Founded in 2014, NEXUS Automotive International SA, based in Geneva, Switzerland, describes itself as a “growth accelerator for progressive companies in the automotive light vehicle and heavy-duty industry.” The allure of this mission has created a strong pull, as the organization now boasts approximately 161 members in 139 countries. This encompasses nearly 20 regional divisions that include: Adriatic, Algeria, Argentina, Asia Pacific, Brazil, Bulgaria, Central Europe, Eurasia, France, Germany, Italy, Nordic Baltic, North America, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Among these players in NEXUS’ international membership are 2,043 warehouse distributors, 9,023 retail stores, 90 suppliers (76 of which are global) and 75 heavy-duty suppliers, responsible for $37 billion in purchasing power.
Talk about strength in numbers.
The North American division of NEXUS Automotive – N! N. America for short – was formed just a year later in 2015. Founding shareholders of NEXUS Automotive North America include The Network/Parts Plus, now under the umbrella of the Automotive Parts Services Group (also known as “The Group,” comprised of the Pronto Network and Federated Auto Parts), Automotive Parts Associates (APA) and VIPAR Heavy Duty. In addition to the founding members, members of NEXUS in North America today also include Refacciones Originales Automotrices (Mexico), Uni-Select (Canada) and Advance Auto Parts (U.S.).
According to Gael Escribe, CEO and founder of NEXUS Automotive International SA, one of the strengths of the North American Division is its broad range of players.
“The NEXUS North America members are made up of a diverse group – ranging from traditional distributor to retail to light vehicle and heavy-duty. So, there is a lot to learn from each other, through best practices and collaboration,” Escribe said. “There is also an appreciation and a next level of loyalty consideration for those global supplier partners who work with our members at the local North America level and with NEXUS from a worldwide perspective,” he added. “They see long-term viability in suppliers who are engaged at both levels.”
This strategy makes a lot of sense, particularly with international issues such as economic recession, supply chain challenges, labor issues and more creating great waves of change across the automotive aftermarket landscape.
Escribe added that supplier partners are provided with instant credibility when soliciting business with NEXUS members from other parts of the world. This eliminates what can often be a major hurdle when trying to establish business partnerships in a new country.
The benefits of joining NEXUS Automotive are many, Escribe said. In addition to greater global collaboration and international credibility, they include exposure to a broader base of suppliers who can provide coverage range needs, an OE pedigree, a premium brand and quality alternative, availability (especially during these challenging times in the supply chain), competitive price; training and education enhancements through the NEXUS Academy; and awareness of global automotive, mobility and general economic trends.
Added Value for North American Distributors
As Robert Roos, president of The Pronto Network Cooperative, who also serves as president of NEXUS North America and a board member of NEXUS Automotive International, explained it, being involved in NEXUS adds value well beyond what the typical North American program group could offer.
“For us, NEXUS becomes really that add-on to what we do as a program group. It allows us to now partner with some of those folks in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, learn from them and collaborate with them. Really, through The Group we’re still negotiating our programs for our members, yet we like to add value with NEXUS and collaborate with them where we can. We were very intrigued with some of the projects that they were involved in, which really weren’t about putting a traditional marketing program together, or let’s negotiate a discount or a rebate on a product line,” said Roos.
“It’s really more about companies they’re investing in, the sustainability projects they have, and Marketparts.com, which is an avenue for trading inventory across the globe. They are really doing some out-of-the-box thinking and they’re looking much farther down the road than we might have an ability to do on our own. That’s what really drew us to NEXUS because we’re so busy with some of these other things, we just don’t have the resources, we don’t have the time to get it done. Being able to partner with all these organizations across the globe, now all of a sudden, we’ve got the structure and have the ability to do some of this stuff, which we think long-term is going to give us just a huge leap forward,” Roos added.
As Roos mentioned, all members of NEXUS Automotive across the globe have first-hand access to Marketparts.com, a b-2-b website to sell or buy inventory globally, as well as other global sourcing opportunities through the DRIVE+ private label program. This however just scratches the surface of the multi-faceted resources NEXUS provides its members. Resources are organized around three main areas: growth, transformation and sustainability.
Sustainability that Goes Beyond Being “Green”
In terms of sustainability efforts, NEXUS Automotive International offers support that is becoming increasingly critical to doing business today — both domestically and internationally. Inteliam is a sustainability/ESG rating company that was incubated by NEXUS, and provides members, non-members, installers and suppliers with guidance and direction on sustainability rating efforts that are becoming a pre-requisite to many financial transactions in business today.
