’s worked at the dealership since he was 16, has a better understanding of how my department works than a lot of GMs, which keeps me on my toes.”
Brodeur said both men keep a close eye on the numbers, but they are more concerned with customer service and the big picture than they are about profit margins on every part sold.
“Bob is the kind of guy that if I tell him I want to make this deal but we’re only going to make 1 or 2 percent on it, do you want to do it, he’ll say yes. He’s never turned me down,” Brodeur said.
In 1984, Chrysler introduced its Five Star Award, and Glenn E. Thomas Co. was one of five dealerships in Southern California to earn it, he said.
“The award is based on scores in six different categories: facility, employees, training, processes, sales volume, and customer surveys,” he said. “Glenn E. Thomas is one of three dealerships in the world to earn this award every year since 1984.”
In 1990, the dealership moved to a new multimillion dollar facility in Signal Hill, near the 405 Freeway, which is when Bob Davis became president, Brodeur said.
Brodeur said that in 2008, Long Beach Chrysler Jeep closed and Glenn E. Thomas was offered the Chrysler and Jeep franchise, during a time when it was uncertain if Chrysler would continue to exist as a brand. Currently, the parts department has about 18,000 active part numbers, 69,000 parts in stock, and about $1.8 million in Mopar parts, Brodeur said.
The parts department participates in every program that Mopar offers, he said, including PartsTrader, Ops Track, uParts, CollisionLink, Direct Line Parts, and Conquest, a price-matching program designed to bolster sales of OE parts in cases where customers or insurance companies opt for cheaper aftermarket parts.
“Conquest works by asking customers or body shops to build an estimate as they normally would, then send the full estimate to us, and we will pull out all the stops to match the aftermarket pricing,” he said.
Brodeur said he also offers a value line of some faster-moving parts such as brake pads, rotors, and alternators, which have the same warranty as Mopar’s premium line products.
“We also offer the Magneti Marelli line of OE-replacement parts and accessories, which is sponsored by Mopar, and we offer gift cards and specials on certain products,” he said.
The parts department has two outside sales reps; 10 countermen, some with more than 40 years’ experience; four dedicated inside wholesale sales reps; eight delivery trucks equipped with iPads; and a dispatcher who uses Elite Extra (live driver tracking), Brodeur said.
“With Elite we know exactly where our trucks are at all times, which allows us to make hot-shot deliveries within five miles, usually in an hour or less,” he said. “We also deliver twice a day up to 20 miles away, and we go as far as 50 miles from the store for some very large customers.”
Brodeur said all of his sales reps are Chrysler-certified and have received additional customer service training from both outside sources and Mopar.
Mopar remanufactured engine and transmission sales have become a larger portion of his bottom line, now accounting for 10 percent of total parts sales, Brodeur said.
“We love to sell remanufactured Mopar Powertrain products,” he said. “We offer very low pricing and stock a little more than $50,000 in those products at all times.”
The parts department has seen a 40-percent increase this year in wholesale, Brodeur said, and service and retail business are also up.
“The increase in wholesale business can be attributed to my wholesale department’s sales efforts, including Boris Palomino and Mark Sweet, who are great mentors to the rest of the team and have really taken the lead in going after new business,” he said.
The dealership has won the Press-Telegram Readers Choice Award for Long Beach and surrounding areas three years in a row and is a Mopar Certified wholesale dealer, both in mechanical and collision parts.
“We do everything possible to make the sale,” Brodeur said. “If a customer tells us they need a part for this much, we’ll do our best to get there. We work as a team, which I believe makes us stronger.”