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Discussion Starter #1
Inspired by the other "Tales of a Dealership" thread, I thought I'd make one to give you guys an idea of how things work in the parts department.

My background. I've owned Subarus since I started driving in 2002, they've all been cheap and worn out, and I've done all the work myself. I started working at AutoZone in 2012, and spent a little time on the retail sales floor, but primarily as Commercial Sales Manager. Then I moved to the local Subaru dealership in 2015. We're a fairly busy dealership, with about 20 stalls in our shop, and since 2009 has only been a Subaru dealership, although we'll work on anything. One of our parts guys has been working for a dealership that carried Subaru since the '70s.



First off, when you come to a parts department, keep in mind that the parts counter you walk up to is not the primary counter. You will probably have to ring a bell. We have 4 stations at the counter that opens up into the shop for the technicians to come to, and 1 retail. Don't feel bad about ringing the bell, depending on the layout of the location, they may not know you're there otherwise (certainly the case here). I've had times when someone rings the bell, and we're busy, so it takes a minute to get up there, and they seem irritated that it takes so long, like we're back here screwing around.


Bring your VIN. I know "they're all the same", but the fact is, unless I have the part number (or in the case of a few things, location on the shelf) memorized, I have to look it up.

There are 3 ways to look parts up:
-With a VIN, which will tell me with 99.9999% accuracy the exact part, instantly.
-I can select Year, Model, and Trim from drop-down menus. I'll attach an example what those look like, you may notice some of them are vague or even identical. With a VIN, I can do a vehicle inquiry with will give me the option code listed at the beginning of each option, but with a VIN, I'd just do a parts lookup that way. I got burned by this once early on, looking up a washer reservoir. Customer didn't have the VIN, and I knew there weren't very many changes with that. I accidentally ordered one for a sedan when she had a wagon. Oops, and, of course, the washer pumps were included on that one, so the wagon one was considerably more expensive. Long story short: I almost never use this option.
-Or I can select a body style (ex. Impreza/WRX, 2008-2013). This is fine, as long as the part didn't change much in that time period. But if it did (I'll attach a sample screenshot of that, it gives production dates, not model years (most of you probably know that production for a given model year typically starts spring to summer of the previous year). Then very detailed abbreviations of model codes (usually too detailed to decipher without a VIN), or sometimes engine codes. The columns marked "N" "B", and "S" are for Notes, Bulletins, and Supersessions, which sometimes can help, and sometimes offer more confusion. And an "Other Info" column which also sometimes offer helpful information, and sometimes not.

We have 3 different catalogs, 2 of them can decode from just the last 8 digits, 1 requires a complete VIN. Our old-timer, who definitely knows the most about the cars and parts, but gets along very poorly with the computers, will not look up anything without a complete number.


Dealerships are franchises. So there's very much a customer/supplier relationship between the dealership and SOA. SOA provides MSRP (called List price, in the business). It was common practice for dealerships to charge 10-20% more than that. But with the competition and information of the internet, it's becoming more common to charge list over the counter. Yes, you can probably find it for less online, even with shipping, but the fact is you're paying for the convenience of having a person to talk to, and help you if there are any problems.

And, because we are very much a customer of SOA, there are complications on returns. There are some pretty specific and rediculous hoops we have to jump through to return a part to SOA for a refund. So if it's a part we're not likely to sell, we're not going to want to take it back. Luckily, our parts department is one of the busiest in the state thanks to our relationship with the local body shops, so we have a fairly large return allowance, but that will not be true of every location. And even with our return allowance, if a part has obviously been opened, we're stuck with it. So don't be surprised if they want you to pre-pay, and they may have a "no returns on special orders" policy.


This stuff (except the details about the catalogs), is generally pretty true of all dealerships, regardless of manufacturer.
 

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2008 OB Limited 2.5i, Portland OR USA
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Thanks for the "inside look" at the parts department.

This would explain why my local dealer appears to be such a labor intensive operation - it takes another separate department to actually sell me the part. Once we locate the part and identify it as the correct one, said part is handed through a little window by the parts guy to the cashier, who produces the invoice and actually sells it to me.
 

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2002 Pair: 3.0 VDC Wag & 2.5 Limited Sedan
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@Numbchux does your dealer have online portals? sell on amazon / ebay etc?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the "inside look" at the parts department.

This would explain why my local dealer appears to be such a labor intensive operation - it takes another separate department to actually sell me the part. Once we locate the part and identify it as the correct one, said part is handed through a little window by the parts guy to the cashier, who produces the invoice and actually sells it to me.
We used to have a Cashier for the service department. They had no way to process payment. That was really cumbersome, and luckily they stopped. I suppose I can see how they might do the same with the parts department.

@Numbchux does your dealer have online portals? sell on amazon / ebay etc?
No. There's been a little talk of that, but there's so much competition, and we'd have to streamline our shipping department considerably. Probably not worth it.

