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PRI Visits Motor State Distributing
By John Kilroy on June 2, 2011

Imagine one of us, someone in the racing business, putting on a car show so big it required a big blinking electric sign on the highway warning everyone about “Car Show Traffic.”

Now, that’s an event!

And that’s Motor State Distributing.

Motor State is the worldwide warehouse distributor of high performance automotive components for racing, street, and off-road use in Watervliet, Michigan. It was founded by George Lane in 1964, with the opening of parent company Lane Automotive. George and his wife Janet still maintain an interest in the company, but sons, Doug and Dave, have assumed the primary executive roles in the family-owned business. Doug Lane oversees the company’s sales, purchasing and marketing functions. Dave Lane manages the warehousing departments at Motor State which include receiving, shipping and inventory control. The third generation is now getting involved, too.

Each year, the car show attracts over 14,000 enthusiasts and their families, with all manner of classic, vintage, hot rod, street rod, race car and more showing up—mild to wild…they stop counting at about 1400. They come to Motor State from several states, and Canada each year. There’s also a huge tent (Manufacturers Midway) with displays of performance products where vendors and reps stand by to answer any questions.

The event is free to attend as a big “Thank you” from the Lane family and their Motor State team, and it’s free to bring your car. Lots of big smiles all around, and impressively, lots of children. The next generation of hot rodders and racers is welcome on the grounds of Motor State, as George will tell you, because they’re the future.

PRI Editor John Kilroy, and Sales Manager Danny Kirby, visited Motor State last week, and had great fun, in addition to getting a Motor State perspective on moving racing parts. It’s an amazing place. Our guide was Scott Wahlstrom, marketing manager.

We very quickly had to recalibrate our mental picture of the company. They have an international department, led by Lindy Dolezan, selling into 30 countries. There are over 550 product lines, with over 80,000 part numbers. The accuracy of filling orders is right close to 99%…about as perfect as it gets. And they maintain their reputation, year after year, by having the parts in stock ready to ship.

As one person told Scott, “Lock me in the warehouse for a week, and I can build a car and drive it out.”

The inventory system is amazing. Incoming stock is scanned in immediately and registers in the system as being available for sale—a process that once took the Lanes two days. Now, with handheld computer devices, an item removed from the shelf is scanned so everyone with access to the system immediately knows that it’s no longer available for sale. The system can tell you which parts are on display in the retail showroom.

The fastest movers are located closest to those filling orders. Products aren’t located in the massive warehouse according to company because it’s less efficient to do it that way.

And the showroom offers some of the best displays of hardcore racing products you’ll find. Al Gossman, showroom manager, is proud of this, and is also quick to explain that you won’t find e-commerce on the Motor State website. “We encourage people to go to their local speed shop,” he said.

Scott expands on this concept by describing Motor State’s goal to partner with smaller racing retail stores, race engine builders, race car builders and other motorsports businesses in areas that involve more than just inventory. “We’re a full-service warehouse distributor,” said Scott. “Personal contact” with their wholesale customers is key. “And our goal is to make it easier for them to do business.”

One example are flyers available on the Motor State website in the dealer/jobber section (sign-in required). The art is ready for some quick customizing by jobbers before printing them up, or sending them out in an email blast. “We try to create useful marketing tools for the jobber,” said Scott.

Throughout the Motor State team are all sorts of racers and hot rodders. “They talk from experience,” said Scott, with a pretty killer car of his own construction.

You can catch up with the Motor State team at the PRI Trade Show this December, as they exhibit every year. And a team from purchasing also heads out onto the Trade Show floor to source new racing products for the next racing season.

A great group of people. A most impressive company. We’re coming back to Motor State again.

Motor State Crowd

This small portion of the big car show at Motor State Distributing gives you an idea why they need a big electric sign on the highway warning of "Car Show Traffic." Roughly 14,000 attend, and they stop counting the specialty vehicles—hot rods to race cars— at about 1400.

Motor State showroom

The showroom at Motor State Distributing does a powerful job of merchandising performance and race products.

This is an especially amazing photo when you consider there are aisles and aisles like this at Motor State, jam-packed with performance and racing products. Over 80,000 part numbers and 550 product lines.

About the Author
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John Kilroy is the Publisher of Performance Racing Industry magazine.
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