The buzzword of the Internet age is "direct." As in selling direct. Manufacturers are being urged to use the Internet to identify customers and eliminate the middlemen.
It's already happened in a big way with books, music and computers, and it will soon spread to a lot of commodities used in trucking.
The multi-billion dollar replacement parts business is ripe for the picking. The distribution system in place today is bloated and wasteful. Millions could be saved every year by eliminating one or more links in the distribution chain.
The irony is that some of the first moves on the Internet are not being made by the parts manufacturers, but by those that are most threatened: dealers and distributors. Take Flow Companies, a retail automotive group based in Winston-Salem, NC, which recently launched
The site claims it can get you any General Motors part available today (over 350,000) shipped to your door by the next day. And you only pay the published dealer cost in the General Motors Parts catalogue for original GM parts.
Flow isn't just after the guy fixing up his Chevy pickup on the weekend.
It plans to offer pre-packaged, network computers with Internet access for dealerships and independent repair centers. These computers will have direct proprietary access to the ordering system and
parts database.
The database is based on a propriety, patent-pending V.I.N. decoding and parts matching system. Easy-to-navigate screens allow you to indicate the make, model, year and engine, or you can enter your vehicle's identification number and be taken to a complete selection of parts.
An association with General Motors' extensive parts distribution network provides access to the entire GM inventory, allowing parts to be shipped quickly. Most parts will be shipped by UPS, allowing on-line tracking through
The parts are all covered under the General Motors Parts and Accessories Warranty, so any defects can be handled by any of the 4,800 GM dealers nationwide.
The site currently only gets into the low end of GM's commercial vehicles (up to Class 4), but it will be a logical step to begin offering parts for larger trucks.
Don't be surprised to see aggressive truck dealers do the same thing for other vehicle makes soon.