ASAP’s New Direction: West

Jan 03, 2008 3:44 AM  By

When Automotive Specialty Accessories and Parts (ASAP) appointed Love Goel as new chairman of its board of directors nearly a year ago, he said: “We’re at the natural inflection point of the business where a different set of eyes is part of the natural evolution of the business.”

So it wasn’t a huge surprise in November when ASAP, the parent company of aftermarket auto parts catalogers J.C. Whitney & Co. and Stylin’ Concepts, named Tom West CEO. West, who will also serve as a member of the board, has held various key executive positions at Dell in the past nine years.

Although he comes from the computer industry, West, 40, already sees similarities between consumers of computers and auto parts. He recently attended the SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) Show in Las Vegas. “This is a great industry with passionate customers,” West says about the auto enthusiast’s market. “I saw a lot of people fired up about their cars. People are passionate about computers, but not like they are about their cars.”

West believes the automotive market is ideal for the Web. Look at the way people buy aftermarket auto parts, he notes. “You need a unique fit for your specific vehicle. The average retailer carries 50,000 SKUs in store. The average vehicle has 20,000 unique parts by year, make, and model, and that gets complex.”

A recent study by Forrester Research says that in the next five years the sales penetration of online aftermarket auto parts will jump from 5% to 13% nationwide. “I don’t think current direct-to-consumer Websites have delivered what’s truly possible,” West says.

Although ASAP is private, West believes it can grow to be a $1 billion company, possibly within a five-year timeframe. “We can scale this thing pretty quickly. Both (Dell and ASAP) got their start with catalogs and have a deep set of experience managing catalog functions and, more recently, online functions,” he says. “Those skill sets are absolutely critical. These are relationships you can track.”