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Las Vegas – It’s on everyone’s mind: How do you find better customers?

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That question was posed during a special event held during Independent Warehouse Distributors’ (IWD) recent national membership meeting. IWD’s meeting, held March 30 through April 1, was the 20th annual such meeting for the Connecticut-based program group. It was held at the J.W. Marriott near Las Vegas.

So, how do you find better customers? IWD’s answer: shop-owner council meetings. Hosted by the WD or jobber, these meetings of local shops are ways to create a support system of sorts, one that provides real-world help, problem solving and idea generation for a distributor’s best (and sometimes most-challenging) customers. The idea is simple, and as the IWD meeting showed, the results can be powerful.


To demonstrate, Auto Pride invited four Auto Service Expert businesses, all first-class repair facilities in their own right, to take part in a sample shop-owner council. Through this event, members witnessed first-hand the high-quality ideas that the best businesses can share with each other, raising the bar for all involved. The Auto Service Experts who participated – Dan Bryant of Bryant’s Automotive, Redding, CA (customer of Franklin Auto Parts, Redding, CA); Craig Fetter, Fetter’s Auto Repair, Arbutus, MD (customer of Standard Auto Parts, Baltimore, MD); Gary Goodman, Guaranteed Auto Service, Hayward, CA (customer of Vic Hubbard Auto Parts, Hayward, CA); and Jeff and Judy Walter, Zimmerman’s Automotive, Mechanicsburg, PA (customer of Mid-State Products Harrisburg, PA) – frankly discussed their opinions about market trends, quality and service, as well as how they keep their customers and grow their businesses. These meetings serve to raise the quality of repair shops, making them stronger service facilities, and by extension, creating better customers for their respective parts distributors.


Dan Bryant from Bryant’s Automotive and Stephane Jobin from Stephane’s Mobile Repair were honored for Outstanding Performance with their respective Auto and Truck Service Expert Programs. Each spoke to IWD members and manufactures on the value of the Auto and Truck Service Expert marketing programs.

The meeting concluded with speaker, Michael Gerber, author of “The E-Myth.” Gerber, whose insights were both inspiring and enlightening, provided a look at the challenges of entrepreneurship.

ATK Increases Warranty Labor Rates
Santa Ana, CA – ATK North America, a remanufactured engines supplier, has announced an increase in warranty labor rate reimbursement.


Effective April 1, 2005, all remanufactured engines sold with ATK’s standard warranty have a provision for labor reimbursement up to $50 per flat rate hour on all approved warranty labor claims. The standard, non-commercial term for this warranty coverage will remain at a full three years, unlimited miles. ATK’s optional, Gold Seal Warranty Service Agreement will not be changed at this time.

“With the newly increased rate of $50 per flat rate hour ATK will now be able to cover internal labor costs for most repair facilities,” Russ Shiba, head of ATK Customer Service, said. “Customers with higher labor costs can purchase ATK’s optional Gold Seal Warranty Service Agreement which, in addition to car rental, towing and fluid coverage, reimburses labor at a rate of $85 per flat rate hour.”


Customers are advised to refer to ATK’s published warranty statements for complete details.

Transpro Opens State-of-the-Art Distribution Facility
New Haven, CT – Transpro, Inc. announced that the company is opening a new distribution facility in Southaven, MS, in order to streamline its distribution network and enhance its commitment to customer service. As a result of the opening of the new facility, the company will close two warehousing operations and a returns processing facility in Memphis.

The Southaven site encompasses 520,000 sq. ft. of warehousing and processing facilities and can be expanded to accommodate future increases in demand. The new facility will utilize the latest technology in warehouse management to improve delivery lead-time, order accuracy, and overall order cycle efficiency for Transpro’s customers.


“One of our strategic corporate values is ‘Market leadership through superior customer service,’ and we believe the opening of this facility fits well with this philosophy,” said Charles E. Johnson, president and CEO of Transpro, Inc. “By consolidating the functions of three different facilities under one roof and employing state-of-the-art warehousing and distribution technology, our customers will benefit from improved order management and accuracy as well as overall turnaround time.”

