As the biggest importer and distributor of automotive spare parts for passenger cars and commercial vehicles in Poland and Middle and Eastern Europe, Inter Cars SA is delivering exceptional products and services to millions of consumers across the region. The company’s product range includes garage equipment, especially tools and devices for repairing and servicing cars, as well as motorcycle and tuning parts. With a presence in 13 countries across Europe, Inter Cars is determined to meet the needs and demands of a wide variety of consumers and drivers.
Since it was established in 1990, Inter Cars SA has seen astounding growth over the years, with the company listing on the Warsaw Stock Exchange in 2004. One notable achievement was the landmark merger agreement between Inter Cars SA and JC Auto Company, a leader of spare-parts distribution for Japanese and Korean cars in Poland. Signed in June 2007, the agreement dramatically strengthened and increased the position of Inter Cars in the European and Polish automotive aftermarket. As the company continues to grow, its strategic target will be to retain and develop its leading position in Middle and Eastern Europe.
Another significant achievement occurred in 2009 when Inter Cars created an internet platform called Motointegrator.pl—a twenty-first century solution for servicing garages. This platform allows customers who are searching for garages and trying to repair or service their cars to contact a selected garage and use it as a place to collect and assemble parts ordered through online channels. Today, Inter Cars SA has 167 branches in Poland and 155 branches across Europe in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Croatia, and Romania. The company’s product range stretches over one million different automotive spare parts for passenger cars and trucks. Inter Cars SA boasts that customers can find a full range of products for their cars, whether European or Asian, and all the necessary tools and garage equipment, making its offering the biggest in the Polish market.
Inter Cars has a nationwide servicing garage network under the brands Q-Service, Q-Service Truck, Perfect Service, Q-Service Premium, Q-Service Moto, and Q-Service Off-Road and now the number of garages amounts to around 1,000 across the country. Also, in 2008, Inter Cars launched its Q-Service Motor Sport network, which specialises in the tuning and modification of cars.
Besides spare-parts distribution, which forms the core business of Inter Cars, the company is also an exclusive distributor of legendary motorcycle brands Triumph and Ducati in Poland, via the company’s motorcycle distribution network, Inter Motors. The company is also a distributor of spare parts and accessories for other motorcycle brands. Under the Inter Cars umbrella, the company owns two daughter companies; Lauber Ltd, dealing in automotive spare-parts remanufacturing; and Feber Ltd, dealing in trailer and semitrailer production.
For 14 years, the company has organised Exhibition Fair of Spare Parts, Tools and Garage Equipment, in which several hundred suppliers participate. Inter Cars SA also organises an elite meeting for its most active and biggest customers, inviting them to Garage Masters’ Gala, which takes place in luxurious hotels. The meetings are always accompanied by interesting panel discussions and an entertainment program.
At the Garage Masters’ Gala 2014, Robert Kierzek, CEO and President of Inter Cars Europe, addressed the crowd about the company’s development and future. During his speech, Robert emphasised the role that independent garages play in shaping the industry of automotive spare-parts distribution. This is something that Inter Cars is well aware of, with the company generating 65 per cent of its domestic income from the sale of parts in 2013.
As markets shift and evolve, Inter Cars is ready to identify and utilise opportunities across Europe with the company leading the market and setting benchmarks for the industry. In 2013, Inter Cars was awarded the title of Stock Exchange Company of the Year.
It’s an inspiring story with the company growing and opening new branches and points of sale across the region. Robert believes that the company’s market achievements are based on its focus on forward-thinking initiatives like quick and easy access to funds, favourable sales systems, investments aimed at new customers, PRO investment contracts for existing customers, and leasing contracts for purchasing substitute cars.
In his address at the Garage Masters’ Gala, Robert stated, “We believe that innovation is the only way to success. We are building it using the power of consistent identification. Because together, in one team, we are really visible.
“We have 154 branches in Poland, two million users visit our 60 online services, and we organise the biggest automotive exhibition fair in Poland. All this is not just to take care of our own brand, but above all to really help the owners of garages.”
