Known in the industry as "jobbers," automotive parts specialists work in
warehouses where they track down parts -- everything from the simplest oil
filter for a five-year-old car to a ball bearing for a '56 Cadillac.
"The opportunities are unlimited," says Denise Faguy, a spokesperson for
an automotive industries association.
Parts specialists need to understand how a vehicle works. They also have
to interpret customers' needs. This work involves a bit of salesmanship to
move specific lines of products. As a result, communication skills are essential.
Parts specialists become familiar with a wide range of vehicles -- everything
from farm equipment to trucks to your average car. Getting a part from point
A to point B may sound simple enough, but once that vehicle passes a certain
age, parts become scarce. A good jobber knows where to find that part and
how to get it to the customer before tempers fray.
"I managed to track down some ball joints for a 1959 Cadillac last fall,"
says Pat Kinch, owner of an automotive parts store. "We finally found a guy
in California who had two. It ended up costing $500 each for what should have
cost $60 or $80, but that's what you pay for when you're into these antiques."
The parts industry itself is undergoing a change in its image. "It's quickly
shedding its blue-collar stereotype," says John Reilly, spokesperson for the
Automotive Parts and Accessories Association.
Part of the reason for the change in image is the fact that more women
are becoming interested in fixing their own vehicles. In addition, the length
of time that people own their cars has now increased to an average of eight
and a half years. And that means more people are out there looking for more
"We're excited about that," Reilly says.
But there's more to parts than just the nuts and bolts of the engine. Almost
anything that goes into a vehicle these days is replaceable. That means a
smoker who drops burning ash onto his shiny new leather bucket seat can get
the entire seat reupholstered. It also means that there are jobbers out there
who specialize in matching paint for both the interior and exterior of your