Everyday challenges and long-term issues were addressed during an engaging panel discussion with three distributors at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue Monday at The Mirage in Las Vegas.
Speaking for more than an hour about a variety of topics, the panel of John Bzeta, president and CEO at Fleet Brake, Lee Stockseth, president and COO at FleetPride and Duane Kyrish, president at International Trucks of Houston, agreed that one major challenge facing distributors now is the need to expand inventory.
All three distributors said they have expanded their parts inventories in recent years, and expect to continue to do so in the future.
“I think the greatest change [with inventory] is we are looking at it as more of an investment than a cost,” said Bzeta.
Kyrish agreed, stating that inventory is the key to maintaining customers in emergency situations. “We can’t service our customer if he doesn’t have it when he comes in. He’s not going to wait.”
“At the end of the day, you win with inventory,” added Stockseth.
The topic of branding also generated considerable discussion, as Kyrish detailed the problems his business has had with customers who didn’t realize his different dealer locations operate under the same business umbrella.
“We are going through a slight change with our business, trying to identify with one name,” he said. “Its more for our customers so they know where we are. They have to know that.”
Stockseth said FleetPride also focuses on the branding of its products. Nearly 75 percent of the brands FleetPride carries are nation-wide products, and he said the company would like to see that number rise. Customers want to be able to purchase the same products in different locations, he said.
Stockseth and Bzeta also addressed the struggles of acquiring parts from OE networks, and the added challenges they face compared to dealers.
“We all can find access [to parts] because we have to, but there needs to be a better way for us to do that,” Bzeta said. “Customers need that.”
The problems of customer consolidation also were addressed. Kyrish said consolidation is constant struggle for his business.
“Consolidating is limiting opportunities for us,” he said. “We still have the opportunity to sell the parts, but we can no longer influence the sale [of trucks].”
Looking into the future, the panel had mixed thoughts. Stockseth said FleetPride is conservatively projecting 2-3 percent growth in the coming years.
Bzeta was considerably more optimistic, citing the economic struggles in Europe as a positive for North American business.
“[The United States] is in a lot better shape than those countries,” he said.