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Executive Interview

The Network’s Prater: ‘The Aftermarket Is Still A Relationship Business’

Today on AMN, we are featuring a recent interview with David Prater, president of the Automotive Distribution Network, who shared thoughts on the organization’s keys to success. Prater’s interview is part of the annual Program Groups Overview published in the June issue of Counterman magazine, a sister publication to aftermarketNews.

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DavidPraterToday on AMN, we are featuring a recent interview with David Prater, president of the Automotive Distribution Network, who shared thoughts on the organization’s keys to success. Prater’s interview is part of the annual Program Groups Overview published in the June issue of Counterman magazine, a sister publication to aftermarketNews. Stay tuned next week for more interviews from the annual Program Groups feature.

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What is one thing you want those working at either the warehouses, asdrivers, category buyers, on the counter — to know about the keys to being successful today in the independent automotive aftermarket?

Great question! With the huge increases in technology, we tend to forget that in many cases, this is still a relationship business – people want to buy from people they know. The technician is going online more and more, but the decision he makes on where to buy his parts is still based on who they know and trust! The technology must be there, but our members train their staffs to have a “never say no” mentality. If they do not have it in stock, go get it. Repair shops are working on a wider variety of vehicles and power plants than ever before and we have to be the one-stop supplier all day every day. For this to work we have to maintain a close working relationship throughout the supply chain, from vendor, to category buyer, to marketing, to counter and to delivery person.

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What does the aftermarket need to do to compete – or can it –  against vehicles that are increasingly technologically advanced and more difficult to repair and new car dealerships that are adept at luring customers back for service, not knowing they have less-expensive options?

The aftermarket technician has proven extremely resilient in dealing with new technologies throughout the years. After all, the aftermarket service dealer was supposed to die off with the beginning of fuel injectors! At The Network, we feel we not only must be able to provide the parts, but also must be able to provide the training and tools needed for our customers to grow in this rapidly changing environment.

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But that is still not enough. We also have to provide them with the marketing tools to let the vehicle owner know that the independent shop is a viable alternative to taking their car back to the dealer. Our Car Care Center and Auto Service Expert program have proven to be very effective in creating customers for our shops as well as driving continued loyalty from those customers. And we must continue to educate the shop owner that training is available, and that they have an obligation to continue to take advantage of it. On a broader front, the industry needs to continue to not only support Right to Repair legislation, along with all the other initiatives, but to put an emphasis on the service dealer to be active in that fight!

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What is one thing that is least known about your group?

I would hope there isn’t a good answer to this one. After all, we’ve been around since 1957! That being said, I think we do not blow our own horn enough about the wide breadth of parts and services our members provide each and every day to both our wholesale and retail customers.

We have a strong import coverage initiative underway, for instance, as well as a very active heavy-duty segment. The sheer scope and size of our data warehouse capabilities and ability to analyze data is amazing today. Our partnership with Nexus is expanding our coverage capabilities in areas we never looked at before as well, all ways in which we hope to continue to make The Network members the best source for aftermarket repair solutions in the industry.

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