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 third installment of a six-part series, featuring the Alliance’s Canadian members.
Founded in 1986, Groupe Del Vasto is a privately held company headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, and is a leader in the distribution and marketing of automotive parts for vehicle repair. The company currently serves Eastern Canada through its eight distribution centres which are in the provinces of Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia, under the name Vast-Auto Distribution. Operating the Auto Value, Auto Mecano, Mister Muffler, Mister Transmission, and OCTO Auto Service Plus banners, Groupe Del Vasto services approximately 350 repair shops, and offers its customers a complete business solution including a wide range of quality parts, innovative marketing programs, and training and business management systems.
In 1992, Vast-Auto Distribution entered a partnership with Auto Value Associates Inc., one of the largest auto parts buying groups in North America. Today, it’s better known as the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance Inc. This partnership allowed Vast-Auto Distribution to introduce the complete distribution and marketing programs offered by Auto Value to the province of Quebec.
Today, Groupe Del Vasto continues its growth trajectory, opening a DC in Longueuil, Quebec and acquiring Pièces d’Auto J.P. Côté, an established family-run business with two parts store locations on the south shore of Montreal.
“We’re very focused on expanding our distribution network and growing our store footprint shared Tony Del Vasto, Vice-President of Marketing and Corporate Development, Groupe Del Vasto. Del Vasto himself has seen the company through a series of transitions, where he first started out working at the store with his father. Since returning to the business in the last 12 years, Del Vasto has turned his attention towards the corporate side, where his role is three-fold. “I wear three different hats and one of them is corporate development, the other is marketing, and the third is e-commerce,” Del Vasto shared.
Vast’s success can be attributed in large part to the people – those at the street level and those at the helm. The second-generation leaders are highly respected, recognized for their commitment to the aftermarket and their community. Del Vasto, Vice-President of Supply Chain Nelson Estrela, and Chief Operating Officer Joey Miceli have all played important roles on the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance, Inc.’s strategic committees in recent years. Miceli also sits on the Auto Care Association’s International Trade Committee. President and CEO Mauro Cifelli has chaired AIA Canada at both the provincial and national level and has also chaired the Governing Council of the Automotive Warehouse Distributors Association. Currently, he serves as treasurer of the Alliance’s Board of Directors. He was recently awarded AIA Canada’s most prestigious honour: The Distinguished Service Award.
“Mauro is an incredible industry leader and a fantastic selection for this distinguished honor,” said Joey Miceli, chief operating officer at Vast. “Mauro is very quick to praise and recognize others. We are very proud to see him receiving this recognition.”
Shifting the focus online
Prior to COVID-19, Groupe Del Vasto had a small e-commerce business, which has since tripled in size during the last year. “There’s no question that e-commerce is here to say, , so we’re trying to grow as quickly as we can into that space,” Del Vasto said. “The Alliance has done a few things to help us grow our online presence, and one of them is that they have enabled a B2B option called MyPlace4Parts.com, which is really e-commerce at its core. MyPlace4Parts.com is an undeniable advantage, because it creates a link between the installer and our entire distribution network, allowing service centres to always find the necessary auto parts and thus strengthen their sales and provide customers with the best possible service,” Del Vasto continued. “If the affiliate store does not have the required part in stock, our integrated system allows the store to view the merchandise available within the extensive network of Vast-Auto Distribution.”
Thanks to the help of MyPlace4Parts, sourcing parts and the availability of purchasing certain parts has not been heavily disrupted, despite shortages in the supply chain due to COVID-19. “Dan Rader, the vice president of product, and his team do a fantastic job of dissecting every category one by one and picking the best assortment for their member partners, and really coming up with a product strategy,” said Del Vasto.
The Alliance is also currently working on a B2C solution, which Groupe Del Vasto is actively involved in. Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) allows the consumer to shop for products online and enjoy a curbside-pickup model.
Along with using MyPlace4Parts.com, Groupe Del Vasto also incorporates another tool by the Alliance into its everyday operations, called Eagle. Eagle is a product by Epicor, who is also a partner of the Alliance. “Eagle is basically a store management system that gives you a lot of tools to run your store,” Del Vasto said. “For us, this has become the tool of choice, as it enables stores to run their businesses.”
The power of training
E-commerce isn’t the only shift in the industry that Del Vasto has seen since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s a rise in the number of people, particularly shop owners, who have “had enough”, and are looking to sell the business and retire, Del Vasto says. “I think there’s going to be a big shift in who does what, and who owns what after this pandemic,” Del Vasto said.
With its impressive portfolio of shops operating under the Auto Value, Auto Mecano, Mister Muffler, Mister Transmission and OCTO Auto Service Plus banners, training is a huge component of the business model at Groupe Del Vasto, and gauging interest from a new demographic is another key principle for the future of the organization, Del Vasto said. “Training up leaders and getting the younger generation into the business is important, too. The younger generation wants to see more companies who are technologically sound; they want to see tools at their disposal that make their job easier and enable them to do some neat stuff.”
As Groupe Del Vasto continues to advance towards the acquisition of more stores and penetrate the Canadian landscape, working with the Alliance continues to pay off, Del Vasto says.
“The Alliance has been a great partnership for us over the years. There are so many advantages, but most of all, the people in the Alliance are great,” Del Vasto said. “They’re real people who understand serving customers and getting things done, and they’re very member driven.”