In today’s AMN Executive Interview we sit down with Dave Shadduck, president of the well-known Autolite and FRAM brands. In the interview, Shadduck shares that strong supplier relationships are one of the keys to the brands’ continued success. He also talks about the value of consumer outreach through motorsports, social media and more.
Autolite has done a lot of creative outreach for technicians and customers in recent years – mobile tours, motorsports promotions, and trainings. What do you have up your sleeve for this year in terms of customer outreach? Anything fun planned?
We are proud to support grassroots motorsport sponsorships. We have really great teams out there who continue to show how well our products work in the performance world. In addition to these sponsorships, our mobile tour is excited about celebrating its fifth year. This year, we are focused on attending youth-oriented automotive and power sports events as we continue our mission to cultivate a new generation of DIYers. We also plan to continue to expand our outreach to technical schools. Our training team recently presented to the North American Council of Automotive Teachers and performed training at a number of automotive schools as well as serving as judges at Skills USA.
Our tech team will be conducting Autolite clinics in 12 major cities over the coming year. The clinics will be sponsored by Autolite and open to all interested. Clinics will cover ignition systems, drivability and more for technicians and focus on product knowledge and sales skills for parts professionals.
Being such a well-known brand name, how does Autolite tap in to social media to communicate with brand followers and fans?
We know our followers are looking for technical advice about our products and general automotive maintenance, so we provide weekly tech tips for both the technician and the DIYer. We also use social media to promote our grassroots sponsorships and to let our social communities know about our participation in industry events.
Autolite has been around for more than a century, and has certainly evolved through a number of innovations over the years. Futurists predict that the rate of innovation will speed up exponentially over the next few years. How do you see the rate of innovation affecting your business and the automotive aftermarket overall?
Autolite is in a position where we have established good OE relationships. We are well-positioned to be a key supplier for any innovations on the horizons. We’ve been meeting the changing needs of engines since we produced our first spark plug in 1936, and we will continue to evolve. For example, we are creating thinner and longer spark plug designs as engine designs continue to shrink and focus on creating efficiency. In addition, the preference of precious metal types like Iridium fine wire will continue to increase as they offer greater performance and longevity versus traditional metals such as copper.
The automotive aftermarket will continue to be challenged by increasing pressures from online retailers, such as Amazon, that continue to expand into the automotive parts segment. Reaching consumers who are looking for our products online will help Autolite meet the needs of this growing demographic and remain competitive.
The company was recently honored by Federated Auto Parts with the Co Man Vendor of the Year award for Order Fill. What are some of the company’s key principals that help it meet high standards such as these?
We were pleased to receive this award for consistently filling orders in a timely and efficient manner. There are several principals that help us understand the customers’ requirements and meeting demand, including:
- Forecasting monthly to help manage demand
- Scheduling replenishment orders and meeting demand for each model
- Providing adequate lead time for all finished goods and safety stock requirements
Where do you see your segment of the industry headed over the next few years? What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenges, and biggest advantages in the marketplace?
With improving spark plug technology we are seeing longer-lasting fine wire plugs. Autolite is focused on selling higher-end technologies like Iridium XP spark plug to continue to provide high-level performance, improved efficiency and is backed by our limited lifetime warranty; which is one of its kind in the industry.