Steve Tucker, president of Automotive Parts Associates – a founding member of N! N. America – shared that this is particularly helpful for a lot of APA members involved in government bid business today.
“They’re having to provide proof that they are working toward establishing a sustainability index or state their sustainability score. Most of these guys are smaller businesses, some are larger, but they don’t have the wherewithal or even know where to begin [with this process],” said Tucker. “NEXUS has provided a blueprint and they actually have a sustainability person on staff who can help write it up or help explain what they need to do. It’s more than just being responsible to the environment. Obviously, that’s important, but it can also impact your ability to borrow money from the banks. It can impact who you can sell parts to and actually who will sell your parts.”
Tucker added that in some cases today suppliers are looking at customers from a sustainability perspective because it impacts what that supplier can do financially, as well. “You can go back and say, ‘Hey, 80% of my customers are recycling cardboard or pallets or are utilizing electric vehicles as part of the delivery fleet.’ All those things play into it,” he added.
Roos confirmed his members are seeing the same changes in business today. “We had one of our large members that did a sustainability program, presented it to their lender, and got a better loan rate,” Roos said. Becoming educated and aligned with these sorts of efforts through NEXUS Automotive International is a win-win, not only helping global environmental efforts, but helping aftermarket businesses stay competitive in a challenging time.
Creating a “Spark” Through Innovation
Joe Stephan, a longtime aftermarket executive, joined NEXUS in February 2021 as vice president, sales & business development – North America, NEXUS Automotive. In this role, Stephan works with NEXUS North America supplier partners to strengthen the value proposition of the regional entity and introduce the different N! services and concepts to members. As such, he is well-versed on the innovative growth opportunities NEXUS has developed, including Inteliam and an aftermarket-specific startup incubator called SPARKER.
“The SPARKER idea came about because of suppliers talking to NEXUS about either products or services that they would like to look at to bring to the automotive community,” he said. Stephan explained that as NEXUS looked deeper into this, they realized there are thousands of mobility and automotive startups around the world that could be consolidated into a portfolio to both assist the startups with things such as HR, sales & marketing, strategy development, etc., and also offer suppliers and distributors the ability to review startup opportunities they could potentially help bring to market.
“This created an opportunity for suppliers or distributors to have a peak into the portal to take a look at either at a very high level – or a detailed level and pay an annual subscription – to be able to look in at these 2,500 to 5,000 startups that are in there,” Stephan said.
“In addition, we are all learning from technologies like the NEXUS funded Ki Mobility Solutions in India where an automotive ecosystem has been created,” said Stephan. “Distributors, suppliers and vehicle owners are participating in this digital platform automotive aftermarket community providing parts and service solutions in the form of aftermarket alternatives.”
Like Roos and Tucker, on the heavy-duty side, Chris Baer, AAP, president & CEO of the VIPAR Heavy Duty Family of Companies, sees strength and value in the global partnership. VIPAR not only is a founding member of N! N. America, but also the founding heavy-duty member.
“Some of the core reasons why we joined [initially] are still very valid today,” said Baer. “NEXUS has done a very good job over the years to add to their value proposition. They’re very innovative, and they’re very quick at executing. VIPAR’s strength over the years has been local and regional and you could say maybe national. Our distributors are local or regional. But as you start to look at the rest of the world, things have changed so much in the last five years. The timing was really good for us to join NEXUS because they’ve got this whole global game down. … There’s a whole portfolio of tools available and they keep bringing out more,” Baer added.
While N! N. America members certainly see competitive advantage to their involvement in NEXUS, the North American members have something to offer as well – particularly in heavy-duty, Baer said.
“What we bring is what the guys on the automotive side are all trying to peek over the fence at, which is how do we get in this heavy-duty business. So, there’s a whole bunch of collaboration opportunities that we’ve done fairly well with, some technology stuff and collaborating on national account programs where the customer has vehicles on both sides of the road. Technology’s making that easier and easier to execute. So, there’s a NEXUS North America influence that we have on the heavy-duty side because we’re the exclusive player,” he added.
The Future of NEXUS Automotive
Looking ahead to 2023, Escribe shared several goals for the international organization, including revenue growth for supplier partners; launching the NEXUS Academy training program for the North American market; introducing additional key N! N. America suppliers to the rest of the world; and finding new innovative ways to add value to members and supplier partners — supporting mutually beneficial growth all over the world.
To learn more about a supplier partnership, membership or access to some of the innovative projects that NEXUS Automotive International has introduced to the market, visit its website at: nexusautomotiveinternational.eu.