SEPTEMBER 2011
                                        

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Central Foreign Auto Parts
Ben Silver • 800-869-9025

“I had no interest in being in this business at all,” said Ben Silver, CEO of Central Foreign Auto Parts. But he didn’t mean it quite the way it sounds. Central was his father’s business, and when he was growing up, he was much more interested in athletics than in cars.

Going into college, Silver knew he wanted to study business. “I knew I had a head for it,” he said. He left college with a degree in management and marketing. Then he headed straight to Central.

Silver’s father had fallen ill and passed away in 2005. It was up to Silver and his brother, Jeff, to keep the family business running. “My brother and I were thrown into the situation,” Silver said. “The first couple years, it was just training and learning.” He credited the employees who worked there with helping to keep the business running during the transition.

“My brother was already involved in the business,” Silver said, and Jeff is now the production manager, “running the back of the house,” Silver said. Jeff manages the hands-on part of the operation.

“I run the front of the house,” Silver said. “I’m passionate about business.” While a lot of people in the auto recycling industry are building race cars or have other auto-related hobbies, Silver said it’s not a distraction for him. When he goes to an auction, he’s buying cars that are best for resale rather than looking for cars for his own hobby. “I don’t consider myself a car guy.”

Silver joined the business just 6 years ago – a short time compared to the 34 years the company has been in business. There are 15 employees and the company is at its third location due to expansions, “and we’re getting close to outgrowing it,” Silver said.

Unlike many recycling facilities that hover at the edge of cities, Central is really central – almost in downtown Denver. “It cuts our delivery time down,” Silver said, which is a good thing since the company offers free delivery to a large geographical area.

Central is a high-tech auto recycler, with inventory and yard management systems that can locate any part in seconds. It also networks with other companies across the nation, which makes it easier for the end user to use one local source to find parts that might be scattered across the country.

“We’re progressive,” Silver said. When he came to the company, the inventory system was being run on a DOS-based computer system but Silver upgraded it to “the biggest, baddest program out there” to manage the inventory.

He has also streamlined the dismantling process, so the engine and transmission are removed completely, and other high-demand items are also removed and put into stock. The rest of the car is put on stands where it might sit for 8-12 months before all the parts are sold.

This new process means that when a customer calls for a part, it’s likely that it has already been removed from the car and is inventoried and ready to sell. “It made every single other part of the business more productive,” Silver said.

Customers these days are about 75 percent wholesale and 25 percent retail – with the retail portion growing. Not long ago, retail sales accounted for just 15 percent.

To help accommodate the increase in business, a building addition and 2 new dismantling bays have increased the capacity by 50 percent. To improve production, employees are now paid on an incentive basis.

But growth wasn’t always a good thing. “When I first started here, I felt comfortable with trying to grow sales. I got a little ahead of myself,” Silver said. “I learned a lot about how a company functions. You can’t push one part of the business.”

While Silver enjoys running the business, he said the biggest challenge for the company is legislative. Unlike some companies, he’s not dealing with too much regulation, but too little. He explained that there’s no barrier to anyone bidding on salvaged cars in Colorado, so people come in from out of state or even out of the country to buy cars.

Even more distressing to him is that many cars are sold on good titles rather than salvage titles, which makes them more attractive to buyers who want to rebuild the cars and sell them as though they were never declared “totaled” by an insurance company. Some people buy cars just for the paperwork, transferring the VIN number from one car to another – which can make a stolen vehicle easy to sell.

Silver isn’t content to grumble about legislation, though. He belongs to a group that is hoping to work on legislation “to correct what we feel is a consumer hazard. We believe that vehicles that were declared a total loss should be on a salvage title. They can be rebuilt, but the consumer should know.”

Silver said he drives a rebuilt car, but he knows what was wrong with it, and he knows who rebuilt it. But with current regulation, consumers could be driving cars that were seriously damaged and rebuilt. “A lot of people would want to know that,” he said. And if he gets his way, eventually people will know.