Seattle Automotive Distributing Inc. has reinvented itself many times over its more than 30-year history and is at it again after ACDelco made it impossible for the company to sell General Motors dealers their daily stock orders. “We have to reinvent ourselves every three to six years to react to our rapidly changing marketplace,” President Paul TeGantvoort says.

GM dealers have been a major part of the Seattle, Wash.-based company since TeGantvoort founded the business in 1983. The GM stock order business created the critical mass that enabled Seattle Automotive Distributing to maintain a huge inventory of ACDelco parts on hand, which gave it a big head start over everyone else in the parts business with the ability to be first-to-market on a wide variety of parts for late model GM vehicles.

“On April Fool’s Day 2013, ACDelco came up with a formula that dramatically changed this successful business model,” TeGantvoort explains. “We now sell to GM dealers on a daily basis, but at a greatly reduced level. We are now penalized for selling GM dealers too much in one month and the GM dealer is severely penalized if he shifts too many purchases from GM back to us. This huge loss of volume was a tremendous loss for us. It took a huge bite out of our bottom line and our whole company suffered.” 

The company began 30 years ago with a focus on distributing ACDelco parts. A wholesale distributor of original equipment parts today, Seattle Automotive Distributing carries inventory from more than 50 brands, including ACDelco, Mopar and Motorcraft, and sells to dealerships, fleets, local and state governments and professional repair shops in the Pacific Northwest. “We do not sell retail and that enables us to concentrate on the professional automotive service providers and the OE parts they depend on,” TeGantvoort notes. “Our people who run this company are the best we have ever had, and we are the best option in the market today. We are the future for people who need OE parts.”

Seattle Automotive Distributing prides itself on staying current with technological advancements. The company upgraded to a new cloud-based operating system last year called Fuse 5, which TeGantvoort says “is light-years ahead of anything we have seen and it continues to improve to meet our needs.” 

In with the New

Although the loss of GM dealer stock orders was a significant blow to the company, TeGantvoort reports that Seattle Automotive Distributing has not had a month in the red since it happened. However, adjustments had to be made that included reducing its staff and inventory. “We are still working our way through it and every month we get stronger and better,” he notes. 

Today, the vehicles and the parts that make them run right are made better, last longer and therefore means Seattle Automotive Distributing sells fewer parts per vehicles, TeGantvoort explains. “That sounds like bad news for parts distributors, and in some ways it is, but the good news is that these vehicles require the top-quality parts we carry to keep them running right,” he adds. “The retro engineered parts simply fail to work correctly in the high-tech systems today.”

On the domestic parts side of the business, Seattle Automotive Distributing has increased its sales to the Ford dealers and has become a warehouse distributor for Mopar. “Mopar represents a brand new business and this is a whole new thing for us in terms of relationships,” TeGantvoort says. “Since dealing with wholesale distributors is also new for Mopar, both of us are on a learning curve.”

Future Focus

One of the fastest-growing segments of Seattle Automotive Distributing is its sale of batteries and the company purchased three state-of-the-art Peterbilt battery tucks to keep up with increased demand. The trucks allow it to haul more batteries while still using less fuel than with its older vehicles and as battery sales increase, the company feels it has the right equipment for its needs. 

As an additional fuel saving measure, Seattle Automotive Distributing replaced its larger delivery vehicles with smaller cars such as the Ford Focus and Chevrolet HHRs. “Our monthly fuel bill is enormous,” TeGantvoort reports. “But we’ve seen a big reduction in cost with the smaller units. The big trucks and vans are gone. All our competitors are doing the same thing.” 

As usual, Seattle Automotive Distributing is in the business of reinventing itself and TeGantvoort does not see that ever stopping. The company stocks Denso, Akebono, KYB, Bando, Sachs and Continental, but plans to continue to grow its inventory in high-quality Asian and European tier one parts. “The new Millennials demand it,” he says. “They know that it takes tier one manufacturers to build the parts they can count on to restore a vehicle to perform the same as when it was new. It has been and always will be the goal of Seattle Automotive Distributing to provide that quality part for the professional technician.” 

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