Wednesday, 23 November 2011 17:04

Southeast Toyota Distributors (SET) Embraces Industry Changes to Help Dealers Stay Competitive

Written by Larry Williams
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This month’s article is about changes—changes which I believe are for the better. One change I want to talk about is in inventory management. In the 1970s, automotive dealers needed to be warehouses. Stock orders came weekly; or even monthly. Special orders took three days, unless you paid extra for the overnight surcharge. If a dealer wanted to have good Customer Satisfaction scores, he did his best to always have the needed part on hand. This dumped the responsibility of customer service on the dealer’s parts department. They needed to carry, on the shelf, massive inventories of 5,000 numbers, or more. Manufacturers promoted this system, and the belief that large inventories promoted better scores. Of course, dealers absorbed the cost of these slow moving inventories; in the never ending search for better customer satisfaction scores.

There is a better way.

Today’s inventory management is completely different, and much improved. Yes, it is great to have all the parts “on hand,” but isn’t next-day good enough? Does the difference justify the added investment? Manufacturers now have daily stock orders as routine, eliminating the need for a warehouse system. The manufacturer has assumed the responsibility of customer satisfaction. Almost any part which is needed can be obtained the next day. This has leveled the playing field between large and small dealers. Now, they can both deliver fast service, and get great customer satisfaction scores!

I see another positive change in the wholesale marketing area. Once upon a time, the manufacturers considered the dealers to be their customers, and stopped right there. A parts representative was concerned about accessory sales, not body parts. Now, that a few manufacturers have gotten serious about wholesale sales, they have started to actively help their dealers in this market.

One such company is Southeast Toyota Distributors LLC, (SET). This is the world's largest independent distributor of Toyotas and Scions. SET is based in Deerfield Beach, FL. The company's vehicle processing facilities distribute cars, trucks and vans, parts and accessories to 173 independent Toyota dealers in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas.

SET is the leading distributor of Toyota parts in the United States. Located inside a facility the size of eight football fields in Jacksonville's Baymeadows area, SET Parts Sales has the best supply record of all Toyota regions or distributors, shipping more than $1.7 million in parts per day to SET dealerships, providing that “next- day” service.

SET is serious about helping their dealers compete in the aftermarket business. I talked to Wayne Crater, Assistant Vice President, Parts Supply & Distribution at SET about their dealer support.  He was extremely enthusiastic and proud of their dealer programs, and he told me about some of them. SET Field Support consists of six dedicated Wholesale Collision Specialists. Their responsibility is to work directly with dealers to assist in growing wholesale collision business. In addition to routine dealer contacts, they conduct week-long, wholesale dealer consultations; focusing on every needed aspect in order to create a more efficient and profitable wholesale operation.

STAR Program, also know as Toyota STAR Program (Support to Aftermarket Repair), is a marketing support program sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales to promote wholesale business.

Collision Parts Price Support offers two different web-based price support programs to their dealers; Auto Parts Bridge, sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales, and SET Parts Edge, sponsored by SET and managed by OE Connection. Both programs provide participating dealers with the tools, training, and funding to support increased sales and market share through “conquest sales,” a process where the dealer has the opportunity to sell a Genuine Toyota Part over an alternative part using SET price support funding. This program allows dealers to be competitive in the marketplace and increase parts sales profitably.

I believe Southeast Toyota Distributors are distinctive because they have demonstrated to me that they care. They care about their dealers and their customers. They care about the quality of a Toyota, even after the warranty has expired. They will do everything they can to assure that the customer still has a quality product even after the damage. SET wants every Toyota to be repaired with genuine parts, every time. SET makes sure that its dealers can offer fast service; complete with competitive prices. This qualifies them for my Autobody News list of Distinctive Dealerships.

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