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Executive Interview

Monday, March 31, 2008 - 23:00

Mike Lambert • President of the Automotive Distribution Network

Mike Lambert, president of the Automotive Distribution Network (ADN), was president of Parts Plus for nine years before the company's merger with Independent Auto Parts of America (IAPA) to form what is one of the most significant program groups in the industry.

Motor Age: All aftermarket entities are struggling with price vs. added value. What is the Network's underlying philosophy on the issue as it relates to marketing, training and sales support?

Lambert: We certainly need the price to remain competitive with the retailers and other large single-owner companies. So you will not hear me say that price does not matter. All end users, however, buy based on a number of factors, including price, quality and service. And every consumer's perception of which of those factors is more important differs. We try to tailor the Network's marketing, training and sales support services to the person who is buying the product — whether that is a group of company stores, independent jobbers or service dealers. They decide what they want in added value. Our job is to have those services available if that particular group wants it, whether it's training, marketing support, sales support or just a sign. Many of our programs are menu-based with the exception of brand identity.

Motor Age: How much and how fast will new car technologies change the aftermarket from a distribution point of view, as well as a service point of view?

Lambert: Technology in new cars takes many directions. One could look at hybrids, electric cars or hydrogen-propelled cars and ask who is going to work on them and where are the parts going to come from? Well, the answer better be us and the shops we service, or we will be relegated to the "ancient technology" vehicles. I am fully confident that the aftermarket is up to the challenge. Our current suppliers or new suppliers are making the new parts, and they will be available for the aftermarket when we need them.

Another aspect to new car technology could be On-Star® or the new Microsoft® vehicle products we have just read about. The aftermarket needs to tap into those communication features for the cars of today and tomorrow. That is a communication and convenience factor for the consumer that I do not want to give up to the car manufacturer. With the help of companies like Delphi, we will have to develop new alliances that will allow the aftermarket to compete in this arena.

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