Taking a Dim View of Out-Of-Stocks

It’s the late 1980s, and I’m in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, standing in a wiper booth at one of the first fast lube trade shows. There are about 30 exhibitors; almost all are oil or filter companies, and I glance over to the booth across the aisle. The representative from an oil company is facing me with a puzzled look on his face, and I nod my head in a friendly manner. He then walks over and says to me, “What are you doing here?” I responded that our wiper manufacturing company sees an opportunity in the fast lube market, as wipers can easily be changed while the oil change service is being performed. The fellow shook his head and replied, “You’re wasting your time, buddy. This industry will never do anything but change oil and filters.” Seldom in automotive history has there ever been a more erroneous prediction.

It was so wrong, because we now know that without add-on services, the fiercely competitive fast lube industry could not survive. Additional services provide the profit that makes up for the low margins required to compete in the oil change arena. However, there are basically two types of add-ons. The first type addresses preventive maintenance. These are services that are targeted at ongoing automotive maintenance — services that usually prolong the life of the vehicle. These could include air filter replacement, radiator and transmission flushes or intake system cleaning. These benefit the consumer, but are not immediately critical to the operation of the vehicle.

Then there is the second category: repairs. This includes replacement parts that are broken and need to be repaired in order to ensure safe operation of the vehicle. Examples of these repairs are leaking oil drain plugs, damaged wiper blades and (the subject of this article) burned out headlights.

The best full-service fast lube shops will always perform a complete safety check and fill out a vehicle inspection form. This communicates to your customer that you are caring for all critical components of their vehicle, not just providing oil changes. The forms simplify the process, detail areas of concern or attention and act as a written guideline for immediate or future required maintenance. These forms are the backbone of every safety-check process. You may not even have to purchase forms, since some suppliers provide them free of charge. Check with your supplier, because a few go one step further and custom design a form to fit your facility’s needs. Every form I reviewed includes a section for exterior lighting — because all exterior lights are easy to check and most are easy to replace (although not all). In the case of headlights, the industry experiences a one in 10 failure rate, based on data from those shops that perform safety inspections — well worth the time and effort to ensure your customers’ safety.

The completed form brings us to the safety check review with the customer. When recommending a “preventive maintenance” item with the customer, many times they resist having the service performed for a variety of reasons, such as checking with their spouse, or they do not have enough time right now, or they may even plan to sell the car and want to put minimum investment into it, etc. On the other hand, when you discover a burned-out headlight, it becomes an immediate call to action to ensure safety of the driver and their passengers.

Please note: the first shop that discovers the headlight failure gets immediate customer approval over 90 percent of the time. Drivers need to clearly see the road at night to ensure safe driving, so it makes sense to replace the light as soon as possible. This is a great position for the service provider, but only under one condition — as long as you have the part in stock! Few customers will wait an hour while the local parts store delivers the part, and then while your technician replaces the headlight. It is one of those items you must keep in stock for a successful replacement service.

We all know that part number proliferation is an ongoing problem for every line, and it keeps multiplying in the lighting category. In lighting, it really started in 1976, when square sealed beams started appearing, and they replaced the standard round style. Round sealed beams were the only style headlights used since they became federally mandated in 1940. Now, sealed beams are becoming ancient history, and installers are having to address the replacement of halogen, HID and LED bulbs. HID and LED products are rapidly becoming much more common, even on mainstream vehicles. But, there are still some new halogen and miniature lamp part numbers that are showing up toward the top of every supplier’s popularity listing. Let’s review the most popular newer miniature lamps, halogen and HID headlamp capsules that should already be in your lighting cabinet — but they may not be:

  • 7440 Rear turn signal bulbs for 2000+ Honda/Acura, Nissan/Infiniti, Toyota/Lexus
  • 7440NA Rear turn signal bulbs for 2000+ Ford, Honda/Acura, Nissan/Infiniti, Toyota/Lexus
  • 7443 Front turn signal bulbs for 2003+ Honda/Acura
  • 9003 Halogen headlamp bulbs for 2000+ GM, Honda, Hyundai, Infiniti, Kia, Mazda, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen
  • 9005L+ Halogen headlamp bulbs for 1995+ GM, Fiat Chrysler (FCA), Ford, Hyundai, Nissan, Tesla, Toyota
  • 9008(H13) Halogen headlamp bulbs for 2005+ FCA, Ford, Mini, Nissan
  • 9012LL Infrared halogen headlamp bulbs for 2011+ GM, FCA, Ford, Hyundai, Jaguar, Scion, Toyota
  • 9145 Halogen fog lamp bulbs for 2000+ GM, FCA, Ford, Mitsubishi, Toyota/Lexus
  • H1-55W Halogen headlamp bulbs for 2000+ Audi/VW, Nissan/Infiniti, Jaguar, Lexus, Mazda, Subaru, Honda
  • H11B Halogen headlamp bulbs for 2007+ Ford, Hyundai/Kia
  • H11-55W Halogen headlamp bulb — No. 1 selling halogen capsule in 2017
  • D1S HID headlamp for 2006+ BMW/Mini, GM, FCA, Honda, Hyundai/Kia, Jaguar/Land Rover, Mercedes, Porsche, Volvo
  • D2S HID headlamp for 2000+ Acura/Honda, Audi/VW, BMW, GM, FCA, Nissan/Infiniti, Jaguar, Lexus, Mazda, Mercedes, Porsche, Subaru, Volvo
  • D3S HID headlamp for 2014+ Ford, FCA

This lineup of lights feature bulbs that are not only newer, but, most importantly, they are also found on some of the most popular models. These are the vehicles that are currently passing through your facilities on a daily basis, lookingto you for proper vehicle maintenance — and it is only a matter of time before their headlights burn out. But step back to my previous comment — these “… should already be in your lighting cabinet.” You are probably thinking, “My cabinet is packed right now; I don’t have room for these items.” Too many times I visit shops and look at their lighting cabinet, only to find that it ran out of space for new part numbers five years ago, and there are loose boxes and bulbs stacked around and on top of the cabinet. Even if the part is on-hand the technician may not be able to locate it.

Over the past few years, some lighting suppliers kept introducing larger cabinets, but those with keen foresight designed modular cabinets that can be expanded easily and inexpensively. These feature different sections that contain various size compartments depending on the type of bulb being stored. Whether a modular style, multiple cabinets or a self-designed bin system, the key to successful headlight replacement is having the correct bulb on hand for immediate service and quickly being able to find the part you need. Your lighting supplier should be able to provide you with the proper displays and cabinets in order to efficiently stock this needed inventory.

To take maximum advantage of the time and effort you invest in providing a complete safety check, you must ensure the correct part numbers are in inventory and that you have a storage system where they can be quickly located. When it comes to headlight replacement always take a dim view of out-of-stocks — your bottom line depends on it.

Tim Craig

Tim Craig, a 40-year veteran of the automotive aftermarket, is a special consultant to Mighty and a partner in R/T Marketing. Tim can be reached at: timcraig@comcast.net