Industry Relations Committee Makes Headway on Critical Issues Impacting Automotive Recyclers

Jan 1, 2024 | Industry

Automotive Recycling magazine caught up with automotive recycler Shannon Nordstrom, chair of the new Industry Relations Committee, to discuss its purpose and progress. Nordstrom is also an ARA Executive committee member and Certification Committee chair, therefore has the keen insight to lead this initiative.

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Created to foster relationships with key industry stakeholders, mainly auction companies, the goal of this committee is to bring auto recycler concerns to the attention of these companies in a professional manner, to hopefully bring swift and positive resolutions. Here is our interview.

Automotive Recycling: What is the purpose of this new committee and how did it come about?

Shannon Nordstrom: In the past, ARA had an industry relations committee that held regular meetings with the auction companies that sell to many of our members. There has been quite an upswell of complaints in the industry in regards problems for members with the auctions companies. The complaints have been consistent and getting louder from members and from committees.

The ARA EC made a choice to respawn the committee that had once had very tight relationships to discuss matters and try to reestablish better communication in a productive and professional manner. The EC believes that venting into the “ether” will not solve the challenges and education for both the industry members and the vendors could be helpful to solve problems and dispel perceptions. 

AR: Who is the committee comprised of and how do ARA members get involved?

Nordstrom: With my 20+ years of experience with the CAR committee and hearing firsthand from that group many of the issues that are persistent, I was tasked by the EC to reestablish the group on their behalf. To join me on this task, I looked for ARA members with different perspectives and have been good communicators and involved with ARA activities in the past. We also tapped past presidents and other leaders from ARA, too.

Currently, the committee is comprised of myself; Patrick McKinney, AAA Auto Parts Solutions, COO; Doug Reinert, Chuck’s Auto Parts Solutions, Owner, Past President; Amber (Elenbaas) Kendrick, Owner, Pete’s Auto & Truck Parts, Inc.; Chris Wright, Capital Auto Parts, Owner, Past President; and Vince Edivan, Director of Member Relations, Automotive Recyclers Association. ARA staff liaison is Kaitlyn Gatti. Also, Natalie Warner Rasmussen has been very helpful organizing our conversations with Insurance Auto Auctions (IAA).

The committee members receive feedback from ARA members, and as time allows, also monitor the online activities to watch for common complaints. The members of the committee are also involving their buyers and inventory management specialists where applicable, too.

As a committee, we are not here to solve your problem that your truck driver is having “that day” we are working on the bigger perspective of the relationship between the professional auto recycler buyer and the auctions. 

If an ARA member has a legitimate complaint that is measurable (happening regularly and documentable), they are encouraged to email staff@a-r-a.org with a reasonable explanation of the issue, and any evidence that supports the complaint. The more evidence that is available to show proof of these issues occurring, the more viable it is to bring to their attention.

AR: What are the goals you are working towards in the short- and long-term?

Nordstrom: Establishing relationships is the short-term goal, that we can build upon for the long-term benefit of both sides.

We want the auctions to grow a deeper understanding of the habits of professional auto recyclers, what their buying practices are and the processes we go through on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. We are seeking better ways to benefit more buying being done efficiently, effectively, and fairly. We also want to understand why they do the things they do, and we have learned much already. We will be passing this information to members as appropriate.

AR: What were the initial actions the committee has taken thus far, and how were these actions received by other parties involved?

Nordstrom: We have had initial meetings with leadership from IAA, and also Copart. We have also had a joint meeting that was held with representatives from ARA, URG and PRP. This was an on-site meeting that both sides thought went extremely well. These companies are evolving, as are we as an industry, and this is part of the challenge. They are evolving so quickly that in some cases the people we have been in communications with may not be the contacts for us in the long-term, as they move on to other opportunities.

While many things were discussed with IAA and being investigated, there was encouraging follow up after our meeting in regard to the vehicle provider labels or some would say, “who the seller is.” IAA has begun labeling vehicles insurance and non-insurance providers. Our members have already may have noticed these changes.

Also, they are reviewing the “buy it now” timing post auction and releases in some cases. Our discussion was and will be based on the perspective of the professional domestic buyer, that is monitoring many, many vehicles at once. Our group learned from them, and they were learning from our group, also. It was very encouraging and eye opening to have these exchanges that ultimately benefit all parties.

Our meetings with Copart have also been consistent and well received. Things are progressing as Copart has been willing to listen, and for us to listen to them and learn. We are in early stages of building the relationships and they have been working on a pilot project with a few ideas also. We hope we can be more specific with results to report in the future, but we also want to respect the companies and their inner workings.

AR: What is your approach to bringing concerns to the auctions?

Nordstrom: Overall, we need to keep in mind that these are very large companies. We want to be professional and consistent with our messages and have our conversations with the correct people for the unique challenges our industry faces. I am a very optimistic person, yet some might say, “we will never achieve change, or they don’t care.” As we have entered these conversations, it seems that they do care, and moving the needle of understanding will not happen overnight, but we will continue to stay the course.

We want them, and all stakeholders, to see the value in the “collective” of our professional buyers and our value to their business in the larger picture. We want them to consider how they can help the consistent professional buyers buying hundreds of vehicles per week/month and thousands of vehicles per year.

AR: What is your hope for the overall outcome of this effort that will benefit automotive recyclers and ARA members?

Nordstrom: Our committee wants to ensure that we fully understand their side of business, and why they may do certain things. Some has made sense, although we may not like it as buyers. Other things have been eye opening to them.

We want to educate them on the tireless efforts we go through to acquire the inventory we all need to have continued success. We desire our vendors to see the value of the collective group of professional buyers and look for benefits that could be offered to our members.

From left to right: John Catalano, Bionic Auto Parts, representing URG – United Recyclers Group; Natalie Warner Rasmussen, IAA Insurance Auto Auction; Sean Krause, Speedway Auto Salvage and representing ARA; and Shannon Nordstrom, Nordstrom’s Automotive, Inc. and chair of the new ARA Industry Relations Committee. Jarret Hann, not pictured, joined electronically for Team PRP. All of the representatives are members of all three industry groups, and it was great to work together for the good of professional automotive recyclers. It was productive dialogue and both sides learned plenty.

We want to educate them on the tireless efforts we go through to acquire the inventory we all need to have continued success. We desire our vendors to see the value of the collective group of professional buyers and look for benefits that could be offered to our members. It is a very difficult proposition as they are also driven by pressures of the corporations to be growing and trying new things.

There are big challenges for our members to grasp change, as processes are now different than they “used to be.” As industry representatives, we need to see what can be accomplished through diplomatic conversations, it is the only way things will evolve.

As we continue to have success in negotiating change, we will report it to keep everyone up to date. We have seen some changes already that automotive recyclers may have even noticed in the recent months.

We, as an industry, are a huge value to the auctions and believe it is important we keep delivering that message.

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