Auto Service World
Feature   October 1, 2003   by Auto Service World

Over The Counter: October 2003

E-Learning Demonstration Fun and Informative

More than 50 jobbers, service providers, and others from the automotive aftermarket gave a thumbs-up to the Automotive Aftermarket E-Learning Centre (AAEC) after two evening demonstrations in Toronto, Ont.

Held at the training facilities of Cochrane Automotive on Chauncey Ave. in Toronto’s west end, the demonstrations of the on-line repair shop management training program were hosted by John Cochrane, owner of Cochrane Automotive, and Bob Greenwood, trainer and creator of the AAEC. One evening was also hosted by Keith Gordon, Automotive Industries Association of Canada Central Ontario Division chairman. The event provided insight into the capabilities of the training resource, as well as raising funds for the scholarships awarded by the association.

“What it is offering is a tool to train at your own pace in your own place,” said John Pedersen, president of Toronto & Hamilton Auto in Hamilton, Ont. The jobber added that a service provider could work through a training module in the time that he would normally spend travelling to get the training. “You have to be motivated,” he added, “but it is putting the training in people’s hands.

“The information to educate yourself is all there, and it’s fun,” he says. The exercises allow participants to learn what the benchmarks are for paying wages and charging for shop time, and it also permits them to try on different scenarios. They can plug in their own numbers with the assurance that the financial data is held completely confidentially in a secure Internet databank.

“We’re trying to bring education to the shop level, to the wholesaler level,” says Greenwood, adding that the industry is facing some serious challenges in profitability that affect both the quality of service and the scope of work that can be performed. The AAEC allows shop owners, and any interested jobber, to learn how to improve the profitability of a service business by example and numerous work exercises. The training program is broken down into modules, with a test at the end of each one. The training resource is available at a cost of $500 per year.

“This gentleman has dedicated his life to the industry,” says Cochrane of Greenwood. “When you look at the industry–and we have a cross-section here tonight–we are all involved in the aftermarket business,” and everyone needs to use the tools at hand to compete, he continued.

Those interested in the AAEC can take a free 24-hour test drive by visiting and clicking on the AAEC icon. also offers a $100 discount to those who sign up through the site and use password ASWPRO.

Veteran Counterperson Celebrates 25 Years

Robert O’Rourke, senior counterperson at Fincham Automotive Supplies in Toronto, Ont., celebrated 25 years of service in September.

“Robert has been an integral part of our success over the last two and a half decades,” says Tony Racioppo, owner of the Replacement Parts Depot Limited shareholder.

Racioppo continued that he and the staff at Fincham wanted to thank O’Rourke for his quarter century of loyal and honest service at the operation.

Nova Scotia Service Facility Raises Bar

A newly opened service facility in Bridgewater, N.S., may get aftermarket naysayers thinking twice before they say what is and what is not possible.

“This service provider certainly raises the bar in what future service centres could and should look like,” says Marty Kingston, marketing, NAPA Atlantic. “Looking more like a bank or restaurant (which it was in a previous life), Old Bridge Automotive has become the epitome of a modern first-class service provider in the automotive industry.”

The facility, with a spotless appearance, features five fully equipped bays and employs four licensed technicians.

The owners of the facility, Rod Grace and Rick Aulenbach, have been with the Autopro program for a decade, but made the move for strategic reasons.

“Well, it’s on one of the busiest corners in Bridgewater, with very high visibility and ample parking. We’re also in close proximity to other businesses so many customers can simply leave their vehicles and pick them up later,” says Grace. The facility held its grand opening in August, attracting a good crowd, the local media, and aspiring technicians who tried their hand at a tire-changing contest.

Auto Electric Service Winds Up 60th Anniversary Celebration

Saskatchewan jobber organization Auto Electric Service will soon be wrapping up its 60th anniversary celebrations, after almost a year’s worth of events.

The major events kicked off last April with a customer appreciation trade show and suppliers appreciation banquet. “Saskatchewan was hit with the worst snow storm of the year, dumping over a foot of snow,” says Bob Jaworski, general manager, “but we still had over 500 customers.”

