Parts sold via the Internet generally are less profitable than those sold in the dealership, but the potential to sell online in large volumes can overcome that disadvantage.
A part sold over the counter to a customer who pays cash typically generates profits of 40 to 50 percent, dealers and industry analysts say. The price of the same part sold wholesale to an independent repair shop likely carries a markup of 18 to 23 percent, they estimate.
Selling the part online through eBay Motors or Amazon likely reduces that margin even more. The sites charge dealerships fees that vary depending on the selling platform and the dealer's sales strategy.
There can be charges to list parts, fees based on the sale price and transaction costs a dealer pays for accepting credit card purchases or using an electronic payment service such as PayPal. Dealerships often stimulate online sales by offering free shipping, further cutting into profits.
An online ad for a part generally includes a photo or two, the part number, identification of the vehicle it fits and a short write-up describing its condition and other details. The ad then must be uploaded for listing online. When the part sells, the dealership must pick it off the shelf, pack it and ship it quickly.
"It's a team effort," says Joe Smitha, parts director for Ferman BMW and Ferman Mini of Tampa Bay in Palm Harbor, Fla.
An East Coast luxury brand dealership that asked not to be named says it pays a third-party provider about $400 a year to keep its online parts inventory current. The dealership sells between $45,000 and $60,000 worth of parts online each month.