Gandrud Parts Center Works Hard on the Wholesale Side

Gandrud Parts Center Works Hard on the Wholesale Side

It’s called wholesale and if you’re not wholly dedicated to doing it yet, it can lead to a whole lot of headaches and lost revenue.

Companies that have tried to make it a side dish rather than an entrée have learned the hard way that if wholesale isn’t done right, it can leave a very bad taste in everyone’s mouths.

Jobs have been lost, promises have been broken and many tears have been shed over the years by dealerships who tried and failed to compete in the wholesale parts arena.

Wholesale is already a potentially perilous endeavor, but when you add in the fact there aren’t enough parts out there right now, it makes it even more difficult to succeed. Even the big chains say they're struggling to keep collision repair parts in their inventories. I keep hearing about cars sitting on shop floors waiting for that one part, so they can complete a repair and get the vehicle back to the customer.

It’s a vicious cycle with many repercussions and no immediate relief in sight. A worldwide semiconductor shortage has cut the production of new vehicles, which means that used cars have gone up in price significantly. This means people are being forced to keep their old ones much longer. In turn, these vehicles need more repairs, which are now increasingly being delayed by supply-chain obstacles.

Parts Director Chris Slack manages a department at Ivan Gandrud Chevrolet in Green Bay, WI, that employs 30 people, including eight counter people and three parts service technicians. They carry an approximately $5.5 million inventory, consisting of mechanical, collision and performance parts. They’re an authorized Mopar dealer that sells genuine Mopar parts online.

With 30-plus years of experience under his belt, Slack is succeeding in a very competitive marketplace. He’s well-known for being one of GM’s largest parts operations in the country, serving all of Wisconsin and part of Michigan with a fleet of 18 trucks.

Slack is a lifer when it comes to cars and parts. His first job was at a gas station when he was 13 and pretty soon, he acquired his own tools and became a tech. Things didn’t really work out for Slack as a mechanic, which led him into a different direction.

“Bad techs make good parts guys,” he said. “We can’t diagnose or replace the parts, but at least we know...

...what they are and where they go.”

When Slack was hired at Ivan Gandrud Chevrolet in 1989 as a counter person, the department was doing roughly $30,000 monthly. Now it's selling $4.5 million in parts every month.

Since the pandemic hit, Slack’s job has changed and his No. 1 priority now is finding the right parts for his collision and mechanical parts customers.

On some days, it’s hunt and seek, but with Slack’s connections in the industry and three decades of experience, his fill rate is high. Like his Green Bay Packers, Slack wins most of the time, and that’s why his auto body shop customers are doing the Lambeau Leap when they get their parts orders from Grandrud.

Slack is adapting to the “new normal” and driving his staff to do the same.

“Every car manufacturer out there is experiencing the same problems,” he said. “Price is always a motivating factor, but now availability has become even more important. We do everything we possibly can to make every order seamless, but we’ve had to do some crazy things to fill orders. We’ve purchased some parts from other dealerships and traveled long distances---200 miles---to get one part to complete an order for a body shop.

"We figure it’s our problem and that’s why we want to take it off their table. If we can get them the parts they need fast and make sure the orders are accurate, we know we can retain that customer for life.”

One of Slack’s major strengths is his staff and the parts knowledge they possess, Slack said. He’s proud of his all-star team and keeps them happy with occasional perks like free lunches on Fridays and other benefits.

“Five of our eight wholesale counter people are former parts managers,” Slack said. “Our body shops tell us we’re only as good as our parts guys and I know it’s true. The GM parts training is excellent, but they also...

...learn a lot on the job. A part may need a set of clips and possibly a new wiring harness, so we often include those items in the order. If they don’t need them, we will always take them back. But, when they and we can save them time, it sure makes us look good.”

The desire to flourish when it comes to selling parts starts at the top at Ivan Gandrud Chevrolet, Slack said.

“Our owner is Dan Mangless, who started out as a parts delivery driver and worked his way up through the system," Slack said. "That’s why we cater to our wholesale accounts and continually ask for their feedback while keeping the communication channels wide open.”

Part of Slack’s approach to customer service involves physically visiting his wholesale clients, which means he’s in a lot of body shops all the time.

“One shop owner in another market told me that he ordered parts from one dealer for 20 years and never met the parts manager. So, I make a point to see them all and find out what their concerns are," Slack said. "We know there will always be someone out there whose prices are cheaper, but we make sure that no one can beats us when we come to service.”

To stay in front of his wholesale customers, Ivan Gandrud Chevrolet offers price matching and works hard to accommodate them. They also host a car show every summer featuring 250 classic and collectible vehicles, and perform a lot of community outreach as well.

“The car show is our big event and we use it to donate food and raise money for an organization called Paul’s Pantry whose motto is 'Neighbors Feeding Neighbors,'" Slack said.

Ed Attanasio

Ed Attanasio is an automotive journalist and Autobody News columnist based in San Francisco.

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