Slauson prospers by getting back to basics, improving infrastructure
Bloomington, Calif.—Chris Wilson, CEO of Slauson Transmission Parts, said that the transmission parts business has changed completely since his grandfather, Harvey Wilson founded the company in Los Angeles as Wilson Core Supply in 1956.
“The shifting market has encouraged us to make alterations to our business model,” he said. “We’re getting back to basics, strengthening our infrastructure, and looking toward developing new products and services.”
In the early 1960s, the company became Slauson Transmission Parts, specializing in used and rebuilt hard parts, incorporated in 1980, and has continued to thrive and expand, Wilson said.
“By 1984, we outgrew the Los Angeles warehouse,” he said. So we relocated to our headquarters in Bloomington/Rialto, which is 35,000 square feet, and we maintain a satellite warehouse location in Gardena.”
In 1990, the Slauson Book, as the company calls its award-winning parts catalog, includes more than 200 pages of crystal clear photographs in exploded views, all shot in-house by Dennis Hunt, operations manager and head of R&D, and indexed and cataloged using Slauson’s unique numbering system.
“When we first released the Slauson Book it was the first of its kind in the industry,” Wilson said. “It quickly became — and still remains — the standard in the automatic transmission parts industry and has won a Top 10 Tools award more than once.”
Hunt said most other parts catalogs have only line drawings, which he said doesn’t help a shop much when trying to identify a specific part.
“We took a different approach and created our own custom-made photo booth,” Hunt said. “It has special lighting and reflectors that eliminate high light and shadow normally found when photographing reflective surfaces such as shiny aluminum.”
In 1996, Slauson introduced SmartPart, a state-of-the-art parts identification system. In that same year, Slauson also launched its online electronic catalog and Web presence at www.slauson.com.
“Slauson was the first transmission parts company to embrace new Internet technologies as a method of marketing, identifying, and cataloging transmission parts,” Wilson said.
In 1998, Slauson expanded its product line to include a complete line of soft parts, Wilson said, and in September of 2000, introduced its new digital catalog on CD, enabling the user to easily locate and price products offline and online.
“We discontinued the CD in 2004,” he said, “but we still get customers asking for it.”
Wilson said Slauson also introduced the industry’s first mobile parts identification and ordering app for Android using the company’s SmartPart technology, which website users already use.
“You can download the beta version from the Google Play Store now, but we’re still in the testing phase,” he said. “We’re making this version available to our members so they can tell us if we got it right and help us shake out the bugs before we release the final versions for Android and iPhone.”
Hunt said the app is a real asset for a shop because a builder can be in the back, away from the computer, and still access and look up parts on his smart phone or tablet.
“We use laptops and tablets in our warehouse all the time. We’re all about mobility,” Wilson said.
One of Slauson’s latest product innovations is “The Slausonator,” a fix for Honda cases that makes wobbly bearings and shoddy sleeve jobs a thing of the past, Hunt said.
“Rather than wedging a thin sleeve around the bearing, which others do, Slauson employs a CNC machine to cut a much larger hole, and inserts a thick sleeve, machined from 6061-T6 aluminum, which is stronger than the original metal.”
Those heavy-duty sleeves are fastened with screws to ensure that they won’t move side to side or up and down, which prevents comebacks, Hunt said.
“So, there’s no need for a shop to take the chance on an inferior case, creating a noisy comeback on their next Honda job,” he said. “And there’s no need to accept a remanufactured Honda unit that doesn’t come with the best case available.”
“The Slausonator is the best Honda case on the market,” Wilson said. “And it’s priced to compete with its flimsier cousins, starting at just $250 with a good core.”
Currently the case is available for many Honda models with 4- and 5-speed automatic transmissions, including Accord, Odyssey, TL, CL, and Pilot, Wilson said, with more on the way.
“We are also refocusing our energy on our hard parts expertise, and looking to focus on our core competencies and strategic advantages in hard parts to deepen our niche,” he said.
Slauson has also had success with its soft parts offerings, which are not only from flagship industry manufacturers, but also priced very competitively.
“We introduced a new line of soft parts ‘value kits’ to compete with some of the cheaper kits being offered by our competitors,” he said. “We worked with a couple of our key vendors to offer top quality kits at a very competitive price point.”
Wilson said Slauson’s deepest expertise has always been in used hard parts. That’s been a strategic advantage since we began, and our system and inventory are the best in the industry.
“There are others who do what we do, or at least some part of what we do. We just like to think that we do it best,” Wilson said. “Few have the range of coverage we do, with more than 50,000 part numbers, and few do it as accurately, or provide the level of quality that we do.”