It was 1966. The first Ford Mustang was rolling off the assembly line, the Beatles were giving their last public performance in the US, and Ronald Reagan was elected Governor of California.
It was also in that same year that an important meeting took place between WIX Filters and NAPA. Mr. LG Alexander, the WIX representative, proposed that NAPA consider their own private label brand of filters, which WIX would manufacture. The folks at NAPA embraced the idea and, on a handshake, NAPA Filters, the first ever NAPA branded product, was born.
25 Men on a Mission
So later in that same year, 25 brave souls, the first NAPA Filters Sales force, undertook a momentous challenge. Armed with the first NAPA Filters application catalog of about 100 pages and 419 part numbers, they began calling on NAPA member companies.
Their challenge: Convince NAPA AUTO Parts to empty their shelves of Fram, AC/Delco, and Purolator filters and replace them with NAPA Filters. WIX had been around since 1939 and had revolutionized the oil changing world with its invention of the first spin-on oil filter in 1954. WIX had plenty of brand recognition in the marketplace, but this was bound to be a hard sale, replacing multiple iconic brands with the new NAPA branded filters. Until then, NAPA stores carried a wide selection of auto parts and accessories from various major brands, but none with the NAPA brand.
Showing dogged determination, sales expertise, and armed with an exciting idea with unlimited promise, the WIX sales force made a tremendous impact. In that first year NAPA Filters had 419 parts numbers, and sales of $1.6 million. These were pretty impressive numbers for a startup brand in the late 1960s. We knew we had something special.
Five Decades of Innovation
The ‘60s and ‘70s saw continued growth as more and more NAPA member companies came on board and committed to the NAPA Filters Brand. In the ‘70s, we had our first packaging change, moving from the original Yellow and Brown to the new Black And Blue.
In 1977, after 10 years as a NAPA supplier, we were gratified to receive our first Spirit of NAPA Award. This award is known as one of the automotive aftermarket’s most prestigious, We compete against other NAPA suppliers in number of critical categories like product quality, shipping performance, marketing, customer service and merchandising excellence.
In 1978, NAPA Filters introduced a cutting edge sales program; Fleet and Government Reporting, This created a way for NAPA AUTO Parts stores to garner more of the growing fleet business. It was then, and still is today, a key driver in growing the NAPA Filters business.
In the 80s, another round of sales and marketing enhancements were made to the NAPA Filters program. The “Chickasaw” brand, the first value-line filter, was one of the first evolving to the “Series 2” branding as NAPA moved to offering a more economical product option across many of its major lines. In the late 80s, it once again was reborn as NAPA Silver line, The mid ’80s saw the advent of the first NAPA Filters retail plan-o-gram. This marks the first time filters were showcased in the sales area. In 1985, in a move that would rival but vastly improve the reporting program of the late ’70s, NAPA Filters introduced the idea of direct shipments to NAPA AUTO Parts stores, Today, more than 60 percent of NAPA Filters are shipped directly to stores, These wise marketing decisions, along with hard work and commitment, helped NAPA Filters win its second Spirit of NAPA award in 1986 and by the end of the ‘80s, sales exceeded $100 million.
In the ’90s, sales continued to grow as, by then, all of the NAPA system had come onboard and was selling the NAPA Filters brand. We were also proud to win our third Spirit of NAPA Award in 1991.
As the year 2000 ushered in a new century, we won our fourth Spirit of NAPA award and sales had grown to $250 million. By then, NAPA Filters had earned solid brand recognition in the marketplace. Continued enhancements to the reporting and direct ship programs, along with solid marketing promotions, continued to make NAPA AUTO Parts stores more competitive in the marketplace and garner more and more sales and market share.
With the on-going relationship of WIX and NASCAR, another round of product and packaging changes were forthcoming. To take advantage of the popularity of a major motor sport, we introduced NASCAR Select and ProSelect.
ProSelect replaced NAPA Silver line and soon became the staple for the commercial installer market while NASCAR Select became the new retail brand, Also, during the first decade of the 21st Century, we were honored to win the Spirit of NAPA award for three consecutive years: 2004, 2005 and 2006.
In 2010, NAPA Filters stepped up to offer a new market for NAPA AUTO PARTS Stores and the NAPA channel to go after: Industrial Filtration. With an initial offering of over 8,000 part numbers, some stocked in the distribution centers and some made to order, this market opportunity on a global scale is much larger than the mobile filtration segment most familiar to NAPA AUTO Parts stores. Although NAPA Filters are already sold to fit forklifts, line trucks, and the like, tapping into the industrial filtration market allowed us to “go behind the scenes” and sell NAPA Filters in settings like paper mills, power generation plants, wind mill farms, and more. This market opportunity has the potential to take NAPA Filters and NAPA AUTO Parts stores to the next level.
Most recently, we re-positioned NAPA Filters as the Family of Filters: ProSelect, NAPA Silver, the original NAPA Gold and NAPA Platinum. This selection gives customers options based on how they drive, where they drive and when they change their oil. We are committed to continue to educate our customers on the importance of understanding what filters best fit their driving lifestyle. Our “All About How You Drive” marketing effort has helped customers make an educated decision when it comes to maintaining their vehicles.
As 2014 closed out, we won our record-setting tenth Spirit of NAPA award, we were truly honored. And here we are, in 2016, celebrating of our 50th Golden Anniversary. NAPA Filters has become a GLOBAL brand, With sales of over $500 million dollars and over 15,000 part numbers available through the NAPA system, you can find the filter you need wherever you are on the globe, Whether it’s a lawnmower, automotive or light truck, over the road truck, a tractor or even locomotive, you can find the corresponding NAPA Filter in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, Asia Pacific and most recently Australia and New Zealand.
As we enter the next half-century, we couldn’t be more excited about the future, What started with a handshake 50 years ago, remains today one of the most lasting and solid business relationships ever. We’d like to extend a gracious thank you to Genuine Parts Company, all the NAPA AUTO Parts Store owners, their employees, and our loyal customers for helping make our 50th Golden Anniversary be so gratifying, And, we vow to deliver excellence for at least another 50 years.
Source: NAPA Know How