Wednesday, 17 June 2020 12:34

Auto Dealer Parts Departments Continue to Serve Through Pandemic

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In the last few months, much has been written and discussed within the trade press about how body shops, insurance companies and car rental companies are faring with the business slowdown caused by the corona virus pandemic.

Autobody News wanted to know how the auto dealer parts departments were faring.


Between June 11 and June 15, Autobody News conducted a survey of car dealership parts departments. This included dealers of all makes from Ford, GM and FCA to Mini, Mitsubishi and Tesla, and everything in between.


All responding dealers said they were involved in the wholesale collision business. All except one said they were involved in the wholesale mechanical business. Responding dealers leaned toward being either General Motors or Honda/Acura dealers.


We asked the following questions and received the respective responses.


In March, April and May, was your wholesale collision business (primarily body parts sold to collision repair shops) up or down, and by what percentage?


All except three dealers noted their wholesale collision business was down, some by as little as 15% and some by as much as 80%. The average was a decrease of 45% and consistent with the business losses experienced by collision shops.


Of those that experienced an increase in wholesale collision sales, one dealer could not be reached for comment. Another, a GM dealer in Missouri, noted that a large hailstorm was the cause of the increase.


The third dealer, Richmond Ford Lincoln of Richmond, VA, took a very aggressive and innovative approach to increase sales.


“We took our outside salespeople off the road and had them working the phones five or six hours a day contacting customers to see who was open and who was not and if there was anything we could do to help them out," said Parts Director Roland Chartier. "Then we extended credit from net 30 to net 60 for our large customers.


"The only change we made to our delivery service was to give all drivers face masks, gloves and supplies to sanitize their vans. Customers were no longer required to sign for delivered parts. The drivers asked for names and noted them on the route/delivery sheets. We had some of our larger accounts order large stock orders just in case the supply chain was interrupted," Chartier continued. "When other dealers cut staff or service to customers, we would have our outside sales people work those areas extra hard calling shops and letting them know we were servicing the area. We were able to pick up a few new shops with this tactic. It was hard work and a little luck.”


In March, April and May, was your wholesale mechanical business (primarily mechanical repair parts sold to tune-up shops, brake shops and general repair shops) up or down and by what percent?


Once again, all except three dealers noted their wholesale mechanical business was down. The smallest decline was 5% and the largest 80%, with an average decline of 39%.


One of the three “up” dealers was, again, Richmond Ford Lincoln. The other two were unavailable for comment.


Have you had to furlough any parts department personnel and if so, who?


Sixty-six percent of respondents said they had to furlough at least one person in their parts department. Some had to let multiple people go. This included 13% who furloughed road sales people and 31% who furloughed stock clerks.


Those hit the hardest were delivery drivers, with a 47% furlough rate, and counter people, with a 53% furlough rate; 38% of respondents dismissed both a driver and a counter person. One parts manager noted they cut hours but kept the same number of drivers.

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