Industry Q&A with ImportCar magazine’s advisory board
Five years ago, many in the industry thought the Internet would revolutionize distribution and fundamentally change the way consumers and repair shops sourced auto parts. From a business perspective, what is your perception of the Internet today versus five years ago? How has it changed the way you do business?
“The Internet has been a revolutionary tool for our business. It has made us more efficient and productive. We order a majority of our parts and access 90% of our service information on it. We e-mail estimates to our customers and network with other shop owners and technicians. We download software updates and do online banking. We communicate with our CPA and process payroll. In fact, I cannot think of an area of our business where the Internet does not play an important part.”
Steve Louden, Louden Motorcar Services, Inc., Dallas, TX
“The Internet is a mixed blessing. We are able to source our auto parts quickly and order online. [But] customers also can go online and price parts. Many times, they will find a lower quality part for less than we will sell a higher quality part. That can make it difficult to sell the complete job. We will rarely install someone else’s parts. In addition, all vehicle information is now online. All of the dealers have websites for information and now that’s how we will be getting our tech info.”
Bob Howlett, The Swedish Solution, Orange Village, OH
“The Internet has been a very powerful tool for us for getting and sharing information. Giving prospective customers your website address gives them a no-pressure way to look in at your business, and shop and location. Parts and information are both easier to acquire: Many auto parts stores are online, and you can see and order your parts.
“There have been many occasions where we surfed the web for a particular vehicle problem and were able to find the fix, when no other answers were available.”
Joe Stephens, Stephens Automotive, Palatine, IL
“The Internet has changed our operation. We are currently using a DSL connection to order parts through WORLDPAC on a daily basis, check stock and prices at our local CARQUEST store, as well as access parts house and manufacturer sites for online catalogs and general information on parts, tools and equipment we may be considering.
“We also have our Mitchell 1 information service online that lets us have three computers throughout the shop with access. With wireless technology, it’s inexpensive and convenient. This also allows the techs to access websites like iATN, WORLDPAC, community forums and ImportCar online. While there’s always the risk of techs wasting time on the web, with a small shop it’s easy to control.”
Bob Dowie, Village Auto Works, Chester, NY
Want to weigh in on this topic? Write to [email protected], and let us know how the Internet has changed the way you do business.