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Published: Saturday, 7/10/2004

Wix, Raybestos, Spicer known for their quality

The product lines being sold by Dana Corp. are not household names, but they are well-known to generations of automobile mechanics.

Raybestos brake parts, Wix filters, and Spicer chassis components - which represent the biggest chunk of the $1.1 billion deal announced yesterday - are sold primarily to repair shops rather than to do-it-yourself mechanics, according to dealers and company officials.

The products have a reputation for quality, but can be pricey, they added.

Raybestos Brakes, which was acquired by Dana as part of its 1998 purchase of Echlin Corp., are the best-selling brake replacement line in the country, said Gary Corrigan, Dana spokesman.

"I carry five or six different grades of brakes and Raybestos is the top of the line," said David Lawson, of wholesaler Pat Young Service Co. in Toledo. "But the price can be 50 percent more on some products."

Raybestos makes not only brake pads, but a full line of brake components.

Wix Filters - including air, fuel, and oil filters - also are a top seller, though they are not as big as rival Fram Filters.

NAPA and Carquest parts stores, which combined have nearly 10,000 locations nationwide, are the biggest outlets for the products. However, a large percentage of the filters made by Dana are sold under the NAPA and Carquest names. Wix and Raybestos manufacture other house-branded products for the chains.

Carquest named Wix its supplier of the year in 2003 for the third time in eight years.

"In our company, we pretty much target the customer who earns his living repairing vehicles and those are the people who demand quality," said Joe Owen, an executive with Carquest in Raleigh, N.C.

Wix, which is based in Gastonia, N.C., was acquired by Dana about 25 years ago, according to the Toledo company's spokesman.

While sales of some replacement auto parts have slipped because parts last longer than they once did, that has not been the case with filters and brake parts. "Replacement is mileage-related and people are driving more," said Dana's Mr. Corrigan.

That is also true of the chassis parts made by Dana's Spicer Chassis components unit, which sells under that name and McQuay-Norris, he added. Portions of the unit, which is based in Mishawaka, Ind., were acquired by Dana as recently as 15 years ago, the spokesman said.

Products include ball joints, tie rod ends, and strut mounts. The unit will discontinue use of the Spicer name, which has long been associated with Dana and Toledo.

The other major portion of the deal is Dana's Beck/Arnley unit, which supplies parts made by others for import vehicles.

Sale of Dana's replacement parts businesses to Cypress Group of New York will cut into the Toledo firm's leading share of sales in the highly fragmented after-market parts sector.

Cleveland-based Freedonia Group Inc., in a 2001 study, found that Dana controls 4.8 percent of sales, behind only Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Dana will continue to be a major supplier to auto manufacturers.



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