Officially incorporated in 2000, the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance now has six members in Canada, 13 in Latin America, and 24 in the United States. Composed of a network of independent warehouse distributors, it is the premier aftermarket distribution and marketing program group and continues to be a leading choice for quality parts and service, with thousands of parts stores and professional repair shops across North America, Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, Columbia, Europe, and China.
This is the first installment of a six-part series, featuring the Alliance’s Canadian members.
In 1943, Auto Electric Service opened in Regina, Sask.
“In the early days, we were a United Delco distributor, and a big chunk of our business was doing warranty work for GM,” recalled Bob Jaworski, who began his career with the company in 1986. “As time went on, we sold them parts, and as GM continually went their own direction, in 1992, we joined the Auto Value Group.”
The Auto Electric Company was one of the original six members in Canada, and they have been a loyal member since. Now, the company is Saskatchewan’s largest locally owned and operated automotive parts warehouse, with five corporate stores and eight independent jobbers, 23 certified service centres, servicing more than 1,000 ASPs daily.
“We like to say that it’s been the best thing to ever happen to our business,” Jaworski, now president and general manager for the company, said. “It brought us into being competitive, both from a purchasing power but even more so from a marketing standpoint with the major distribution groups in Canada.”
A strategic partnership
As a member of the Alliance, Jaworski says that in an increasingly competitive marketplace, he and his team can be confident that the parts and products offered to their customers are of the highest quality.
“We’ve never been a company that goes out to market and sells on price; the name brands that we sell are always quality brands and the private label products always come from quality suppliers,” Jaworski said. “We’re never concerned with the quality of products that we’re turning around and selling to our customers.”
The Alliance currently offers its members access to several marketing programs that have been extremely beneficial to business, especially in light of the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jaworski and his team at Auto Electric Service continue to take advantage of some of the Alliance’s marketing initiatives, including myplaceforparts.com, the group’s online parts ordering system. Jaworski says that his customers appreciate the system’s user-friendly interface, and it’s also a cost-effective solution that drives efficiency in daily business operations.
“Every year we’re doing more and more through that system,” Jaworski said. “It’s helped us to maintain our cost of doing business, because we move a lot of business through our electronic ordering. Our front desk people spend a lot more time doing problem solving or handling non-traditional high-volume customers, and it’s a lot more efficient for ourselves and our customers to be able to do the ordering themselves.”
Auto Electric Service closed out their fiscal year in February 2020, just one month shy of the economic turmoil brought on by COVID-19.
“It wasn’t a great start to the year from that standpoint; in March and April we saw some sales decline, but from May to now, we’ve had an increase every month and we’ve been growing our business,” Jaworski said, noting that the company’s partnership with Alliance definitely influenced sales growth during the first few months of the pandemic.
“In the initial stages, I think the Alliance head office worked very hard for its membership, making sure that suppliers were working with us for some extended terms. Nobody knew what would happen, but the Alliance was fully on board and were excellent in communicating what was happening with suppliers, which was a valid concern at the time.”
With multiple digital programs already under its belt, the Alliance proves to be an excellent support system and resource to Jaworski and his team as they continue to navigate unique challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For starters, Auto Electric Service currently has 23 members signed up for the Certified Service Center (CSC) program, which grants access to one of the largest networks of independent part suppliers in North America. Members can easily browse through a collective inventory of parts, supplies, accessories, and tools, and also gain entry to the MyPlace4Parts e-commerce platform and access free marketing, communications, technology, financial and customer service programs to support their shops.
Alongside offering customers a North American warranty, Jaworski says the CSC program enables his team to provide benefits to customers that other shop owners without access to the platform wouldn’t be able to provide.
Other Alliance programs, like the North American Parts and Labor Warranty currently offered to CSC members, continue to widely influence the success of Auto Electric Service. Brandify, a local marketing app that allows business owners to track and manage reviews online, has also helped Jaworski and the team to grow their presence across social media, which is extremely important as a large piece of the business continues to operate virtually.
“It’s all about driving business into the shop, and the Certified Service Center program encompasses a lot of those elements,” Jaworski said.
The value of friendship
After nearly 30 years as a member of the Alliance, Jaworski says that one of his favourite things about the partnership is that it supports the underlying friendships that are weaved into the original business model of Auto Electric Service, which has a track record of employing people who stick around.
With 115 employees, including newly appointed staff members, Jaworski says that more than half of those individuals have dedicated upwards of 30 years to the company. When COVID-19 first began to impact business, some of his staff even voluntarily took a salary deduction in order to keep business afloat.
“We’ve been around for a very long time, but we’ve also been very successful over that time period in the marketplace, but it always comes back to the people we have working for us, because I still believe it’s a relationship business,” Jaworski said. “It’s not about price or inventory, there’s still a big element to the relationship you have with your customers. If our people say they’re going to do something, they do it.”
With a new year on the horizon, Jaworski says he and his team are focused on growth and are on track to hit their highest sales year ever and are grateful for the support Alliance continues to provide.
“It’s a great group of personnel, and it’s a great way to stay in touch with like-minded people,” Jaworski said. “They’re no longer business associates; most of them are now personal friends, and the friendships that are tied to the partnership really make our jobs more enjoyable.”
Auto Electric Service is headquartered at 1360 Broad St. in Regina, Sask. For more information, visit www.autoelectricservice.com, or call (306) 525-2551.