New Jersey AutoCare Specialist Named NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year
NAPA AUTO PARTS and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) have named Jeff Walker the 2005 NAPA/ASE Technician of the Year. Presented annually by NAPA AUTO PARTS and ASE, the award is given to a technician who exemplifies excellence and achievement in the industry.


Walker, owner of Walker’s Automotive Services in Pleasantville, NJ, has 32 years of experience. He began pumping gas in 1972 at age 16 and then realized a lifelong dream of owning a repair business in 1994.

“This award is something I’ve aspired to during my career and winning it means I’ve begun reaching some of the goals I set for myself,” said Walker, who is a recertified Master ASE technician with L1 and L2 Certification. He is also a Master Medium/Heavy Truck technician, Master Collision Repair/Refinish technician, Master Engine Machinist and a Certified Collision Repair Estimator. In fact, Walker is certified in 28 ASE categories, ranking him among the elite of all technicians with ASE credentials.


“The Technician of the Year award is the benchmark of excellence to which all technicians aspire,” said Bob Susor, NAPA president. “Jeff is committed to the auto repair industry, to maintaining its professionalism and to superior customer service. We are proud to count Jeff among NAPA’s automotive repair professionals.”

Hellman & Friedman to Acquire Universal Underwriters Group
San Francisco – Hellman & Friedman LLC, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, announced that an investor group led by Hellman & Friedman has signed a stock purchase agreement to acquire Universal Underwriters Group from Zurich Financial Services Group in a transaction valued at approximately $1.1 billion.


Founded in 1922, Universal Underwriters is a provider of property and casualty insurance to U.S.-franchised automotive dealerships with an approximate 40% market share.

Investing alongside Hellman & Friedman will be Farallon Capital Management LLC, GIC Special Investments Pte Ltd., and Universal Underwriters’ management. Post closing, the investor group will own 100% of Universal Underwriters. The transaction is expected to close in the third quarter of 2005, subject to regulatory approval.

Distributing primarily through a direct sales force, Universal Underwriters provides tailored insurance and financial services to franchised auto, truck, equipment and motorcycle dealers, as well as the automotive aftermarket sector. Universal Underwriters has more than 80 years of experience serving these core customer segments and will remain focused and committed to their unique needs.


Delphi Brings Its OE Ignition Wire Sets to Independent Aftermarket
Troy, MI – Delphi Corp. announced the expansion of its original equipment engine management offering for the independent aftermarket with the addition of ignition wire sets. The initial offering includes the 42 highest volume part numbers, covering 20% of the vehicles on the road in North America.

“This is our latest product introduction in the Engine Management category for the aftermarket in the U.S.,” said Lucia Moretti, global marketing director, Delphi Products & Service Solution. “We plan to complete our offering by the third quarter of this year, providing a complete solution for our customers.”


Based on past model-year history, it is estimated that ignition cable materials can break down over time due to heat and contamination, with average industry replacement at 75,000 miles. Each year, nearly 5% of all vehicles on the road will require a replacement wire set. Failed wire sets can cause rough idle, misfire under load and poor fuel economy.

Delphi Packard Electric produced the first ignition cable in the United States in 1901 and today Delphi is one of the world’s leading suppliers of electrical and electronic distribution systems and ignition wiring products. The ignition sets will be marked with the Delphi Packard name to ensure wide technician brand recognition.


“Our ignition products have always been highly regarded in the market, said Lynn Long, business line manager, Delphi Packard Electric.

“The Packard name carries a lot of impact and is regarded as a premier name in the ignition world. We know specific vehicle demands, because we’ve dealt with them for countless years at the OE level.”

The ignition wire sets will be sold with original equipment boots, terminals and lead lengths to allow for no-hassle installation, and will be configured in application-correct 7 mm or 8 mm cable sizes to gain great acceptance by professional technicians.

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