This can be seen in Inter Cars’ commitment to the communities it serves with its various sustainability initiatives. For two years, Inter Cars SA has been a member of Partslife organisation, on the basis of which the Bio Service project was established, where Inter Cars helps garages with their collection of waste, fills in the waste reception cards and reports, provides containers for waste collection, and returns the cost of waste disposal in the form of IC Premia Plus points.
Inter Cars is also dedicated to serving the community of the automotive industry with the establishment of the Automotive Employers Organization MOVEO. The idea behind this organisation was to operate in two areas: road safety and the economic security of companies operating in the repair-services market. Inter Cars wanted to bring together as many representatives from the automotive industry as possible, in particular representatives from the nation’s garages.
Helping and supporting garages has been a core goal of Inter Cars since the company was established. The technologies and services that Inter Cars offers help its partners and customers with garage management, access to a database of goods, and monitoring operating costs and vehicle repair costs. These common and vital tools for the average garage and driver aid in drastically improving the flow of information and communication. As a result, sellers in Inter Cars’ branches can answer up to 30,000 phone calls from customers per day.
The growth and success of Inter Cars has been phenomenal with its CEO and President Robert Kierzek witnessing this astounding journey. With 22 years of experience within the company and four years leading it as CEO and President, Robert has been a pivotal part of Inter Cars’ development.
“It’s quite an interesting story,” admits Robert. “I even compare it to the American dream! Inter Cars was my first job after finishing my degree at my technical university. I was looking for a job and I saw a press announcement that the company Inter Cars, which is the wholesaler of stock cars, was looking for new hires. I went to the interview and I was offered the job. I started to work at Inter Cars and this was a time when the whole company consisted of 10 people so everybody did everything. The three owners and the seven workers did everything together.
“The company was growing and it saw very rapid growth year by year. As companies grow, it’s necessary to recreate and rethink the structure as more and more people join the company. I moved into the purchasing department and I was responsible for purchasing and working with suppliers. “We decided to hire more people to strengthen the department. We did that step by step so we really shaped the department. For several years I was head of the purchasing department and then I was appointed to the role of commercial director. I was then made a member of the board and then I was appointed CEO of the company.”
From those early days of only 10 people working in a tiny office, Inter Cars has seen amazing growth with the company now turning over PLN 1 billion and boasting 6,000 employees. Despite this dizzying success, Inter Cars has stayed true to its core mission and kept its people focused on the good work that they do.
“In our case, I think what’s important is that the founder of the company, Mr Krzysztof Oleksowicz, decided very early on that he would delegate the duties around people to the Inter Cars’ special development program. The Inter Cars’ infrastructure is like any corporation but we still try to run the company like a family.
“Everybody can talk to everybody so the structure is only on paper, which is very important. We want everybody to treat the company like they have a stake in it. We want them to give to the company as much as possible.”
Investing in its people and their development is something that Inter Cars has been passionate about for many years. The company has spent around PLN 1.3 million on equipping laboratories and developing training programs for mechanical schools across the nation. At the end of this initiative, Inter Cars will have invested more than PLN 3 million into the training, education, and development of its people and the future garage workers of Poland. In his Garage Masters’ Gala speech, Robert stated that it’s an investment that needs to be made.
“We are training staff and we are ready for quality and business challenges. We understand, however, that innovation needs more than just knowledge. That focus on success can be combined with a respect and trust in your co-workers. Based on this, we are building fairly unprecedented, effective relationships with garage owners across Poland. This is why there are 4,200 garage owners who take advantage of investment support programs that are dedicated to independent garages.”
Inter Cars has taken an active role in the countrywide education and training of people for the automotive industry. Robert says that the company wanted to make a difference in the industry. “For many years, we had signals from customers, which we were hearing about in feedback, that they had a problem with our workers—not the good, skilled people but the incidental workers that were educated under another program at a technical school, who might want to become mechanics or something like that.
“Those technical schools, which give skills to the mechanics of the future, were not in a position to prepare people properly for the job. We decided to make a big move. First of all, we proposed an action to the Minister of Education that showed that the level of technical education was too low and that it didn’t follow the development of the automotive sector as the industry is developing a lot faster than the learning programs in these schools.
