Meet Mark Craig

Dec 27, 2012

Mark Craig has been in the automotive aftermarket industry, in one capacity or another, for about 40 years, and is proud to say that in many ways his wholesale distribution company, Diesel Performance Parts Inc. (DPPI), operates with the same hands-on, personal attention-to-detail approach that was common in the 1970s.

Phone calls get returned, parts get hunted down and delivered, and no one wanting a product has to click, click, click their way through a website, only to receive a wrong part or deal with a mistake of any sort, because DPPI is devoted to ensuring personal and prompt customer service.

It certainly helps that he knows his industry inside and out. As Mark likes to say, “We are a distributor of all things diesel that still does things customer service-wise the old-fashioned, hands-on personal way.”

Here’s a little more on how Mark runs DPPI out of his headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.

PB: Hi Mark. It was great to see you out at SEMA, and then follow up with an interview. So, what got you interested in the automotive aftermarket?

MC: We’re in a really small niche of the market. I’ve been in the automotive aftermarket since the mid-1970s. My family owned an automotive wholesale distribution (WD) business, and I worked for Federal-Mogul and then with Dana in aftermarket sales, prior to getting involved in my own company.

So my history with OEMs and the aftermarket is fairly extensive and it allows me to use that knowledge to work programs for our customers in the diesel aftermarket.

Diesel Performance Parts has been in business since September 2002, but I’ve been in the diesel automotive aftermarket since 1998. We’re a wholesale redistributor of diesel specialty parts covering the entire US, Canada, and lots of European locations and other countries.

PB: What’s it like working in a family business?

MC: Family-wise, it’s just my wife and I, so it’s not huge, but it is still family. Of course we include all of our employees as part of the family as well. As with any business, it has its ups and downs, but you can depend on somebody when they are family. It’s worked for us for a number of years and will continue to work well into the future too.

PB: Tell us about your company and its place in the performance aftermarket.

MC: We don’t fit into the bigger aftermarket industry in a lot of ways. The diesel niche/diesel products are very different in that our customer base is very mixed. We have (clients) that are an accessory center where you might buy a bug buster or a spray-in bedliner, all the way to hardcore, race-only diesel shops, and everything in between.

So we have a very mixed customer base, from business owners, to employees, to one-man shops to 25-man shops. We sell to the performance side and to the repair and maintenance side. It’s a completely different business than a typical warehouse distributor that’s got bug busters to wheels and tires.

Our method of operating and how we handle those people is also different. We are a wholesale distributor of all things diesel that still does things, customer service-wise, the old-fashioned way.

When you call here, you get a human. You don’t have 16 voicemail prompts you have to go through to get to us. If you can’t get the answer you need, you get called back with the correct information promptly. We take a different stance; there’ll always be someone to answer the phone.

PB: What’s a typical day like for you?

MC: We get cranked up at about 6:30 a.m. and try to take care of everything we can right away. I don’t know if there is a typical day here. Some days it’s 5 p.m. before you finish your morning coffee, just crazy but good at the same time.

We spend our time processing orders, taking care of our customers, getting their needs handled, getting their shipments done-it’s normal, day-to-day operations that most warehouse distributors do.

PB: What’s the best thing about your job?

MC: It’s the satisfaction of knowing our people are doing the right thing, that we’re taking care of customers and making sure we get the job done and get it done right.

We’re not perfect, but we’re pretty close in how we handle our customers.

PB: What’s the biggest challenge?

MC: Learning and keeping up with new products and disseminating that info to customers is the biggest challenge. We work to have them understand what we have, what’s available, etc. It can be a challenge transferring that knowledge to the customers.

PB: How do you see the current state of the performance aftermarket?

MC: For us, it’s awesome. We are full-up and lately have struggled to keep up with the demand for product.

Some of our more traditional non-diesel warehouse distributors seem to struggle. But for us, this year, we’ve had six months in this year alone that were better months than any others we’ve had in the history of the company, so it’s great.

October (and now maybe November) is usually not a great month, but it was the best month we’ve ever had in the history of the company and that’s just great.

PB: Where do you think the industry will be in 10 years?

MC: The change we see coming in trucks will continue, but we’re also seeing Europeans bringing in their smaller, 4- to 6-cylinder diesel engines. We have products to help them improve their performance and their mileage.

Maybe the U.S. manufacturers will finally see that diesel gets better mpg, puts out less damaging pollution and provides a quiet ride that any intelligent consumer will buy. All you have to do is take them for a ride in a 2.0-liter gas vehicle and then a 2.0-liter diesel vehicle. They will all buy (the diesel).

Eventually the American public will (want to) buy a diesel passenger vehicle with greater fuel mileage and life expectancy of the engine. We and they have come to realize that diesel is not smelly/dirty and doesn’t have the noise as it had in past years.

Our segment will continue to grow.

PB: Which professional accomplishment are you most proud of?

MC: Just the growth of the company and to be able to employ people and pay good wages with benefits-that’s the best accomplishment. We get to provide a good place to work and, in response, the employees take great care of our customers and that flows out into the customer base. Our employees can make a living and provide for their families.

PB: What’s your next big goal to achieve?

MC: We have some sales goals for 2013 and 2014. We want to get to a 75-percent gain in our sales. Those are the things we’re pushing.

PB: As a final question, what’s your advice for speed shops seeking long-term success in the performance aftermarket?

MC: Get interested in diesel; learn about diesel. If you have a wrench-turning facility where you can do in-depth diesel installations and repair and maintenance, it will work. It’s more profitable than typical repairs on gas vehicles too, as you are a specialized facility.

Learn about a Ford 6.4-liter and Dodge and Chevrolet products. The Ford 6.0-liter is a huge profit center for shops with the knowledge and the tools. And we supply all the parts they need.

More with Mark

What was your first car?

A 1970 Buick Skylark four-door-it was my mom’s castoff. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Either drive this or walk-¦ guess what I did?

What’s your dream ride?

Oh man. It’s a 1965 Shelby GT 350. You had ’66s, but you never got to the ’65. The ’65 has always eluded me. It is the quintessential Shelby to me. For a lot of folks it’s too “raw and rough around the edges.” But for me it’s perfect. Especially an R model, but now were talking a whole different league of car.

What’s on your computer/phone wallpaper?

My daughter’s picture. She’s 6 and I am 53 so she’s the center of the world for us.

Person you’d most like to meet.

Mickey Thompson. He was a performance guy that did all kinds of things related to performance and horsepower, from Pikes Peak to NASCAR and Trams Am. Ultimately, he and his wife were shot and killed in their home. The curiosity of who and why is a mystery I’d like to know the details of.

If I wasn’t in the performance aftermarket, I’d probably be…

A professional racer. I used to do motocross in the old days and now do vintage racing. But if I’d had the equipment, who knows?