As the company prepares to celebrate its 75th year of business in 2014, Prenco President Stan Viezner Jr. shares with the readers of aftermarketNews the unique history of this family owned company and talks about why the company has flown under the radar all these years.
Prenco is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2014 – congratulations! That is quite a milestone. For our readers who may not be familiar with the Prenco name, please give us a brief history of the company.
Prenco was originally founded in Toronto in 1939 by my grandfather Josef Chmel, who emigrated from Czechoslovakia prior to World War II. Being a metallurgical engineer, his focus was on machined metal products, specifically aluminum and magnesium for the aircraft industry, with production aimed at supporting Britain’s (and Canada’s) war effort. Shortly thereafter, he added a hydraulics division, producing self-sealing couplings and hydraulic hoses assemblies for aircraft and industrial applications.
The post-war 1950s saw the introduction of British, then German and finally Japanese cars in the ’60s, and the opportunity was there for aftermarket replacement parts at that time. Our international vendor base already offered a selection of available replacement parts, so the automotive division was born. When my grandfather passed in 1962, the various divisions were sold off with the exception of automotive, which grew along with the ever-increasing share of imported cars in the market.
The early ’80s saw a return for us to manufacturing with an investment into producing high-quality ignition wire sets and leads, with full-line domestic and import coverage. Expansion of all other product lines for full coverage is continuing up to this day.
Will you be doing anything special to commemorate 75 years?
2014 will see our biggest promotional and marketing efforts for some time. We have a combination of print and digital ads, a new website, a launch of a quarterly digital newsletter and of course, participation in the AAPEX show this fall. There also will be an increased physical inventory and sales presence through our warehouse in New Jersey.
It has been said that Prenco is one of the aftermarket industry’s best-kept secrets. How has such a successful company, with such a long and interesting history, flown under the radar for so long?
Apart from the Canadian aftermarket, we have been a supplier to OES parts programs, offering private branding programs for the aftermarket and other manufacturers on a co-manufacturer basis. There was never any emphasis put on the Prenco name, until now.
Tell us about your product offerings and what sets Prenco apart from the competition.
With the changing automotive technologies, through various market research we identify new product categories that show potential for replacement in the aftermarket.
For example, now, any electrical or electronic item that is exposed to a severe engine environment is a candidate for review. One of the first product lines we developed for the aftermarket was a full Coil on Plug (COP) boot program using our own tooling. The intent was to offer the COP as a lower cost preventive replacement part during spark plug servicing, as opposed to a reactive part failure on the road from a bad COP boot.
What is the key to staying dynamic and fresh after nearly a century in business?
Nowadays, anyone can purchase product from Asia or other parts of the world for virtually the same price that everyone else is paying, regardless of volume. Inconsistent or unreliable lead times, inflexible terms and quality issues are all risks that need to be considered when dealing direct. We eliminate these risks and offer the more “palatable” value-added choices of product validation, localized inventory, application and technical data, packaging (whether Prenco or private) and terms, at competitive rates.
What’s ahead for Prenco in 2014 and beyond?
We will see ourselves looking for manufacturing opportunities, greater investment into product development, including testing and validation to industry standards. We want to ensure that whatever part goes into a Prenco or private brand carton is absolutely the best as per OE. Mind you, OE parts have had their share of issues, but this is just another aftermarket opportunity created.
January 27, 2014 | By Amy Antenora | AMN Afternmarket News