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Ford launches all-makes parts brand

Thursday, February 16, 2017 - 09:00
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Ford is making a big play for the aftermarket parts market with the launch of its new Omnicraft brand for all makes of vehicles. This is the first new brand offered by the Ford Customer Service Division (FCSD) in 50 years.

Frederiek Toney

The move will put Omnicraft in competition with GM’s ACDelco brand in addition to traditional aftermarket parts providers. Ford hopes to tap into the $500 billion-plus auto parts market that has been created as a result of consumers keeping their vehicles longer. The average age of the vehicles on the road is rapidly approaching 12 years. By 2021, the parts and service market could be worth as much as $950 billion.

"We're well overdue for this," says Frederiek Toney, president of Ford's global customer service division. "We have been looking at what’s transpiring in the industry for some time, and recognize that there is tremendous growth. For us to be able to participate at the levels that we need to, we needed to offer a full portfolio of parts so that customers can have one-stop shopping at Ford. In order to do that we need to have an all-makes strategy, including non-Ford parts, service and repair capability support."

Ford’s branded dealerships will be able to offer the parts to non-Ford service customers. Dealers (for all nameplates) have been expanding their service departments to cover all makes and models as part of an effort to boost fixed operations revenues. Ford dealerships in particular have added Quick Lane service facilities as part of that initiative.

The dealerships will serve as the primary channel for the parts initially. An important opportunity for Omnicraft in that space will be providing parts to dealerships that sell certified pre-owned vehicles refurbishing those cars. The more than 1,000 Ford Quick Lane locations will also use the Omnicraft parts, and Toney estimates that 35 to 40 percent of vehicles that come through the Quick Lane shops are non-Ford brands.

"We're going to get that parts revenue, and make it easier for our dealers to acquire the parts they need," Toney says.

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Toney added that Ford would be very competitive against independent repair shops and aftermarket suppliers, and that the parts would be priced competitively.

Beyond the dealership base, Ford wants to be able to service customers based on their preferences. "So we really want to be able to address older model vehicle owner in much broader way, and we’ll use Ford authorized distributors to help us," Toney says, adding that the parts will "definitely" be available via independent distributors and repair shops in the future.

"We see our biggest opportunity with independent repair shops who did not have the option to call on Ford with a one-stop shop proposition," Toney says. "This makes us much more appealing to them, and will help create demand for Omnicraft as well as Motorcraft."

Ford hopes to expand its service business, and also improve customer retention and increase the touchpoints the company has with car owners. The company hopes to grow its parts business by 30 to 40 percent over the next five years. The new parts line will allow Ford dealers to service between 85 and 90 percent of competitive makes.

“We’re responsible for providing 100 percent of the parts support for the Ford brand, and it’s easy for us to augment our existing infrastructure and take advantage of the access we have through our thousands of dealerships around the world,” Toney says. “That gives us a unique logistics advantage that rivals anyone else you can think of.”

Ford’s traditional suppliers will manufacture the parts. The parts and labor on Omnicraft jobs will have the same 24-month parts and labor warranty that is available with Ford’s Motorcraft parts. The new line will not include collision parts. (Ford has been a particularly vocal proponent of OEM parts for structural and collision repairs, and pursued patent infringement claims against a number of aftermarket suppliers.)

As of late January, the company had already sold roughly $2 million worth of the parts to dealerships.

AutoNation launches parts brand
That market potential is attracting other players as well. In October 2016, $20-billion dealership behemoth AutoNation also announced it would begin selling its own brand of replacement parts.

AutoNation president and COO Bill Berman discussed the new line of parts in January at the J.D. Power Automotive Summit. The company will sell the AutoNation Precision Parts at both its franchised and new AutoNation SA used vehicle stores (which will include service bays). AutoNation launched its first branded part (Exide-produced batteries) back in September 2016. The company is in negotiations with suppliers on hundreds of other parts, including everything from windshield wipers to air conditioning compressors.

The company also launched AutoNation Auto Gear, a branded accessory line. Both lines will be expanded in phases.

Dealerships are under increasing profit pressure, deeply discounting new vehicles to meet OEM requirements and remarketing record numbers of leased vehicles. Parts and service sales have been an important part of maintaining profitability. With its own parts brand, AutoNation can offer discounted parts while keeping a larger chunk of the revenue.

Ford plans aggressive growth
For it’s part, Ford will focus Omnicraft on the most commonly requested parts, beginning with oil filters, brake pads and rotors, loaded struts, starters, and alternators, among others. At launch there were 1,500 part numbers available, with plans to cover 30 parts categories with 10,000 parts.

The parts will be available at Ford and Lincoln dealerships, and will roll out to other Ford authorized distributors throughout 2017, according to the company. The goal is for Omnicraft to contribute a double-digit percentage of the company’s parts sales over the next decade.

“We want to go from essentially zero percent of or revenue associated with non-ford parts to having that grow to 10 to 15 percent of sales,” Toney says. “We know that will be challenging, but the appeal we want to make is for customers to take another look at Ford and our offerings. We are extremely competitive, and [Omnicraft] meets the sweet spot from a quality and price standpoint to allow our dealers or independent repair shops to make a reasonable profit while applying a quality part. We won’t have the cheapest part, but it will be the among the best for overall value.”

Expanding further into the aftermarket is part of that growth strategy. “We truly want to meet customers on their own terms,” Toney says. “Customer retention is a key part of our strategy going forward. Today we do a really good job on one- to three-year-old vehicles. We want to expand that coverage.”

Potentially, that will also put Omnicraft in competition with AutoNation’s branded parts at that company’s Ford locations. “Competition is everywhere,” Toney says. “The way you win is through execution, and we will have to deliver on our promise to be a viable entity in this space. We’re seeing competition intensify. You’re going to see more people start to play in this pace that haven’t done so before.”

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