Scott Barone is an automotive parts and service industry veteran of 30 years. He spent 25 years with the Mopar parts division of Chrysler Corp. and was the co-founder of OEConnection LLC, where he served six years as a board member. Currently, as senior manager, wholesale parts operations for Volkswagen Brand After Sales, he is responsible for the strategic development and implementation of Volkswagen of America’s wholesale parts operations based in Herndon, Va.
In this AMN Executive Interview, Barone shares with aftermarketNews readers VWofA’s intent to increase its presence in the automotive aftermarket, the steps it is taking to ensure its place in the market and the advantages the brand can offer to customers.
What is the Volkswagen of America (VWofA) After Sales Group doing to increase its presence in the aftermarket?
Specific to the mechanical parts business, VWoA understands that not all VW owners are going to return to the dealership for vehicle repairs, particularly when it applies to older model vehicles. It’s not a reflection of our dealerships’ ability to service vehicles, but more a matter of servicing locations and convenience. So the next best option is to offer VW original equipment parts to independent shops and service these independents through our dealer network’s wholesale operations.
What business tools is VWoA providing to its dealers to support their marketing efforts and help IRFs grow their business?
We’ve introduced our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) initiative to create a greater working relationship between dealers and the independent repair shops. Dealers can use the CRM tool for a wide range of functions including seasonal promotions, live agent sales calls, product specials and technical support. I believe it is by far the singlemost comprehensive customer management tool in the industry. I can say this because many of our Parts Directors — who work within multiple franchises — tell us that it’s the best.
You mentioned the importance of technical support? Can you elaborate?
Technical information and support are critical to independent repair shops. Advanced repair technology is making life more challenging for independent repair shops, and we want to ensure that repair information and assistance are readily available. To provide the support necessary, we offer free technical support and information to any repair shop that purchases a VW original equipment part from a VW dealer (participating in CRM). The service is both free and unlimited. We’re very proud to offer this feature — at no charge — to all independent repair shops that support the VW brand.
What are VW dealers doing to ensure timely deliveries?
Independents want immediate delivery, more commonly referred to in the industry as “hot shot” service. Over the past two years, a number of our VW dealers have received extensive training in all aspects of wholesale operations including delivery service. For example, they’re now implementing routing procedures, better delivery monitoring devices and have added more delivery vehicles that help them deliver parts faster and more efficiently. We refer to these dealers as our Signature Wholesale Dealers and they’ve made the commitment to be the best of the best.
What type of warranty coverage does VW provide to the aftermarket?
Volkswagen of America offers a 12-month guarantee on any VW original equipment part purchased. We’re also investigating various labor reimbursement options.
Any other initiatives that VWoA is currently undertaking to support the aftermarket?
Absolutely. VWoA has made a major commitment in human capital. We’ve established a new Wholesale Operations Parts team solely dedicated to helping VWoA dealers and their wholesale customers grow the business. We have a Wholesale Specialist in each of our five regions, along with a Field Manager, working with our dealers in all aspects of the wholesale business. These Specialists have many years of experience in the automotive business and understand the needs and wants of the independent repair shops.
Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak with your readers today.