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Fusion '07 Vendor Forum participants seek healthy service channel, quality parts

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 - 00:00
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The Vendor Forum featured (from left) Mike Lambert, Bob Eagen and John Washbish, among others not pictured, answering questions from Fusion '07 attendees about the state of the aftermarket.

LAS VEGAS — In order to keep the aftermarket alive, the industry needs to help the independent installer secure and grow his or her business. In fact, what does the independent installer look like next to some other place where you can get your vehicle repaired?

That's a question John Washbish, president of Customer Relationship Management at Affinia, asked the audience at ADN's recent Fusion '07 Vendor Forum event. The health and image of the installer is not to be taken lightly, he offers.

"For those installers that make an investment in their facility and train their people to make it a friendly and pleasurable experience, they will flourish," he continues, adding that installers who lag behind in realizing that consumers are picky and want clean, comfortable environments might not be around five years from now.

Along with Washbish, Frank Ordonez, vice president of Delphi Corp and president of Delphi Product & Service Solutions, John Gethin, president and COO of Standard Motor Products and Bob Eagen, vice president of aftermarket sales at Federal-Mogul all fielded questions from ADN jobber and service center members.

"As an industry, we need to focus on the independent installer. From the grass roots, we have to make this an attractive industry for people to join," Washbish continues, noting that attracting quality technicians is the industry's biggest task right now.

In the end, the industry needs to shore up its efforts in order to have a successful future. "I think we have had our lunch eaten by the OE dealers on numerous product lines," says Gethin. "I think the industry is in decent shape, but there's a lot of room for improvement."

A fair but firm standard return policy is another request from some jobbers, and the panelists agree on the importance of controlling the industry's returns.

"Some of the fuel pumps returned to us aren't even Delphi," says Ordonez. "Every part that comes back means there’s a customer in the service bay who is unhappy. And I think it's incumbent upon us to address this as an industry for the sake of the consumer."

Ordonez continues that the aftermarket eventually will pay for those excessive returns (and unsatisfied customers).

Bob Eagen, vice president of aftermarket sales at Federal-Mogul, adds that the manufacturer also has an issue with returned fuel pumps, but cites the problem of some customers switching to another vendor "every time we get forceful" about returns. 

More than 1,400 independent auto stores, service dealers, WDs and their vendor partners attended Fusion '07 in February in Las Vegas. For more coverage from Fusion ’07, stay tuned to Aftermarket Business' April issue.

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