Friday, 31 March 2006 17:00

Lasher dealerships work to make OEM parts competitive

Written by Karyn Hendricks

"OEM parts have better fit, better finish and we are going the extra mile to make prices competitive with aftermarket parts. We want body shops to buy from us," explained Elk Grove Dodge parts department manager Kerry Bowen. 

To this end, Bowen and his team of parts professionals make it their highest priority to have the right part for a vehicle at a moment's notice - from the individual customer to the neighborhood auto body shop to multi-location collision repair shops.

The Lasher dealerships, of which Elk Grove Dodge is a member, maintain an extensive stock of repair and maintenance parts and genuine manufacturers' accessories.

The Lasher organization has been a family-owned business since 1955. Founded by father Wes Lasher, the dealerships are now run by sons Mark and Scott Lasher. The size of the dealership group also contributes to keeping prices down. The group includes Elk Grove VW, which operates a successful parts department for VW and Audi parts. The combined size of these dealerships means the discount is "often better than other dealerships can offer," according to Bowen.

"The manufacturers are committed to keeping a growing number of OEM parts competitive in price. Chrysler sponsors the Conquest program which allows us to price match on front fascias, rear fascias, tail lamps and headlamps. Down the road, we expect fenders and other sheet metal to be included as well," continued Bowen. "If an insurance company is asking the repairer to use aftermarket parts, the program allows the repairer to purchase genuine OEM parts at below dealer cost and Chrysler reimburses the dealerships."

Other programs allow for deep discounts in exchange for levels of exclusivity. Chrysler, through cost concessions, says Bowen, is trying to overcome the fact that some insurance companies are not paying for OEM parts.

"These programs are Chrysler's response to body shops that want to keep their quality high but are under price pressure from insurers." says Bowen. "We know our customers want to use OEM parts. Both the shop and the car manufacturer have their reputations at stake."

Parts department really works as a team

Bowen has built a great team. Each member is equally knowledgeable about parts and procedures. There is not much turnover in the dealerships. People stay 15 to 20 years. Bowen himself has been with the Lasher organization for over 20 years. Bowen is proud that a customer can comfortably talk with any member of the parts team and receive the help and attention they deserve.

"Most body shops have a favorite parts guy at a dealership," says Steve Morrow, owner of Capital Auto Restoration in Sacramento, "but may not be able to relate to the entire crew if 'his guy' is unavailable. With Elk Grove Dodge, you can work with any guy in the parts department. You don't even have to know the part number. The whole staff is knowledgeable and things are always handled right the first time. That is very important relative to completing a job within the required cycle time."

A key member of the team is Mark Harvey, who has been working with Bowen for fourteen years. He is a good talker who is well liked by customers. He goes above and beyond, taking extra steps to help a guy out. He never leaves anybody hanging, as he is constantly communicating with body shops. There is seldom any reason for a body shop to call and inquire about a part. Harvey keeps his customers informed.

Efficient parts distribution

The parts delivery system at Elk Grove Dodge is basic but effective. Four drivers take off in four different directions to cover the areas around Sacramento. A fifth driver covers everything local.

This works particularly well for a customer such as Cook's Collision, which has six collision centers in the metro area serviced by Elk Grove Dodge. Cook's General Manager, Ray Hitzemann, spoke sincerely about his association with Bowen and the Elk Grove parts department.

"Bowen and his team are a stellar group of individuals. They are geared to getting problems solved. They are relentless and don't know the meaning of the word "no." That group is like pit bulls when it comes to getting a job done." stated Hitzemann.

"Not just Elk Grove Dodge, but the entire Lasher group, is an excellent company with which to do business. Everyone in the shop is equally qualified to offer help. They take problem solving to its highest level. It is truly a pleasure to work with them."

Community involvement

To reach out to the community, the Elk Grove dealerships present an annual child safety seat belt clinic, complete with barbecue. The Gold Country PT Cruiser club and the Sacramento Deutsche Stahl VW club meet monthly at space provided by the Dodge and VW dealerships, respectively.

As members of the Elk Grove Auto Mall association, the Lasher dealerships participate in the Elk Grove Western Festival; Elk Grove Harvest Festival; Scholastic Scholarship fund; "Every Fifteen Minutes" a teen drunk-driving awareness class; "Project Ride;" Elk Grove High School baseball boosters; Franklin High School drama club boosters and the Salvation Army toy drive.

 

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