Scott Heishman did not believe he could increase parts sales simply by putting the name of his dealership on a Web site.
Heishman, vice president of Heishman Inc., which owns BMW, Porsche and Audi dealerships in Arlington, Va., figured a Heishman site would get lost among all the other dealer Web sites and would lure only local clientele.
To expand beyond the Washington area, he would have to develop a national brand name online. Heishman formed a joint venture with a local Internet software company, Jump Internet in McLean, Va. Together, they developed two parts Web sites that take advantage of the BMW and Porsche brand names.
'We figured the Internet was a market we could go to to expand our parts sales,' Heishman said.
The Porsche site, PorscheZone. com, which was launched in early December, already is boosting sales. Over-the-counter and online retail parts sales in January were $15,000. If they continue at that rate, Heishman's Porsche dealership will retail $180,000 in 2000, a 35 percent increase over 1999, when the store retailed $133,000 in parts.
'We are getting orders from Texas, Washington state, Louisiana, Michigan and Wisconsin - all over the map,' Heishman said. Parts are shipped overnight.
The BMW site, BMWCentral. com, has been online for only two weeks, so it is too early to determine the impact on sales.
In April, both sites will begin business-to-business parts sales to dealerships and independent repair shops.
Jump Internet intends to form joint ventures with other dealers to establish sites that sell parts and accessories to independent shops, authorized dealers and consumers, said Charlie Romero, president of Jump Internet. The next will be a Mercedes-Benz parts site to be launched this month.
It makes sense to launch national parts sites through dealers because dealers are the manufacturers' authorized parts outlets, Heishman said.
Romero said he anticipates that most of the revenue - probably 90 percent - will come from business-to-business sales. The prices are competitive, but the real benefit to shoppers will be the convenience of shopping online and the ease of navigating a site, he said.
The sites offer a number of free services in addition to an online parts superstore. The ventures will be funded exclusively through the markup on online parts sales.
Jump will have to make its Web sites competitive because of thegrowing number of national business-to-business sites that enable dealers to trade parts. Among its competitors are:
Parts.com of Sanford, Fla., an online parts exchange that has signed up large dealership groups as parts wholesalers
Cobalt Group of Seattle, an Internet software company that owns PartsVoice, a parts locator that offers more than 35 million original equipment manufacturer parts
Carstation.com of San Francisco, an online parts exchange headed by Ron Goldsberry, a former Ford Motor Co. executive.
The Jump Internet sites offer free services to boost traffic and parts sales. They include e-mail service, bulletin boards, auto-related news, search engines for specific makes and classified advertising. Dealers also can post new- and used-vehicle inventory for sale. Consumers can post pictures of their cars as part of a photo gallery feature.
There is a parts locator for shops. 'A mechanic can enter a key word or a portion of the parts number and still come up with results,' Romero said. Porsche dealership people who do not remember the full parts number have to look up parts on microfiche, and BMW dealers hunt for parts on their computer systems. Romero says his online parts search is simpler.
'Our classifieds are simpler, too,' he said. 'Unlike other online auto classifieds that require the user to select from multiple pop-ups and check boxes, BMWCentral and PorscheZone classifieds allow the users to simply type what they're looking for and retrieve relevant results.'