The company, founded in 1943, was named Jobber of the Year in 1998, along with its president and principal shareholder Morley Wagner. The company also operates a warehouse distribution company, which became an Auto Value distribution member in 1998, handling the Saskatchewan territory.

The company’s average sales during the last decade are more than $11 million annually.

“It’s at the point that we’re winding down–we’re still doing some training trips, we’re trying to keep some of it in customers’ faces–but it has been good,” says Jaworski.

RPDL Staffer Celebrates 25 Years

Dianne Hutson was congratulated by the management, staff, and shareholders on 25 years of Service with Replacement Parts Depot Limited.

AutoZone Reports Big Numbers in Trade Business

AutoZone, Inc. has reported a very slight loss in sales, but a whopping 24% rise in trade business.

The U.S. auto parts retailer reported sales of $1.829 billion U.S. for its fourth fiscal quarter (16 weeks) ended August 30, 2003, a decrease of 0.8% from the fourth quarter (17 weeks) ended August 31, 2002. Excluding sales from the extra week included in the prior year, sales were up 5.5%. Same-store sales, or sales for domestic stores open at least one year, increased 3% during the quarter, including an increase of 1% for retail same-store sales and an increase of 24% for commercial same-store sales. Gross profit, as a percentage of sales, for the quarter improved by 1.90 percentage points while operating expenses, as a percentage of sales, declined by 0.86 percentage points. This resulted in an operating margin of 19.7%, up 2.76 percentage points from last year. Operating profit increased 15% over the prior year, though non-recurring events contributed to this rise.

Bestbuy Wines and Dines Shareholders

Bestbuy took the opportunty to visit a Niagara-on-the-Lake winery as part of its Buy & Sell event in September.

The relatively low-key affair was flanked by training presentations from Bob Greenwood and one-on-one business meetings between suppliers and shareholders.

During the tour of the Hillebrand Estate Winery, many were surprised by the manufacturing nature of the business. If you were looking for grizzled vintners carefully checking grapes for ripeness, you would have been disappointed. Jobbers were drawn to make comparisons to their own business. Attendees worked out the average cost of the barrels, at $600 each, used three or four times, and wondered how much it cost to have a cavern 17 feet deep filled with bottles waiting to age. Still, it seemed like the business was on the right side of the balance sheet.

“They sell millions of litres, and only have a few skus,” said one jobber. Sure, countered another, but they only get one crop a year; that’s one turn. “Yeah,” the first replied, “but I think their margins are a lot better.” Everyone agreed that wine customers were a lot happier after having paid for and used the product than the average repair customer, too.–Andrew Ross

Uni-Select Rocks At Super Circuit Show

The Uni-Select Quebec region Super Circuit trade show once again attracted large numbers of service providers, and honoured those individuals on the supp
lier side who have done the best at helping them grow.

The show event, held in Ste-Hyacinthe, once again used the format of a one-way track through the exhibits. It seems to work well and exhibitors seemed happy with the results.

The awards ceremony–organizers should be commended for featuring a soundtrack by AC/DC, Van Halen, and Soul Bossa Nova, best known as the Austin Powers movie theme–left a number of exhibitors and especially certain individuals, very happy.

While booth awards went to Hennessy, 3M, Cofel Marketing, and Federal-Mogul, the prized individual awards–given to reps and voted on by Uni-Select jobbers–held a number of surprises.

The top individual awards, “Sales Representative of the Year”, went to Patrick Grenier, Permatex for the Boucherville Distribution Centre, and Jacques Pichette, Dayco, for Quebec City DC.

Additional awards, categorized by the size of the sales force and for each DC, went to: (one to three reps) Patrick Grenier, Permatex, Pierre Nadeau, Permatex; (four to six reps) Goerge Mathieu, Dana (Wix); Jacques Pichette, Dayco; (seven or more) Serge Aubry, Dana (Raybestos), and Paul Tremblay, Dana (Raybestos).


Independent Parts Warehousing Inc. president, Rick Miller, is pleased to announce the appointment of Dennis White to the position of Branch Manager for our new Quebec City Distribution Centre. Dennis has been employed in the automotive aftermarket distribution industry for over 20 years and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the position.

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