Arthur Pinkney formed independent truck parts distributor Imex back in 1986 when he left his job as parts manager at an MAN franchised dealership.
Today, the Castleford, West Yorkshire-based company is still growing and continues to offer a genuine parts alternative to the franchised network.
More than 90 staff work from four purpose-built depots at Castleford, Trafford Park, Birmingham and Weybridge supplying more than 10,000 customers with original equipment (OE) and replacement automotive parts. Pinkney says: “We supply motor factors, franchised dealers, repairers, garages – anyone who repairs a truck really.
“Our parts end up with a wide range of operators from owner-drivers to the big blue-chip logistics companies.” In his previous roles Pinkney witnessed the high-level mark-ups that manufacturers include on parts and knew he could provide comparable quality parts direct to customers at lower prices.
He initially concentrated on developing his MAN contacts but soon started to use his expertise and buying power to develop a parts service for other brands. As well as MAN, Imex is now available for anyone needing replacement parts for IVECO, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Scania, DAF and Renault vehicles.
“We didn’t want to put all our eggs in one basket so we decided to develop a parts service for other marques”, Pinkney says. “For a very long time we have had a specialist engine parts department supplying a wide range of engine parts which is a big part of our business.”
The company currently provides two core product ranges – replacement parts for all trucks and engine parts for all car, LCV and CV applications. It offers a ‘bumper to bumper’ service including axle and driveline parts, mirrors, steering, suspension, braking, filtration, accident damage, electrical, exhaust, air brake, cooling, engine, fuel, bumpers, panels, lighting and friction.
Pinkney adds: “We have an excellent range of captive and hard to source parts – unlike many of our competitors – but the common factor is value for money across all parts product ranges. “We provide axle parts but not axles as well as engine parts but not engines.
“Although we don’t provide accessories our motto is ‘all parts for all trucks’ highlighted by the fact we have 9000 active product lines and about £5m of stock.” Imex repackages 70% of the parts is sells in its own branded boxes.
According to Pinkney, the firm is the preferred independent parts supplier for many in the industry because of the quality service and products it provides combined with keen prices. “We are competitive on price because we cut out the middle man when it comes to the journey of a part”, he adds.
“For example there might be a part made in Turkey for a truck manufacturer and an operator in the UK might request that part from their local dealer. “The head office of that truck manufacturer – for example in Germany – might initially process the request, it could then go back to its UK head office, then through the dealer, then to the customer, meaning layers of management.
“We work out who is the supplier and cut out the middlemen to deliver the best price, saving the customer money.”
Pinkney estimates that about 70% of the Imex product range is genuine or original equipment (OE). All parts come with a 12-month unlimited mileage guarantee and are priced individually with discounts of up to 70% off franchised dealer lists prices.
For non-critical “bolt on parts” Imex often offers OE and then a more affordable alternative so the customer can make their choice. Pinkney says franchised dealers often take advantage of this, particularly when they are repairing non-franchised vehicles.
“Franchised dealers all have their individual parts requirements and many of them use us which is a testament to the quality of our products”, he explains. “For example a franchised Scania dealer may have a Volvo or DAF from a customer to repair in the workshop and will want to get a good deal on parts.
“In this situation they will often prefer to buy parts from Imex so they don’t have to go to the official Volvo or DAF dealer.” So are franchised dealers customers or competitors?
“Actually they are both”, explains Pinkney. “In an economic climate where margins are tight, franchised dealer work is one of our top-three fastest growing areas. “However, if we get an inquiry from a Mercedes dealer and they want Mercedes parts we say no because that is not what we do.”
A 24-hour/next day service is available for customers outside the firm’s same day delivery area which is free of charge to UK mainland customers but subject to a small minimum order value. Pinkney says: “We take 900 inbound calls per day and have 15 parts sales interpreters.
“We employ highly skilled technicians and staff retention here is second to none. “It’s a very niche business but we’ve done it for a long time and know who the big players are.”
Despite the continuing uncertainty over Brexit, Pinkney is very optimistic about the prospects for the UK independent commercial vehicle parts market. “The level of competition now is at its highest level ever but we are still growing”, he adds.
In April Imex will launch its own APLUS range of steering and suspension parts for LCVs, trucks and buses. The APLUS range is made up of ball joints, centre rods, draglinks, tie rods, track control arms, repair kits, tie rod ends, wishbones, stabilizers, idler arms, V bars, axial joints and bushings covering multiple applications ensuring the company meets diverse vehicle parc needs.
Pinkney believes the APLUS range is an exciting addition to the Imex product portfolio offering an excellent range and premium quality at competitive prices. “This is a very exciting time for us; launching our exclusive range of APLUS parts which are designed, manufactured and tested in a state-of-the-art European manufacturing facility producing OE quality with aftermarket flexibility”, he adds.
“We will be adding many more new to range parts throughout 2019 and we also have the ability to launch new items in a matter of weeks. Everything will be supplied with all the necessary accessories in order to offer a first time fit.
“Today the UK parts aftermarket is saturated with copy parts and far Eastern imports that are simply not up to the job. “Imex has never compromised on quality and only chooses to work with manufacturers that have an OE pedigree.”