We do have a daily pick up from SpeeDee Delivery, which serves like 6 states in the upper-midwest. So we do occasionally take a phone order which will get shipped, but usually just within Minnesota or Wisconsin.
 

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2005 XT, Mildly Modified...2006 XT Limited, Highly Modifed
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My local dealer, Mike Shaw Subaru has an online parts service. Roughly 25% off. Its designed to ship parts out, like any other online retailer. I choose local pick up, pay local and state tax.

Then I get an email when it's ready, and I go less than 4 miles and pick it up. The parts department guys know me so well by now that my order will get processed in just a few hours if I order 1st thing. Otherwise, it's the next day, providing they are in-stock items.

I don't get 1/2 way across the waiting room sometimes and one of the guys is off for my order. Having a personal relationship with them is key. I leave good reviews, I am patient when they are busy. I have no need to make a fuss, so I don't make one. I work on a lot of cars and I have 2 turbos, I am there often.
 

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2019 2.5i Limited Forester (hers) (4th Subie), 2014 Impreza Premium (mine)(#5)
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First off, when you come to a parts department, keep in mind that the parts counter you walk up to is not the primary counter. You will probably have to ring a bell. We have 4 stations at the counter that opens up into the shop for the technicians to come to, and 1 retail. Don't feel bad about ringing the bell, depending on the layout of the location, they may not know you're there otherwise (certainly the case here). I've had times when someone rings the bell, and we're busy, so it takes a minute to get up there, and they seem irritated that it takes so long, like we're back here screwing around.
...

This stuff (except the details about the catalogs), is generally pretty true of all dealerships, regardless of manufacturer.
Our layout is a bit different. We have three parts guys, with one counter and a big shelving unit where the shop guys will tell the parts guys what they're going to need and then the parts guys just stock it on the shelf. That counter also serves the guys who know where they are, like the guys from other dealerships. General public actually stops and talks to my cashiers, who call a parts guy up.

But other than that, yeah, pretty much.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Our layout is a bit different. We have three parts guys, with one counter and a big shelving unit where the shop guys will tell the parts guys what they're going to need and then the parts guys just stock it on the shelf. That counter also serves the guys who know where they are, like the guys from other dealerships. General public actually stops and talks to my cashiers, who call a parts guy up.

But other than that, yeah, pretty much.
Yea, I don't think that was terribly clear.

My point is that generally there will be a separate retail counter, and probably won't be a parts guy stationed at it.

The local GM dealership has the retail counter right next to the internal counter, so it's really a non-issue. Most of the other dealers here have a separate counter that's close by, but usually around the corner, so you still need to ring the bell.

The last time we added on to our shop, the bulk of the shop is pretty far from the showroom floor, and as a result, the 2 parts windows are very far apart. We had to ditch the traditional counter bell and get a wireless doorbell so we could hear it.
 

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Any comments about what's stocked and what will always be an order? Service and parts at my local Subaru dealer are staffed by some really great guys, but I'm often faced with an extra day or two to order something for a 2008 or 2009 car.
 

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1999 30th Anniversary Legacy Outback DOHC 2.5L 4EAT, 2008 Impreza WRX 2.5L 5MT, 2008 Impreza Wagon 2.5L 4EAT
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Thanks for the insight. My local Subaru parts guy loves me because I normally bring in a part number list with the last 8 of the VIN. Usually it takes two days to get the parts from the depot in IN. Occasionally it may take another day if the part is at a further depot. My cars are old so unless it's a maintenance item (filters, etc.) they usually have to order from the depot.

The dealer is a combined Cadillac/Subaru dealership and only the Cadillac parts counter has the ability to process payment. I pick up the parts at the counter and walk over to the Cadillac side with the Subaru parts guy to pay.

Lucky for me my son now works there so I get parts at the dealer cost + 10% instead of retail.
 

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2019 2.5i Limited Forester (hers) (4th Subie), 2014 Impreza Premium (mine)(#5)
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Any comments about what's stocked and what will always be an order? Service and parts at my local Subaru dealer are staffed by some really great guys, but I'm often faced with an extra day or two to order something for a 2008 or 2009 car.
Other than routine maintenance items (oil filters, air filters, that sort of thing), it's more cost effective to have a central warehouse location and have 100 of something sitting there so that it can be shipped out to where it's needed WHEN it's needed, rather than taking up the limited shelf space at each dealership. We have a two story parts department here, but the actual physical space available is maybe 2,000' sq. ft.
 

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Thanks for the thread. I've had some bad and some good experiences with parts department.

Like you suggested, I do get a lot of my parts over the internet from sp4u, etc., simply because of the difference in price. I end up spending around $5 for an OEM filter that the local dealership charges me $9 for, plus tax. Even if I pay what is usually around a $10 shipping charge, by the time I add in any other OEM things I'm looking for, crush rings, etc., I usually save enough money. Granted, I'm doing buying anything that I can't do myself, but I did buy the little clips for the rocker panels on my Outback in person at the parts department simply because I needed to make sure I got the right ones - and I paid about double what the internet price was - but like you said - I was sure it was the proper part.

