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Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport

Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport

by Steve Sharp

Chances are you recognize this as the opening statement from ABC’s Wide World of Sports, a show where each week we tuned in to see the thrill of victory, and of course that poor guy who experienced the agony of defeat. A show where one week we could watch a boxing match from South Africa, and the next week the 24 Hours at Le Mans. A show that in its own way made the world seem just a little bit smaller

Like most good things, they become dated and are replaced with something that most feel is better. Today technology has transformed what were once far away lands into live broadcasts via satellite. Think about this statistic; it’s reported that throughout the world, more than one billion people tuned in to watch live coverage of the 2006 World Cup final between Italy and France, a statistic that would have been un-imaginable thirty years ago.

Technology truly has changed the way the world thinks, acts and feels about what is possible. As a result, broadcast “spanning” has become live “globalization.”

Our industry is no different. There once was a time when you could count on an “American car” coming from Detroit , a Japanese car from Japan and a European from Europe . Not so anymore.

Today, Hondas are produced in Ohio, Toyotas in California, BMWs in South Carolina, Mercedes’ in Alabama, and Pontiacs in Australia and Chevrolets in Mexico. Certainly not all models for these carlines fall into this category, but all are examples of automotive globalization.

The globalization of our industry is not limited to new car production, parts have also become “globalized”.

During a recent visit by a prominent European piston manufacturer, they explained that some of their piston production will transition from Germany to China, India and South America. Industry insiders report that more than 50% of all brake rotors sold in the US for Domestic and Asian vehicles (combined) come from China. And none of us should forget that it wasn’t all that long ago that oil filters for Japanese cars actually came from Japan. These days you hear a lot of countries mentioned, but seldom is “ Japan” one of them.

Motivations for automotive globalization run the gamut. Lower costs, better quality, geo-political considerations are all reported to be factors for parts globalization, but regardless of the reason, it’s here to stay and not limited to “aftermarket” products.

Even genuine parts (OES) from the new car dealer may not be the parts that actually came on the car, or from countries in which the car was first assembled.

As new car manufacturers have moved their production from their homeland to elsewhere in the world, many of their suppliers have also moved their production away from their homelands. This means that a new “Japanese” car produced in the US may have a part on it from India, it means that a new “German” car produced in China may have a part on it from Malaysia, and the list goes on and on.

The trick to navigating the globalization challenges of our industry is to understand the one constant; the need for quality. The country of origin is secondary to the need for quality. Just ask the average American how they feel today about “Made in Japan vs. Made in the US” compared to thirty years ago. Again, the trick is choosing quality products from quality vendors.

All of us as custodians of the aftermarket all have an obligation to provide consumers with a quality experience that includes, but is not limited to, parts that meet or exceed OE specifications. This is the central reason we offer multiple OE brands, as well as high quality aftermarket products, our way of spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of parts.

While nobody knows the future for sure, it’s a safe bet that as time and progress march forward, parts production will continue to shift to countries that are not traditionally known by the automotive market. WORLDPAC will continue to work vigilantly to fulfill its role by providing “ the right part at the right time”, regardless of where the part comes from.

Steve Sharp - Executive VP Enterprise Brand Management

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