In this AMN Executive Interview, we sit down with Dan Billie, executive vice president of sales and marketing for APC Automotive Technologies. He has more than 20 years of experience in the automotive aftermarket and an impressive track record of sales and marketing leadership. Billie is charged with developing and executing growth strategies for APC Automotive Technologies and also is responsible for managing the current customer base, new business development, sales forecasting, contract negotiations, competitive market analysis and management of the company’s sales division. Billie also oversees marketing and customer service.
Prior to his appointment at APC, Billie was the executive vice president of sales and marketing for AP Emissions Technologies from 2014-’16. Before AP Emissions Technologies, Billie served as senior vice president, sales for Cardone Industries from 2008-’14. He was promoted to senior executive sales after having served as VP of sales from 2000-’08 and was director of sales from 1996-2000. Billie holds a Master of Business Administration degree from LaSalle University and a Bachelor of Science degree from Penn State University.
In May 2017, APC Automotive Technologies was created by the merger of AP Emissions Technologies and Centric Parts. How is the commercial integration of the two companies progressing and what opportunities have been generated as a result?
Our integration is progressing nicely and we are already seeing very positive results, especially on the sales side. Many of our AP Emissions Technologies and Centric Parts customers are interested in purchasing APC lines they don’t currently carry. So, our ability to provide a diverse offering of undercar products has created valuable opportunities for existing customers to purchase more of what they need from one supplier. This cross-sell has been a great addition to our current book of business.
We’ve also been busy working on our sales structure so we can better align our strengths and product knowledge with the appropriate sales team members. There is a lot of excitement within APC Automotive Technologies about our future and the opportunities it will present to our customers.
What differentiates APC Automotive Technologies from its competitors?
We’ve positioned ourselves as a leading automotive aftermarket undercar parts platform, and we are able to do that because we provide our customers a unique blend of branded products that cover a wide range of exhaust and emissions products, brake system parts and chassis components. The total package we can offer would be hard to beat by many of our competitors. We also are focusing on ways in which we can help our customers differentiate themselves from their competition. At AAPEX, we announced key friction innovations that are exclusive to our brake parts program, and that make our warehouse distributors stand out. We also continue to develop private label programs to meet the needs of those customers looking for further differentiation.
APC Automotive Technologies has the infrastructure and the capabilities to increase customer share in a crowded market of competitors that often redistribute product without thoughtful design and innovation.
APC had a very busy show during this past Industry Week, kicking off the AAPEX show with a formal press conference and multiple exhibits at SEMA. What were your perceptions and thoughts about the event?
There was a great deal of anticipation from our customers and sales team about our combined booth presence at AAPEX. Attendance at the press conference was amazing and the response we received from customers and new buyers to our new innovations and the unified presence we projected was excellent. WDs are always looking for an edge over their competition and we were able to demonstrate how the value we design into our products sets us apart. We build products for the professional technician, so it’s always been more about what’s in the box rather than the box itself.
In addition to our significant APC booth presence at AAPEX, we also exhibited at the SEMA show with two individual booths and the response was exceptional. Our StopTech and Cherry Bomb brands were both represented well by our performance teams. We had great customer interaction and very positive feedback throughout the show.
Your Centric brand just launched several new products in 2017 and hinted at more new initiatives on the horizon. What new products will APC be coming out with in 2018 for Centric and AP Emissions?
At AAPEX, we announced the soft launch of two innovative programs: StopTech Tactical Police Duty Brake Pads for law enforcement requirements and StopTech GCX Rotors for OE performance and style. Both products are unique in the way they were developed and designed with engineered enhancements in mind. We’ve taken our performance engineering team and used their focus on design differentiation and then infused it into both categories.
The big reveal at the press conference was the introduction of our newest full line friction category, PQ Pro by Posi Quiet. The number of features built into this advanced product line is the most we’ve ever offered. We really pushed the envelope with this innovation to address key service issues that plague many of today’s professional technicians and their customers, such as brake fade, weak braking response and excessive noise. We used a scientific application of our Mu500 additive to improve bed-in right out to the box. We enhanced our friction formulations to match or exceed original performance specifications and ensure reliable stopping power. We also added advanced multi-layer shims to cut the noise.
On top of that we are providing roadside assistance through our Centric Assure program, and are focusing efforts on the repair shop and technicians through incentive programs. PQ Pro by Posi Quiet is the next iteration of premium friction that will be priced competitively. We envision this product line being a mainstream player in the market for years to come.
We also have other product releases planned in 2018 on the emissions technologies side of the business. Our infrastructure gives us the ability to create innovative emissions control products for light-, medium- and heavy-duty applications. Not everyone is fully aware that AP Emissions is a vertically integrated manufacturer with first-to-market capabilities that can’t be matched. We have the ability to test and manufacture converters, diesel particulate filters and diesel oxidation catalysts, and get them to market more quickly and efficiently than our competition.
Our recent acquisition of the DuraFit brand opens a very wide door for us in the commercial vehicle aftermarket. This industry-leading product line of OEM replacement DPFs and DOCs adds more punch to our strong heavy-duty program and will help us to capitalize on vehicle fleets operating Class 7 and 8 diesel powered trucks.
How is APC Automotive Technologies dealing with industry changes and paradigm shifts? How are you most being affected by these changes? What steps are you taking to address increased online variability and distributor consolidation as well as manufacturer/supplier consolidation?
This is a big question that requires a lot more time responding than a few words. In short, there will always be disruptors in the industry. Today, we face significant consolidation at both the manufacturer and distributor levels. What makes APC such an attractive alternative to our competitors who choose to vertically integrate the supply chain is that we want to work with our valued customers, we don’t necessarily want to own them. We are a perfect fit for those distributors who want a supplier-partner who can help them grow their share through innovative differentiation.
Online disruptors have been written about for some time now. We are keenly focused on protecting our brands, intellectual property and innovative differentiators from others in the aftermarket who might copy or commoditize our product lines or programs. This requires a dedicated and diligent approach.
As the dust settles on the merger, what strategic commercial direction do you see APC Automotive Technologies taking in the coming months/years?
This is what excites me the most. We are working on several big initiatives focused on enhancing service to our customers. These include single order placement, reduction in turnaround times, the ability to purchase all APC related product on one shipment and forward deployed inventories. All of these are in the works and will benefit every APC customer in the future.
Hugh Charvat, our CEO, has made it abundantly clear that future acquisitions also are in the works that will round out our undercar offering. We have lots to be excited about!
Both AP Emissions and Centric Parts were started and built into successful organizations by passionate and enterprising founders. How do you plan on fostering that entrepreneurial spirit?
The DNA of both companies is already aligned. From the R&D teams, to our product management professionals, to the sales force, first-to-market innovation is what separates us from our competition. Our executive leadership team continues to foster this mindset across all functional areas and has encouraged our divisional presidents to empower their teams to continue this entrepreneurial creativity.
Our collective teams are excited about taking the best practices of both companies and using this creativity to establish APC Automotive Technologies as the industry’s most valued undercar supplier.