Giammalvo Files
Mark Giammalvo

Mark Giammalvo specializes in driveability diagnostics at his family business, Sam Giammalvo's Auto Sales & Service, Inc. in New Bedford, MA.   

Mark, who has been with the business for over 20 years, is an ASE  Master Technician and Parts Specialist. He also holds the ASE L1 certification, and has an associates degree in business management.
Mark is also a writer for Motor Age Magazine and is the past secretary of the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals, (AASP).



Now Thats A Backorder

(Printed in the Journal of The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers, AASP) 

What would you say if I told you an OEM part was on back order for 6 months and 1 day? Not really unusual would you say? Well, what if that back order item was a seat belt? (I can see some attorneys licking their chops regarding this back order.)

Here's the story: Way back on September 9, 1998 we took one of our customers cars to the local Ford Dealer for warranty work. The vehicle was a 1994 Ford Explorer and was still covered by Ford's 5 year 50,000 mile safety restraint warranty. The customer's complaint was that the rear center seat belt buckle would not stay buckled. The Ford Dealer ordered the part and we picked up the car and returned it to the owner. About a week later we called the dealer to inquire if the part had come in. The dealer advised us that the part was on national back order. We advised the customer of the delay. Now, on October 9, a full month later, the customer called us inquiring about the status of the belt. We again called the dealer. The dealer reported that the part was on back order but they were upgrading the order status to the highest priority, (VIO), Vehicle Inoperative. Again we waited as more time went by. On the third week of October we again called the dealer to ask about the belt. The dealership had some new information. The part was still on back order, however, a "ship date" had been announced. The date was February 28, 1999. Wow! Now that's a back order! Needless to say the customer was very upset with this unprecedented delay. This customer quite often had people riding in the back seat and wanted this repaired. We asked the dealership to give us the Ford part number so we could do some research on our own. We subscribe to a network called Parts Voice. This is a very large computerized database which allows us to search car dealerships' parts departments nationwide. The search is all done over the telephone. This is a source we can pursue when the part needed is unavailable through local dealers. Through this database we were able to find seven Ford Dealers in various parts of the country that had this exact belt in their stockroom for sale. We contacted our local Ford Dealer to advise them that we had found the part for them. This is where the fun began. The part's manager of the dealership advised us that they could not purchase this part from another Ford Dealership. The part had to be acquired from the Ford Warehousing Network. "Who cares where the part comes from, as long as it's a Ford part?" We inquired. The answer? When a Ford Dealer acquires a part through the Ford Warehouse for a warranty situation, they are allowed to make approximately 40% on the price of that part. If the dealership was to purchase this seat belt from another dealership in the country like we had suggested, our local Ford Dealership would have to pay the selling Ford Dealership 10% over dealer cost. This reduces our Ford Dealer's markup to only 30%. In addition, the shipping charges eat up more profit. By the time the part arrives at our Ford Dealer's door there is little or no margin for profit. If this were not a part under warranty, the dealership would just add the increased costs to the list price. But, when a part is under warranty, Ford Corporation is footing the bill and they will only pay their dealers the current Ford List Price. We suggested to the dealer that they bill Ford Motor Company for this difference. After all, this is a safety issue here! The dealership stated that Ford would not pay for these additional charges so they would not order the part from outside the warehouse network. We even went so far as to contact the Ford Customer Assistance Center to complain about this part delay. The Assistance Center reported that we would have to wait for the part to be manufactured and released on Feb. 28. We kept calling our local Ford Dealer every 2 weeks for an update on the part. Finally, on March 3, there was some new information. Our Ford Dealer read us a message off his computer screen that was attached to this order. The message was an insider at Ford asking a question to the vendor that builds this seat belt for Ford. The message read: "Attention vendor, a vehicle has been inoperative since October 1998 as a result of this part, please build and ship one seat belt buckle to resolve this situation." Then there was a reply from the vendor."Unable to comply with your request. One critical part in the assembly of this seat belt remains unavailable at this time. Suggest your dealer use the Ford Locator Computer to see if another dealer in the country has this seat belt." The part's manager at our Ford Dealership stated that since someone internal at Ford had given permission to search other dealers, he could now search for the seat belt outside of the Warehouse Network. He said that by printing out this communication from the vendor he could get Ford to reimburse him the shipping and 10% dealer charges to acquire this part. A day later, March 9,  he located the part at another dealer and had it shipped overnight. A total of 6 months and 1 day to get the seat belt.