Marvin Windham is the Parts Director for Benchmark Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Birmingham, AL. Windham has been a parts manager since 1976 and his company sells about $14 million in total sales. Currently, they have about 15 customers in the Birmingham area who have remained on the State Farm PartsTrader pilot program.
“We receive fax-only orders from PartsTrader for these customers. We didn’t sign up with PartsTrader, even though Birmingham was one of the first pilot cities,” Windham said.
Windham believes that PartsTrader offers no benefits to the repairer or supplier.
“If you extrapolate the facts, it isn’t a hard decision for parts suppliers. Currently, we (OEM suppliers) aren’t controlled by the insurance industry, and those on the repairer side, in a lot of cases, have given control to the insurance companies,” Windham said.
“In my opinion, PartsTrader wants to build a “toll bridge” between us and our customer, and once we’ve made it secure with “razor wire” fencing, and no way around, then they will charge us a toll to get to our customer,” said Windham. “This doesn’t even consider the fact that they may want to drive the prices down (in my opinion), and the wasted manpower to do the program.”
“Also, the system is designed to get more non-OEM parts on the estimate. I don’t think that’s a good outcome for OEM suppliers, for our collision repairer partners, nor for the car owner. Ultimately our systems must be designed to benefit the car owner. They are the ultimate customer, and every decision must revolve around what’s best for them. I will say that if State Farm insures a lot of customers that eventually need collision repairs in our market, we hope to continue to service our mutual customers well into the future. I hope a palatable solution for all parties involved can be found and a compromise worked out. I believe that is possible, but only if they try to satisfy all parties. This system offers no benefits to the repairer or the supplier in my humble opinion.”
How does Windham see the future of the parts business given the usage of programs like PartsTrader?
“My hope is that OEM dealers and parts managers will be smart and not give up our freedom. The only way this will work is if OEM suppliers sign up on PartsTrader. The temptation is for OEM dealers who aren’t in wholesale to want to use this program as an easy entry into the wholesale business, without doing the due diligence work that those who have built a business from the ground up have done,” Windham said.
“We must have the support of the collision industry [repairers] to keep that from happening. The collision industry must support the OEM’s that have the infrastructure, built over years of hard work, and refuse to do business with OEM suppliers that try to take a shortcut into wholesale. Working together we can stop it! This is the land of the free and I suspect some will say that’s cheesy, but I believe it!”
Windham feels rejecting State Farm’s pilot program was an easy business decision to make.
“A lot has been said by State Farm regarding those that rejected the program without first giving it a try. My response to State Farm is that as professionals we must study the facts, extrapolate the impact and then make a decision. We all reject things every day because we know what the outcome would be if we didn’t reject, given the facts. I have read every word published about PartsTrader and State Farm, and personally it is an easy business decision for us to reject this program,” he said.