Internet Truck Parts Market Up for Grabs
July 25, 2000
FleetScape.com, the truck parts web site announced in March, has closed up shop. But the idea that spawned FleetScape is far from dead, according to former FleetScape President Susan Kampe.
In an interview with Truckinginfo.com, Kampe said that in time someone else would do what FleetScape.com had hoped to do: bring a convenient, single-source truck parts market to the Internet.
“What the fleets want, and it's so simple,” Kampe said. “They want to go to one place to be able to buy all their products. It's like the trade shows. All the OEMs and truck platforms are represented. Why? Because there's a marketplace there. Same thing when you go to buy products. So if the fleets can go to one site and get to a lot of their suppliers and it's easy to use, then that's what they're going to want.”
Fleetscape.com debuted in a March news conference led by Larry Yost, Chairman and CEO of Meritor Automotive, the Troy, Mich., truck parts maker. Meritor was a partner in the venture then called FleetWorks.com, an independent company headed by Kampe, a former Meritor executive.
However, some Meritor distributors feared FleetWorks would cut into their business and less than a month later, Meritor backed out of the venture.
That left Accel Partners, a Silicon Valley venture capital company, and Gen3 Partners, a Boston-based technology company, to go forward with Kampe. They renamed the company FleetScape.com but could not find another partner willing to kick in for the $6 million needed to take the company live.
“We had a prototype that was ready to move,” said Kampe. “The only thing that stopped us was money.”
So if FleetScape.com isn’t going to provide the illusive truck parts market, who will?
“I think dealer networks will get together and build something,” Kampe speculated. “Whoever does a good job executing will get more people going in their direction and I think will end up getting the warehouse distributors on as well.
"The problem with proprietary web sites is much the same as with individual stores," Kampe said. “The guy on the other end has to come to your store, navigate through your site and figure out your catalog. It's a waste of his time. In the end the customer will get what they want.”
Was FleetScape.com ever really a threat to truck parts middlemen?
“FleetScape was never a middleman," Kampe said. "FleetScape never took title to the product. FleetScape never negotiated pricing. That wasn't our business model. Our business model was to help the OEM dealers and the warehouse distributors, make it easier for their customers to do business with them,” said Kampe.
“The whole game is to provide better service. Customers want convenience, and part of being convenient is to allow people to access you 24 hours a day, to be able to self-serve and get information when you don't have people there to answer. So you can use Internet technology to reach your customers and allow them to help themselves while you still do everything you ever did that makes your service better through relationships. In fact it can give you better information to handle your relationships better.”
“FleetScape had a vision of putting that neutral, open marketplace out there right at the beginning,” she said. “Without funding what will happen is that different channels will develop something, and whoever does the best job in terms of making it easy to use for the fleets is the site I think will gain critical mass.“