Dino Crescentini began his import automotive industry career working with his father for Alfa Ricambi in the late 1970s. In the early 1980s, they jointly started Autospecialty as an aftermarket supplier for import cars. Crescentini established Kinetic Parts, a green field rotor manufacturer, as a separate Autospecialty division. They manufactured high-quality brake rotors from casting to finished product, supplying aftermarket and OES Ford. After selling Autospecialty to Lucas in the late 1990s, he started WDSource.com and Stoptech, a performance brake company. In 2000, Crescentini began Centric Parts, a full-line brake and clutch product company. At the 2009 AAPEX in Las Vegas, Crescentini was inducted into the AIA Hall of Fame.
In today’s Executive Interview, Crescentini talks about the momentum Centric has built in the decade it’s been in business, and also shares his thoughts on the future of the competitive brake products market in general.
Centric Parts has done a great job of establishing a very strong foundation for itself in a relatively short period of time. What are the keys to building this kind of trust and success so quickly?
Centric Parts turns 10 this year and we have worked hard to build and maintain a strong reputation based on a foundation of dedicated customer service and the quality of our products. We have been awarded a slew of customer service accolades from distributors because we have boots on the ground across the country listening to their needs. We respond with products that deliver and perform with a strong commitment to safety. We know that’s the formula for success and we are strongly committed to that principle.
Taking that question to a more personal level how did your extensive history in this industry help you in establishing Centric Parts?
I learned this business as a young man from my father. He instilled the importance of relationships and quality products to me. I carried that over from when I had my first shop, right behind his, all the way through to today. In the years between I had the opportunity to establish relationships with many talented and accomplished people at all levels. Many of these smart, skilled and innovative people from the brake and aftermarket industry are now part of the Centric Parts family fueling the company’s success, while others we have partnered with as our distributors.
Long-term, how do you see Centric Parts growing its market share against some of the older, more well-known brands out there?
Centric Parts has grown with a combination of new school and old school strategies. We went to the old playbook of acquiring companies that dovetail with current business and provide access to new markets. We did that just a few years ago by adding Power Slot to Centric Parts as our performance division and picking up StopTech, as our ultra-performance division.
Then, we coupled that with a focus on new innovations for products with an ongoing focus on safety and quality, which has earned the company several brake technology patents. We enhanced our R&D and engineering capabilities to the point where we now have two brake dynomometers running around the clock testing and qualifying products. Then, we look forward with an eye toward expansion and enhanced offerings such our just-introduced complete program of wheel bearings, hubs and seals.
Putting it all together has allowed Centric Parts to move into new markets where older companies provide lesser value. We sum it up in our company motto … “Right Part, Right Place, Right time, Right Price.”
How important is it having the right coverage and catalog?
Cataloging is at the very core of our business. We understand that our distributors must supply the correct part the very fist time. Centric Parts knows that late model coverage is just as important as parts for a 50-year-old classic. Our approach is one that encompasses all vehicles from the family car through medium duty trucks, no matter if it’s an import, domestic or an exotic.
To accomplish this, we focus tremendous resources, expertise in cataloging and product management. This has even led to several successful private label and specialized market programs that are now a key component of our business.
How would you classify your customer base at this time? Where is the focus of your distribution?
We don’t sell directly to the public so a strong distribution system that gets the right products to the right markets and resellers has been key for us on a national, regional and local level. We work closely with program groups, traditional and 2-step distributors and performance distributors. We ultimately consider the end-user/professional technician as our customer and partner with our distributors to reach and support that grassroots level.
Affinia Group over the past couple of years has been actively promoting its public awareness campaign concerning ‘lightweight’ rotors. What is Centric’s take on the issue?
Centric Parts is committed to safety and maintains a dedicated quality control function that employs the latest technology and processes to ensure the quality of Centric Parts brake components.
We would like to point out that the term “lightweight,” used in reference to rotors, is not a commonly accepted industry term. This characterization appears to be a marketing term recently introduced as part of a sales and communication program. These so-called “lightweight” rotors actually refer to economy-priced rotors, which have been have been used safely in the domestic marketplace for more than 15 years, in response to customer demand for cost-effective options.
Safety continues to be a top priority in our industry and is something our trade associations AIA and AAIA highlight as well.
We are proud to work with SAE as a member of their brake committee to continue to maintain the highest standards and to dispel false rumors created by this recent "lightweight rotor campaign."
What changes do you see in the brake pad (or rotor) market in the next five to 10 years? Do you see any consolidation? Any players leaving the market?
The automotive industry has a seen a trend toward consumers keeping their cars longer. This trend bodes well for the aftermarket brake industry but is not a guaranteed ride to success. Quality, safety and affordability of aftermarket parts drive the decision to hold on to a vehicle as much as anything else, so it’s up to us as an industry to focus on those goals.
For some companies, that will mean making acquisitions or being acquired to best leverage economies of scale, yet there will always be a few startups with new ideas that can make it on their own and have an impact. No guesses for now on who will be around in 10 years but Centric Parts is definitely looking forward to our next 10 years.
How have your experiences on the racetrack as a racecar driver impacted your perspective as an executive in the industry?
People sometimes don’t initially see the connection between a product for slowing down and a sport for going fast. However, once you get on the track you realize that the ability to keep your speed as long as possible going into a turn, knowing that your brakes will work quickly, safely and reliably, gives you valuable seconds on the competition. While that mentality does not pervade daily street driving, it reminds me that we all have good reasons to need safe, reliable and effective brakes.