Vice president of fixed operations, Dax DeRop, 43, was a seasoned pro at a young age, after working for American Honda for 17 years before taking a position with the group a year ago. The company owns and operates what they call 44 “rooftops,” consisting of 76 car franchises in six states, including California, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, Texas, and Utah. With six collision centers included in that number, the Ken Garff Automotive Group represents Nissan, GMC, Buick, Volvo, Honda, Mitsubishi, Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Volvo, Hyundai, Chrysler/Jeep/Ram/Dodge, Ford, Lincoln, Toyota, Scion, Chevrolet, and Cadillac.
Founder, Ken Garff, got an explosive start in business back in 1932 when a conflagration at a Shell service station in Salt Lake City, UT nearly took his life. As an attendant, Garff was walking out of the station office to help a customer at the pump when the building exploded behind him. Shell rebuilt the station, but Garff was left with little to do, so he started selling used cars to keep himself occupied. When Shell completed their building, they informed the young man that if he wanted to keep working for them, his days of selling cars were over. But Garff had realized that selling cars could be more lucrative than pumping gas, so he said goodbye to Shell and hello to a future in the automotive sales world. Rather quickly, he earned new car franchises such as Oldsmobile and Studebaker…and the rest is history.
With a combined inventory of $17 million in factory parts, the Ken Garff Automotive Group is dedicated to serving body shops in 10 states. Wholesale is not something to casually pursue, according to DeRop, and that’s why he and his parts departments approach the wholesale side of the business seriously and with focus and passion. From the company’s Utah dealerships, they sell wholesale OEM parts to 500 body shops, and all focused on delivering the highest quality in the industry today. Company-wide, the group has 377 parts department employees, providing sales, support, fulfillment, and delivery for this massive operation.
“We’re continually trying to provide better service to our body shop customers, and a large part of that is constant communication and refining what we currently do,” DeRop said. “We have three regional fixed operations managers, four dedicated salespeople, and 44 parts managers, and we’re always looking for better ways of doing things. We know body shops need prompt deliveries; they need us to know these parts inside-and-out and we need to give them the best prices we can offer.”
To handle the huge chore of delivering thousands of parts throughout the west, the logisticians at the Ken Garff Automotive Group created the Garff Transportation System (GTS) that handles all of the details associated with hundreds of deliveries every day. “We’ve got our own trucks at each location, but we augment it with our system and it works very well,” DeRop said. “In most cases, we can get parts to our customers on the same-day, because we know time is money. By sharing inventories and routes, we have outstanding coverage and we also have a great relationship with Inter-Mountain Express to deliver parts to regions of our territory that are not along our normal routes.”
Through the efforts of its four outside salespeople, the Ken Garff Automotive Group is able to get valuable feedback from its body shop customers, including data that can be used to do an even better job. “These people are dedicated to getting out there and pressing the flesh, so to speak. Between the four of them, they cover a lot of territory and we get excellent coverage through their efforts, even in some of the outlying states where we do business. Each one of them comes with a trailer so that if a shop wants to return product, we can take it right there. Then, we can update their numbers and get the information almost immediately to our parts managers because we know that expediting returns is vital to any body shop.”
Knowledge is king when it comes to wholesale parts and DeRop is proud to have one of the top crews in the industry, he believes. “Our wholesale associates average 20 years of experience and each and every one is an expert on their respective brands. They attend all of the training available and we stress it across the board. Because we also have collision centers, we can help body shops with information about how to do some of these repairs. That’s something we bring to the table that not many other parts departments can offer.”
In conclusion, DeRop wants to tell all of his body shop customers (or even prospective ones) that the Ken Garff Automotive Group is in it to win it when it comes to wholesale parts. “We care about body shops and we want them to succeed, for a lot of reasons. We listen to their issues and concerns and we are always looking for creative solutions to make all of our lives easier. To this end, we work with all of the car manufacturers’ price-matching programs and we work hard for any shop—whether it’s a big MSO or a small independent.”