Photo courtesy of: MANN-FILTER
Complicated radiator hose assemblies, special coolants, and electric water
pumps are some of the items driving changes in this product category.
By Steve Relyea
The cooling and climate control systems on late-model cars are a lot more sophisticated than they used to be. “Sophisticated” can also be read as “complicated.”
In some cases, radiator hose has become an assembly, green coolant has been replaced by many special coolants, and a mechanical water pump has become an electrical one.
These are just some of the changes members of our panel have seen. We asked them about the latest products they’ve added and the reasons they added them.
“We have added more brands in the OE sector, be it Aisin, be it Hitachi and Auto 7,” said Ron Dahlhaus, Buy Wise Auto Parts / Samuels Inc., Vauxhall, N.J. “Of course we have ACDelco and Motorcraft and the full gamut of the aftermarket lines, be it Gates and a few Airtex numbers.
“We have been in the process of globalization. In the last three months alone, we’ve added five import nameplate lines — names like Hitachi, Aisin, ADVICS, Prenco, and MANN-FILTER. We’ve bolstered lines like the Bosch and the Denso on categories that we didn’t have.
“We want to be that import specialist, the go-to parts supplier. Customers are already coming to us for the domestic lines, so I think as we are transforming ourselves into a Global Distributor, it’s important that we have the lines that are OE on import nameplates first and then fill in with the aftermarket lines that a lot of import specialists have.
“Radiators was originally just a one-brand game for us, which was OSC. Now we have added radiators by Denso, by TYC, and by Valeo. Whatever brands are common in an import situation, we have added those as well — both condensors and radiators.
“That goes to the rubber as well. With belts and hoses, we were just a full line ACDelco and Motorcraft house. Now we have the CRP ContiTech belts in stock and there’s talk of bringing in other brands too.
“Our inventory just grows and grows. Whatever we need to have to satisfy the customers’ needs, we’re on top of it — we’re bringing in those lines.
“Now we are showing people that we have all these new lines. We have ‘Did You Know?’ flyers that go out and we use Constant Contact as e-mail marketing that goes out once a week. We also do eight to 10 technical training sessions per year. As people are coming into the sessions, we’re showing / displaying the lines and we give them handouts that make them aware that we have these new lines.
“On March 23, we’re doing a session called, ‘Prepair for the Future’ — we spell it like ‘repair,’ but ‘prepair.’ We have 25 vendors coming to give our customers technical advice, technical hints, and technical knowledge that they can take back to their bays, put into practice, and make their bays more profitable. So, it should be great for our customers’ business and good for our business as we make our customers aware of all that we have to offer!”
“Some of the major inventory updates we’ve made have been in European radiator hoses,” said Curt Spicer, S-G Imported Car Parts, Farmington, Mich. “There’s quite a few that are more available. We’ve increased our European radiator hose inventory by about a hundred, I would guess.
“There’s quite a few that are assemblies now versus just a rubber hose. I saw some today come into the store and they look like octopuses, you know? They point every which way and have hoses here and plugs here and sensor holes here. It used to be a $16 radiator hose; now, I saw one here the other day that was a couple hundred dollars.
“I had a guy call me on a clip to hold one of the hoses in. It was a Volkswagen one. We had the clip. It was a whopping 18 cents, but he couldn’t do the job without it. When I went to the shelf to look for it, we had all kinds of stuff that goes on hoses. Before, all you had was a hose clamp; now you have all kinds of O-rings, plugs, clips, flange connectors, and all kinds of crazy stuff. It’s gotten a lot more sophisticated.
“The other thing in cooling that has kind of turned the market upside down is the fluids. Everybody has a different opinion on the global fluids, so we try to steer a guy to the OE fluid. It’s better to be safe than be sorry. We stock all the OE Honda fluid, Toyota fluid, Porsche fluid, and Jaguar fluid.
“Another thing that is fairly new is electric water pumps. We probably sell one or two a month right now. We don’t get a tremendous amount of calls, but we do have a couple in stock. They are quite a bit more expensive; they are probably four to five times the cost of a typical water pump.
“We do a pretty good business of A/C compressors and condensers, particularly in the springtime. We hardly ever carried air conditioning parts. It wasn’t until the last six or seven years that we started, and we’re still not stocking a lot. We let the warehouse stock it, because there’s so many and they’re so expensive. We might carry a half dozen of the common air compressors and a few condensers in stock at the stores.”
“We do very well with coolant,” said Mike Farling, M&C Foreign Car Parts, Mechanicsburg, Pa. “It’s the same scenario anymore as all other fluids — there is so much special stuff — and we stock all of it.
“It’s not a tremendous profit, but first of all you need to have it, and second of all you want to put the correct product in for the customer. Most of our customers do that; I mean, they stock a generic coolant, but they also stock the correct stuff in most cases. I wouldn’t say coolant is a huge business, but it’s good business.
“We educate our customers about the need for the correct fluids. We handle the Pentosin fluids, and one of the things that CRP, which is Pentosin, came out with is a catalog with all the correct fluids in it. That has been huge. We sell our customers an assortment of the products, and then they can actually look the product up in a catalog and sell the correct product. It’s awesome. They can look it up through a catalog or the computer, and quite honestly, most of them look it up through a catalog. Catalogs are kind of a thing of the past, but that is one of the things that I know they use a catalog for.
“Another thing that we educate our customers about is the electric water pumps. We stock those. We’ve been stocking electric water pumps for two or three years now, at least.
“When a customer calls for an electric water pump, we try and educate them to do the job correctly. In other words, you should be doing the thermostat along with that; you don’t just do the water pump. Also, on the automatics in the BMW, there’s an automatic transmission thermostat which they should be looking at — not necessarily replacing, but looking at. And, they should be using the special blue BMW antifreeze. I think my guys do a really, really good job of explaining that to the customers. Replacing an electric water pump is an expensive job, and it has to be done correctly.
“The electric water pumps that we carry are new. The dealer water pumps are all rebuilt. We also let our customers know that; we let them know that we are supplying them with a brand-new pump, not a rebuilt pump. That means something to most of them.”
“One important development in this category, especially on the Global Warehouse Distributor (GWD) side, is the enhanced distribution of brand-name OE parts,” said Jerry Spradlin, Import Parts Solutions, Cincinnati, Ohio. “Among these are what I call ‘Import Signature Brands’ — names that, when they appear on your business card, convey to your customers that you are in the import business.
“One of these brands is Denso. Denso is a global OE that offers a thorough A/C compressor program for Asian, European, and domestic applications. These A/C compressors are now available and they can be sold by the GWD at a price that is competitive with the dealer. Denso also offers an excellent training program for all their products.
“Another product line that the GWD should have is correct radiator hoses — not the traditional formed radiator hoses, but the ones with multiple siamesed connections. It is important to have the assemblies, not the pieces. Labor is expensive, so the repair shops do not want to have to piece them together.
“Rein OE fit hoses enable the GWD to meet this need. These correct radiator hoses are niche parts, OE fitment — and that is a message worthy of being promoted by GWDs to their customers.”