Presented by Centric Parts and its StopTech performance and racing division

June 24, 2011

U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano Visits Centric Parts

U.S. Representative Grace Napolitano Discusses Issues Facing Centric Parts

On June 8, 2011, Centric Parts was honored to welcome Congresswoman Grace Napolitano and her staff to our City of Industry facility for a Congressional visit. Rep. Napolitano (D-CA) is serving her 7th term as the U.S. Representative for California’s 38th Congressional District, which includes City of Industry, Pomona, Norwalk and other parts of East Los Angeles County.

While visiting our offices the Congresswoman met with Centric Parts President, Dan Lelchuk, CFO Estelle Cohen and Director of Integrated Supply Chain Steve Hughes, who were grateful for the Representative’s time and insight.

The Centric Team with Rep. Napolitano
The Congresswoman met with our group to learn more about what Centric Parts does and to find out how she can better serve us as one of her larger constituents.

“What can I do for you? How can I better serve you and represent you in Congress,” the Representative asked. While jokingly declining an offer to make some parts deliveries to our customers, the Congresswoman was very helpful in several other ways. “I was with Ford Motor Company for 30 years in part inventory control, so I understand about the auto industry and the parts business.”

“We were able to talk to the Congresswoman about some of the legislation that is affecting the aftermarket. With her prior industry experience and long political career, she was extremely helpful in finding solutions,” said Estelle Cohen.

One of the bills discussed was CA SB750, which limits the ability of independent key providers to issue replacement keys for BMW vehicles. “The impact of Legislation like CA SB 750 will cost the aftermarket money and jobs,” explained Steve Hughes.

When Representative Napolitano asked for further evidence as to how this issue would impact consumers and small business owners, Hughes gave the following example, which seemed to resonate with the Congresswoman: “Imagine you are out in the middle of nowhere and you lose or damage your ignition key. If they don’t allow independent shops to cut those keys, you would be forced to go to the closest BMW dealer for a replacement. In some rural areas it is entirely possible that you wouldn’t be able to find a dealer nearby, so you’d likely be stuck waiting for a FedEx shipment the next couple of days.”

The group also discussed ongoing intellectual property (IP) issues - and patents in particular - that threaten our competitive advantage in overseas markets, a bearing Anti-Dumping Duty (ADD) that is unfairly being applied to a whole wheel hub assembly, and Right to Repair, which aims to protect consumers from a monopoly on car repairs while protecting the viability of independent repair shops.

“Right to Repair is the name given to legislation designed to allow small repair shops access to complex systems information from the original equipment manufacturers. With cars getting more complex every year, smaller repair shops increasingly lack the data and proprietary tools necessary to perform repairs themselves,” explained Steve Hughes. “The number of computers and computer controlled functions on new cars is staggering.”

“Right now, there is no legislation preventing original equipment manufacturers from limiting access to computer codes and other data that independent repair shops need in order to perform adequate repairs on vehicles,” explained Centric President Dan Lelchuk. “If they chose to do so, and they have on numerous occasions already, the OEMs could keep that information private, forcing consumers to have their repairs done at the dealership. Not only would consumers likely have to pay higher repair bills due to a lack of competition, but it could easily drive independent repair shops out of business altogether.”

Lelchuk continued, “We strongly believe that consumers should have the right to get their personal property serviced where they choose. That’s why the U.S. needs to pass a Right to Repair bill like House Bill HR1449, recently introduced by Congressman Edolphus Townes of New York. The Right to Repair Act has been around for a decade in one form or another, but we haven’t been able to get Congress to move on it. This is a critical issue for our industry that needs to be dealt with.”

While promising to further review these issues, the Congresswoman also recommended individuals in the private and public sector who may be of further assistance at the local, state and national levels. Rep. Napolitano supplied names and numbers and even a few on-the-spot connections with some of her many contacts.

It was a very productive meeting that resulted in several specific suggestions that will better help Centric meet its current and future goals. In fact, Hughes and Cohen have already been in contact with Napolitano’s  Legislative Director in Washington, Joe Sheehy, regarding possible resolutions to some of these issues. Centric looks forward to working with the Representative and her staff even more in the future.