King-O-Matic, Canada’s largest distributor of transmission and driveline parts, is a true Canadian business success story. Established in 1964 by founder Gordon King, this year will mark the company’s 50th year.
50 years is a laudable milestone for any company, but when taking into consideration the changes in the automotive industry from 1964 to present day, it is a testament to King-O-Matic’s ability to continually stay at the forefront of automotive technology and engineering.
In 1964, automatic transmissions were a new and growing industry in Canada, and King saw the need to supply parts to the underserved automatic transmission repair industry. “I knew that if we were able to bring value to the automotive trade, and supply what a repair person needed when they needed it, at a competitive price so they could make money, we would be successful,” says King.
King-O-Matic makes it easy to purchase transmission parts. An automotive transmission might have 100 different parts which a repair shop would have to order individually. To streamline this process for its customers, King-O-Matic assembles kits with the OE parts required for particular repairs – whether it be major or minor – at a much reduced price which could be purchased off the shelf. The result is customers save time and money, and are able to repair their clients’ cars more quickly and efficiently.
The King-O-Matic solution was so broadly accepted, that the company opened up eight more distribution centres from Vancouver to Halifax, ensuring inventory is readily accessible, and can be delivered the same day or next morning to almost any location in Canada. Today, King-O-Matic is the No.1 supplier of aftermarket driveline repair parts in Canada. Though the company’s expertise begins in transmission, it doesn’t end there. “Servicing the complete line of the drive line from components including from one end of the drive line to the other plus whole units and complete solutions for our customers,” says Darrel Gallant, Vice President. “We are trying fill whatever need they have, and over the years we have grown and added different parts and sections and areas so we can give them that coverage.” The result is one of the most complete differential and driveline programs in the industry, giving King-O-Matic customers the only one-stop shopping option when it comes to transmission and driveline parts.
As the company has grown, it has taken on additional components (such as torque converters, standard transmission, case transfers, etc) evolving its product lines as quickly as the automotive manufacturers evolve their makes and models. It is this forward-thinking philosophy that is the underlying foundation of the company. With transmissions lasting longer, longer warranties being offered, and greater investment in technical equipment to properly diagnose and repair the newer transmissions, it takes a highly trained staff of technicians to be able to diagnose the needs of a repair person who is calling King-O-Matic for repair parts. As such, King-O-Matic continually rewrites its catalogue and sources parts necessary to service that market. “In the last eight years, we have had complete rebuilt units to satisfy our customers’ needs,” says Roxburgh.
“Someone comes into a shop with a vehicle the technicians are not familiar with it, it’s probably wiser to buy a unit from us than learn as you go. As [King] says, we are constantly talking about evolving our products and our expertise as the market develops.”
50 years on, and King-O-Matic is still seeing growth across the board. Gallant creates the company’s exhaustive and complete unit line as key to that success. King-O-Matic has taken its successes south of the border in recent years. Under the brand name Pro-King, the company stocks and distributes niche parts and kits to the Top 5 players in the U.S. The team is looking at expanding their foothold in the U.S. by continuing to cater to niche products required by technicians.
“For us to maintain our position in a market with the proliferation of units requires that we source new product constantly to have it available for our customers when they need it,” says Jim Betournay, National Sales Manager. “And that is what sets us aside from competitors. We are always on the front end—never playing catch up.”
Simply put, King-O-Matic will be able to supply whatever customer wants down the road; a manufactured unit, a used unit, a used part, a hard part all the parts, King-O-Matic will give its customers whatever they want from a one-stop source. In this regard, King-O-Matic is an extension of its customers’ business, ostensibly becoming the “stock room” filled with whatever parts they need on any given day. Because of the proliferation of vehicles on the market, it would be virtually impossible to predict which parts will be required in a given week. Now, they can simply order it and rely on King-O-Matic to see that it is shipped to them the next day, if not that very day.
“Our crew here has been fantastic over the years, working until whatever time necessary to get those parcels out that day, and all our branches work the same,” says Gallant.
“If we are here to answer the phone, that order goes out that night. We have the visibility and availability of inventory across the country to ship from wherever we have it to where it is needed. Customer service has been our No. 1 focus, and every employee in the company understands that.”