New Acquisition Offers Expertise In Retail Sales

THE ability to sell truck bodies and equipment on a retail level was one of several attributes that made Layton Truck Equipment an attractive acquisition for the Auto Truck Group. The group consists of Auto Truck Inc located in the Chicago suburb of Bensenville, Illinois; Fort Wayne Fleet Equipment in Roanoke, Indiana; and now Layton Truck Equipment of Colorado Springs.

As of July 1, the Colorado Springs, Colorado, truck equipment distributor completed its first year as part of the Auto Truck Group. Benefits of the acquisition have been mutual, according to both Auto Truck and Layton management.

"Most companies that have a long history and an ability to survive also show a willingness to change and to diversify," says Jim Dondlinger, president of the Auto Truck Group. "Auto Truck and Fort Wayne Fleet Equipment are railroad and fleet oriented. Layton does a good job of reaching truck dealers and end users. All of us have learned a lot from each other during the past year."

Although Layton and its sister companies operate chassis pools, the nature of the operations is different. Auto Truck and Fort Wayne Fleet Equipment specialize in producing large orders for a small number of customers, while Layton tends to build small orders for a large number of customers.

"Companies in our industry can't afford to let themselves stay in their own comfort zones," Dondlinger says. "Until we acquired Layton, we really had limited experience serving customers that only need one or two trucks. The Layton personnel have given us new ideas and systems that we have been able to apply in Bensenville and Fort Wayne."

Other Advantages Layton brought the Auto Truck Group other advantages as well. Among them:

Geographic diversity. Fleet accounts had been asking Auto Truck about other locations. By having a shop 1,000 miles west of Chicago, Auto Truck is in a better position to service national accounts. "We knew we needed westbound exposure for our fleet and railroad customers," Dondlinger says. "The only question we had prior to our acquisition of Layton was whether to buy an existing company or open our own branch."

Expanding local market. Colorado Springs is growing rapidly. In addition, the city is just south of Douglas County, the fastest-growing county in the United States.

Support of truck manufacturers. Layton Truck Equipment has a good working relationship with major truck manufacturers. The company operates chassis pools for Chevrolet and GMC and finished second last year among Dodge Truck pool accounts.

Works Both Ways The acquisition offers mutual benefits for the three companies. Marc Lewis, general manager at Layton, lists several of them:

Engineering. Auto Truck has a long history of manufacturing specialized truck bodies. Layton now has access to the engineering staff in Bensenville.

Computers. Auto Truck has a sophisticated computer system, including CAD, that enables all three locations to share data.

Financial strength. The company recently bought 15 acres for a future expansion. The new facility is expected to help Layton grow its retail, local, and dealer bailment pool business.

Sales strength. "We were not strong with the railroads until our acquisition," Lewis says. "Now we are getting more and more business as a result of our relationship with the Auto Truck Group."

Management frequently uses the term synergy since Layton was acquired.

"This is a case of one plus one plus one not equaling three," Dondlinger says, referring to all the reasons above. "With us, the sum is more equal to five because of the additional efficiencies."

"Layton is a dynamic group of people," says Dennis Jones, executive vice-president of sales and marketing for the three locations. "All the building blocks we need are here. After one year having Layton as part of the Auto Truck Group, we are right where we want to be."

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