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  • Alex Chang

A story about "discontinued" genuine parts...

I will be the first to admit: hearing about all these unicorn, unobtanium parts that are long discontinued by Nissan seems too good to be true. But as I wrote in a previous blog, the global parts distribution system is very complex but also surprisingly simple to understand.


When I first started out my business, I had no intention to find rare parts to sell. A friend of mine had asked me about getting parts from overseas, and he made a passing remark about "S13 Silvia fenders would be worth a fortune if you can source them, all the ones on the market are beat up and 2x the price when they were available new..."


I inquired about S13 Silvia fenders back in May 2019. At that time, I fully expected this to be a dead end, "not available to order" situation, but a couple weeks later I got a response that they were able to be ordered. I sent a purchase order in at the end of June, and for the next 6 months I forgot about the parts...


December 2019 comes around, I'm already planning a trip to Auto Salon in Tokyo for the next month, and I got an email: "10pcs each of your items on PO will be ready to ship 12/23/19, about 20-30 days to LA port after dispatch"... this was the first shock. My PO was never cancelled, and somehow a pair of part numbers long discontinued by Nissan North America and Nissan Japan were able to be supplied.


I quickly made arrangements to get the paperwork ready for import, as well as a new order for fenders (S13 and 180SX). Additionally, I ordered a handful of other items that I knew was discontinued... and those 3 purchase orders are still valid today, 5+ months after I placed it.


Based on my previous experience working with this importer ($200k+ worth of goods imported previously, plus the discontinued items showing up) the question of items arriving after it's been ordered is not really in doubt. The problem is how to make sure it gets into the hands of you, the customer...


When it comes to ordering anything from overseas, it's just a question about how to handle logistics. Large orders tend to require more complex warehousing, transportation, storage, and accounting needs, and once you import full container loads (FCL) it changes how you calculate your cost.


In a nutshell, container shipments are broken down into 3 (or 4) large categories:

  • Export costs (this includes inland freight, drayage, export customs fees, export duties, ISF Filing, pickup of freight, terminal charges, etc)

  • Transit costs (this is the actual cost of moving the 20'/40'/40'HC cargo, or less than container "LCL" load costs for loose cargo, plus whatever fees that are assessed by the actual ship operator at time of transit)

  • Import costs (this includes Customs Clearance Fee, port/harbor fees, any demurrage/detention fees, any Customs inspection fee, and the actual Customs Duty applied to the goods as declared)

Typically a good freight forwarder will take care of this for you, but even if you tried saving money you're still looking at a typical charge of around ~$400-600 worth of document/Customs fees, $300-600 worth of port handling costs, and around $700-1400 of actual ocean freight cost for a typical 20' container. Add in a 1.5% to 10%+ worth of duties and you're looking at a 20' container that costs around $2000-3000 plus duties to import.


This is the basis on which I try to price the goods available for sale, because the numbers are fairly easy to figure out: if $20000 worth of goods are imported, your freight charges (including duties) as a percentage of your merchandise is about 10-15%. If the merchandise is valued at $40k, then freight charges get reduced to about 5-7.5%.


There's some unknowns in this calculation, namely things like total weight of actual goods, box count, and secondary things relating to packaging of the container, and it adds a lot of uncertainty to the actual cost of goods being transported. A good way to look at it is this: if you have a 20'x8'x8.5' space to store things for transport, how do you stack everything so that it stays in the same way that it was shipped? Someone has to physically arrange the contents so it is protected and does not shift, and this costs money... sometimes a lot.


After the goods arrive, there's also the other concern about how to prepare it for shipping. A good example is the hood. Nissan typically packages their hoods with a box that covers about 60% of the actual sheet metal. The box is not designed to be transported for anything other than local deliveries, and it would need repackaging for truck freight. Figuring out how to ship this (along with other larger, bulkier items) adds to my cost, and it also adds to the final price I can offer end users.


So why all this typing? I want you, the customer, to understand the complexity of importing a large variety of goods, and to understand that this is a lot more complex than slapping a shipping label on a box. I have worked at enough different companies to understand that receiving the correct product is just as important as receiving an undamaged product, and especially with products with extensive lead times I want to make sure it's done right once the first time, the only time, and the last time.


I'm more than happy to answer any questions you may have regarding this process, but rest assured I want to keep providing quality parts for you for as long as it's available to order.


Thanks for reading.


Alex


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Since I started purchasing and selling automotive parts 20+ years ago, I've learned a lot about how the supply chain works for performance parts. But working with various vendors, factories, exporters