Managing a huge operation consisting of 13 dealerships and representing 14 brands, the Del Grande Dealer Group (DGDG) serves the Northern California’s Bay Area including San Jose, Fremont, Gilroy, San Francisco and Oakland and its surrounding areas. DGDG has one of state’s largest parts divisions selling O.E collision and mechanical parts for Volkswagen, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Hyundai, Chevrolet, FIAT, Kia, Buick, GMC, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram vehicles. The company maintains a parts inventory of collision parts equaling nearly $4 million in combined total parts; employs 40 parts professionals, consisting of 13 managers, 25 counter people and 12 delivery drivers.
DGDG’s Parts Director is Larry Sherman, 53, a veteran of the parts game and a lifer when it comes to the body shop business, he explained. “My dad has owned body shops in the Fresno area for many years, so I was immersed in the collision industry at a very young age. I tell people I was born in bondo dust! So, when I talk to body shop owners or parts people, I know what they’re going through and what their parts needs are, because I’ve been on that side myself.”
When it comes to parts directors, Sherman isn’t afraid to think differently and approach things his way. This includes embracing all available price matching programs (CollisionLink, OC Conenction, etc.) as well as the controversial PartsTrader while proactively pursuing the wholesale market with highly strategized marketing and advertising.
“If you want to succeed at wholesale, you have to set up systems and dedicate resources to doing it effectively,” Sherman said. “Wholesale is an ongoing thing and you really have to make it a priority, and that’s why we reach out to the shops as often as we can and make ourselves 100% available to them.
Building relationships with the shops is important, of course, and delivery is also a significant part of it. By working on the wholesale side for so many years, we know what the shops demand and we know how to fulfill their needs.”
To achieve this, Sherman and his experienced staff work in conjunction with Wholesale Parts Manager Vince Huerta and Outside Wholesale Parts Representative Anwar Ali to make this company within a company work like a Swiss watch. It’s an all-star team with centuries of cumulative experience and by working closely with each other, DGDG has been turning heads and getting great reviews from collision repairers year after year. It’s also been voted as one of the best places to work, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
Outside Wholesale Parts Representative Anwar Ali calls on body shops to answer their questions and works hard to make their lives a little easier if possible. “We’re not just about selling you a part,” Ali said. “We want to be partners with you as well and establish a long-term relationship that will benefit both of us.
As a former body shop estimator, I know the importance of cycle times and how the wrong part can impact them. Looking at the parts business from the body shop perspective helps us to do a better job.” With literally thousands of parts going out every day, Wholesale Parts Manager Vince Huerta knows that timely strategized deliveries at this level is an enormous undertaking, but by going that extra yard (or mile) for his customers, he knows they’re doing things right.
“Our three distribution centers (main hub in San Jose, with others in Fremont and Concord) are very convenient because every day we have 12 drivers going in 12 different parts of the Bay Area. It’s important that we route them properly and keep in constant communication with our drivers, for when things change. That way we can adapt quickly and respond right away. We always ask our body shop customers about how we can do a better job, because we like their feedback and want their opinions.
State Farm’s PartsTrader program hasn’t exactly been getting rave reviews by parts people and shop owners alike, but while most people zig, Sherman zags. “I know that many people have issues with PartsTader, but we realize it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, so we’ve decided to embrace it.
PartsTrader allows us to reach out to new customers and establish relationships with them. Body shops obviously work with a lot of other insurers other than State Farm, so we can capture that business by staying in the game with PartsTrader.”
Sherman is an optimist, but he’s also a realist when it comes to the never-ending argument about the overall quality of OE vs. aftermarket parts. “Most of the insurance companies want to use more aftermarket parts to save money obviously,” he said. “But from the majority of all the body shop owners I’ve talked to, they would rather use all OE parts in their repairs. So, we try to do everything we can, so that our customers can incorporate as many OE parts as they can into each repair and manufacturer’s price-matching programs can allow us to do that, in many cases. Some shops don’t think that we can match the aftermarket’s prices, so they’re surprised when they find out that we can do it.”
To learn more about what body shops want when it comes to parts, Sherman is planning to host what he’s calling a wholesale focus group, consisting of body shop owners and assorted collision professionals, he said. “We’re going to bring some of our larger accounts down here to our headquarters in San Jose (at Capitol Expressway Volkswagen). We’ll be picking their brains and in return, we’ll buy them dinner. We want to be better partners with our body shops and by knowing what they want, we can do a better job.”