New shop owner? Here are 3 ways to build supplier relationships

Congrats! You’ve just opened your new shop. You’ve been fixing rust, installing steering wheels, or rebuilding engines in your driveway for awhile, so you finally decided to take the plunge and officially start your shop.

Starting your own shop comes with opportunities to offer your customers better prices and more products. How do you capture those opportunities? One way is to build strong relationships with suppliers.

Here are three ways you can use relationships with manufacturers and distributors of aftermarket parts and materials to bring more value to your customers and your new shop:

1. Dealer relationships

2. Packages

3. Sponsorships

Dealer relationships

Apply to be a dealer for all the brands you use and support. Dealer relationships give you anywhere from 2%-20% discounts on manufacturers’ products. You can choose drop-shipping or direct-to-installer delivery, which facilitates customer growth through sourcing parts and gives you the opportunity to charge installation fees.

In addition to signing up for dealer relationships directly with manufacturers, you can apply for sub-distribution installer roles with distributors. This opens up your product catalogue massively to everything available on your distributor’s site, while also saving you the time of going to each manufacturer separately to become a dealer. You will lose out a bit on the margin, but you’re trading money from parts sales for time spent installing parts (or other business building such as marketing, admin, etc.).

Standard eligibility requirements to become a dealer include an established retail location or online storefront. A signed lease and/or a business sales/reselling license are usually requested as part of the application and assessment process, depending on your state.


New specialty aftermarket customers are more likely to order “the works” on their cars or trucks, once they catch the modifying bug. If your list of services includes package deals that accomplish whatever the customer wants (bolt-on track car, blacked out, stanced, lifted, shaved & chrome wrapped, loud & low) you have the opportunity to make bigger sales, which in turn helps out your suppliers.

Designing package deals gives you the opportunity to work closely with distributors and manufacturers to exchange deeper discounts for higher volume purchases and promotion. NV Motorsport UK does a great example of this with their MQB NVM 400 package. They regularly post Instagram and YouTube videos of VW Golfs and Audi S3s pushing 400hp and performing great on the track as a result of these packages.

Deciding how to customize your car can be a challenge when you’re first starting out, especially if you’re unfamiliar with all the different variations and options. Make it easy for your customers by offering packages while increasing your margin at the same time.


As an installer with supplier relationships, you have access to supplier contacts who make decisions on sponsorships. You can help facilitate passionate, ambitious car owners getting sponsor deals by making the right introductions.

Although SEMA is cancelled this year, sponsored builds will continue to be valuable in a post-COVID world, according to Jhan Dolphin. Modified car enthusiasts haven’t disappeared, they just might not have as much money to spend. Manufacturers will be interested in cheap forms of promotion, and car and truck owners will be looking for cheap ways to upgrade their machines. Serve as the intermediary and take your cut out of installing the parts as a bonus.

In Conclusion

Take advantage of your role as an installer to add value for manufacturers and distributors as well as your customers. If you’re just opening your shop, it’s on you to be proactive and build these relationships. It will be well worth your time for the whole supply chain to facilitate more parts and materials going on customer cars.

As part of our 68-point operations inspection, Driven Performance Advisors will conduct a full audit of your supplier relationships and provide recommendations for growth. Learn more at


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