“We suggested that we would like to throw our support behind this change process and show the young people that these schools and jobs that they’re going into can be fantastic. It’s not like 10 or 15 years ago when the main tools in the workshops were hammers or screwdrivers. Now, there are more and more electronics in the workshops and the automotive workshop looks a lot more automated, rather than purely mechanical. This is the main issue; to give people a better overview of what they can expect in the future from their potential employers and what those employers will expect of them.”
This is just one example of the Inter Cars’ approach to deal with an issue head-on and at its root. Providing proper and up-to-date training to mechanics and other skilled workers within the automotive industry allows customers to get a better and more cohesive service experience, throughout the automotive value chain. To ensure the best programs and results, Robert says that the Inter Cars’ team decided to craft the technical schools’ programs themselves.
“We decided to program these technical schools and today we have 15 schools using our program. We are going to add five schools over the next year to the program, so everything depends on the involvement of our business partners in the automotive market to ensure the program remains relevant. The simple goal is that we want to take care of our business environment. If you don’t pay attention to your business environment then it could slowly disappear.
“With the young generation, we talk about the mechanics but we’re also thinking about the people that could be the employees of Inter Cars in the near future. The company is growing and the old generation will retire in a few years so we need very well-educated young people who would like to work for Inter Cars, whether it’s in the areas of safety, prevention, or even stock-keeping. The model of the current stock-keeping roles is completely different to 10 or 20 years ago. Those are the people that have to be well-educated and up-to-date with the latest electronic devices and processes that now exist in warehouses across the industry.”
This holistic approach to the health and success of the automotive industry has been an important part of Inter Cars’ collaborative success. Working with suppliers and partners across the industry, Inter Cars has placed a clear emphasis on cooperative collaboration and communication.
“With the current car, 20 per cent of the car is built by the car manufacturer and 80 per cent is built by independent third-party automotive part suppliers. These suppliers are developing innovative solutions for the automotive industry and they provide good solutions for repairing the cars as well. They know how to repair and solve issues.
“Our main idea is to maintain contact with the premium suppliers—those suppliers that have the leading competencies—because they offer us not only the spare parts to repair the cars but the know-how and expertise to repair the cars efficiently. Our aim is to transfer this know-how to our staff and to the technical schools’ workshops. This is really important for the future because cars are becoming more and more complicated.
“Our goal as a business is to focus on the aftermarket. The automotive business is divided into two areas: the dealers, manufacturers, and original equipment suppliers; and the aftermarket. We work on the aftermarket and we compete with a number of different players. We need the support of the third-party suppliers to offer their competence and know-how to have enough expertise to repair cars now and in the future.”
As the company looks at the road ahead, Robert and his team will endeavour to create one-stop shops across the Inter Cars’ network. “This close cooperation with suppliers and our young generation program are a part of this idea of the one-stop shop,” explains Robert. “The general crux of this idea is to connect the car owner with the workshops and this is very important. We would like to have a solution for the car user and for the workshops.
“Nowadays, the way we supply to the workshops is quite different. We supply not only the equipment but also the training and know-how from our suppliers. We supply the know-how around how to repair the cars. However, we would also like to supply the customers to the workshops. It means that we can supply the full package.
“We can announce to the driver that they should take their car to the workshop and we can offer them a complete solution which is not only repairing the car but also road assistance and the automated solution—everything that you need to survive in the current environment. It’s difficult to name which parts of the business would be added to this one-stop-shop idea but Inter Cars wants to be the complete solution for the car user and the workshop.”
This will form the basis for Inter Cars’ development in coming years as the company looks to expand its offering and presence. Robert states that while some factors cannot be predicted, he and his team are working tirelessly to implement the right strategies and initiatives for Inter Cars’ continual health and success.
“It’d be nice to have a crystal ball to see the future! The political situation is a little bit uncertain and it’s crucial. We want to do our job as well as we possibly can so our idea is to develop the business outside Poland. We have a presence in many countries in Middle and Eastern Europe so our goal for the future is to be a leading company that offers this one-stop shop solution across Europe, not just in our region.”
As the company diversifies its products, invests in training, and expands its presence, Inter Cars will continue to serve and support the automotive industry and its dedicated workers.