Turf War








































R. L. Dial Company 
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Driveline Turf War

By Dave Watson - Rocklin, CA-The Drive Line


That's not the ringing of a driveshaft tube in your ears, that's your wake up call! You may have been basking in the good economy or just didn't notice but there is a movement afoot  and it's coming your way!

Let's begin with some simple numbers (The accountants love this stuff). There are somewhere among 30 to 50 million Pick Ups or Sport Utility Vehicles currently on the road. There are approximately thirteen hundred driveshaft repair shops in the US. If we were to divide the potential work equally among this group, it would bring in 38,462 driveshafts to EACH shop. (Based on 50 million units) If you were to do 10 shafts per day, every day, 52 weeks a year, it would take you 15 years to complete the work! Not everyone Is going to see shafts in this quantity but the point is; The potential is there and "others" have run these numbers and are after a perennial staple in your driveshaft business!

Remember those guys that made it hard for you to make a buck on Front Wheel Drive axles? Well, they too have seen the awesome potential in the "4X4" driveshaft market. Already several mass quantity rebuilders are gearing up to build two thousand plus "4X4" shafts a month and distribute them to the major auto part chains throughout the country. I too remember the early 1980's when we were so presumptuous to assume that when a customer's FWD shaft went south, he would bring it to his local driveline repair shop. First, most customers did not make the connection. Secondly, the ones who did, soon found it cheaper to "phone-shop" and simply buy the cheapest from a growing supply of FWD axle rebuilders.

"The customer always comes home to quality."  "They have to buy the same parts as me." These idealistic views make good barstool prattle but are not always completely true.

Some rebuilders are currently talking numbers like ten million dollars worth of hard parts a year and parts suppliers cannot ignore these figures. Somehow, I think that buying in quantities like that might constitute a discount. We might add, a discount that again will make it hard for your impeccably built shaft to compete in the same market.

One major part supplier has expressed a sense of loyalty to the driveline repair shop network, but however noble, the dollar will win in the end. It always does. Besides, even if the major players won't play ball, offshore parts suppliers are ALREADY there. These offshore parts are crude at best, but will be able to fill the bill for an aging pick up or SUV that the owner might not want to spend a premium on.

What can be done? Well, I'm just the messenger, don't shoot me! However, given the opportunity, I would certainly make my buying group aware or pipe up at the next advisory meeting, I might even approach some local auto part chains and sell them on my ability to provide new and rebuilt "4X4" shafts. Face it, in most cases, that's probably where momma is going to take her "grocery getter" SUV first.

Yes, I see this as a kind of turf war. The "4X4" shafts have been very good for the driveline industry, our turf so to speak. Don't give them up without a fight.