I did have an interesting experiences when I had them install the remote starter for my Outback. Almost everyone in NJ was somewhere around 550-650 for the part and installation included, and found a place in the northern part of the state about 30 minutes from where I live that was able to do it for $400. I'm not sure if it was an open box or not, everything "appeared" new, or if they just had some type of discount or they were trying to offload an older model remote. I have two fobs, also.

Can you tell me what's so special about the Subaru Carbon Clean or Upper Engine Cleaner in conjunction with DI engines? I'm expecting the EZ36D (3.6R) to be retired when the Outback gets refreshed in MY2020, and replaced by the FA24DIT that will be inside the new Ascent in MY2019... There's a known issue with carbon buildup over time with virtually all DI engines unless they also have port injection (Toyota, this is why the BRZ doesn't have these issues), so I'm wondering what makes the genuine stuff better and effective.

Does your parts/service department actually offer Walnut Blasting like BMW/Audi/VW are offering for their DI engines? How often?
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Any comments about what's stocked and what will always be an order? Service and parts at my local Subaru dealer are staffed by some really great guys, but I'm often faced with an extra day or two to order something for a 2008 or 2009 car.
The short answer is that there are a lot of variables that will change from one location to the next.

Subaru uses a 3rd party company to generate stock orders called PartsEye. This looks at sales history and current inventory to generate a suggested stock order. The program that we use (DealerTrack, probably about 1/3 of the local dealerships in the area use it) for our inventory and billing does not take parts out of inventory (as far as PartsEye is concerned) when we put them on hold for a customer, so that throws off the order considerably. For example, as of this moment, we have 8 short block "kits" for oil consumption on hold for customers, so those parts are not coming up on our stock order.

This system is not perfect, so we spend a considerable amount of time manually going over the suggested list and making changes based on our own needs and space. We also have to keep in mind that we have to buy these parts from Subaru in order to stock them, so regardless of whether we think we'll sell them or not, we're not likely to stock an engine or transmission.

Subaru is kind enough to give us 100% refund on parts ordered on the stock order, except for the 3% shipping charge. So even that's a bit of a gamble.

And, if you've ordered a part on the stock order, and it shows up on the 45-day or annual parts return list, and you don't return it, you're pretty much guaranteed not to get a refund at all. We just did one of these returns, and a pack of spark plugs for a fairly small application of turbo Legacies (2010-2012, IIRC), that we've never sold were on the list. Return them for a 97% refund, but then not have them? Or keep them, and be stuck with them until they sell (a box is 10 plugs...). We opted to keep them, but spark plugs are relatively inexpensive...

So yea, it's very dependent on what they typically sell, and how much the management is willing to risk to keep stuff in stock.

Can you tell me what's so special about the Subaru Carbon Clean or Upper Engine Cleaner in conjunction with DI engines? I'm expecting the EZ36D (3.6R) to be retired when the Outback gets refreshed in MY2020, and replaced by the FA24DIT that will be inside the new Ascent in MY2019... There's a known issue with carbon buildup over time with virtually all DI engines unless they also have port injection (Toyota, this is why the BRZ doesn't have these issues), so I'm wondering what makes the genuine stuff better and effective.

Does your parts/service department actually offer Walnut Blasting like BMW/Audi/VW are offering for their DI engines? How often?
I wouldn't say we see enough of the DI engines here to have a "normal" procedure, we do stock those chemicals, and occasionally use them, but I haven't noticed an interval. I couldn't tell you what is so special about those chemicals, but even our pickiest mechanics (who have been around here much longer than Subaru) like them.

The machine shop that does all our head work also offers walnut blasting, so that's definitely an option. But Service arranges that directly, so I'm not sure if or when that gets done...


Obviously, those are going to be more and more common. Like you mentioned, it sounds like they'll be replacing the 6-cyl, so time will tell....
 

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Thanks for the reply.
 

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. . .I wouldn't say we see enough of the DI engines here to have a "normal" procedure, we do stock those chemicals, and occasionally use them, but I haven't noticed an interval. I couldn't tell you what is so special about those chemicals, but even our pickiest mechanics (who have been around here much longer than Subaru) like them.
My guess is that we will know more about the impact of carbon build up with Subaru DI engines as 2014 Forester XT's and 2015 WRX's have been around long enough to have higher mileage vehicles. There is more and more discussion about walnut blasting on nasioc.com here and here . The question in my mind is whether you deal with carbon build up as a maintenance item or only deal with it if your engine is having problems at high mileage.
 

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Sure. There's also a bunch of people on here that are changing the CVT fluid despite the owner's manual saying you don't have to unless you're towing.
 

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I so appreciate this write-up from the Parts Department. This explains a lot and will make me more patient when I visit. ;-)

Mike
 
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