FCP Euro: The Biggest Little Parts Store in the World

Paid article presented by FCP Euro

photos courtesy FCP Euro

Have you ever enjoyed a trip to the auto parts store? It’s doubtful you have in modern times. You’re probably picturing it now, in fact: The slow computer, the employee running it who’s never heard of a thermostat, the screaming customer who thinks his six-year-old battery should be replaced for free, and the random shoplifting dude. It’s not exactly a world-class experience, but it’s what we’ve all come to expect.

“But wait,” you say, “it didn’t use to be this way! Back before auto parts retailers went corporate, I knew everybody at my local store, and they were always super helpful!” Parts probably lasted longer back then, too, right? Yeah, that’s not your imagination. The rise of price-shopping and the internet have commoditized and centralized the distribution of auto parts, as most consumers shop based on price and little else. That’s both good and bad: You can buy a $15 brake caliper, but who knows how long it will last, and good luck getting some help figuring out if it will fit your car.

We’ll say it: The experience sucks, and we’re not the only ones who have noticed. There’s a growing industry comprised of upscale parts companies selling better parts with better service. FCP Euro is one of the largest, and today the company employs more than 100 people and stocks nearly $5 million of inventory. Oh, and did we mention their in-house race team? Yeah, you read that right.

This is the story of a massive company embodying the good-natured parts sellers of the past using today’s technology, while also going racing to promote the brand. Their mission? “Make European car ownership more enjoyable and more enduring.”

Origin Story

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FCP Euro wasn’t always a website. And it wasn’t always called FCP Euro. The business started as Foreign Car Parts of Groton, a charmingly rundown brick-and-mortar parts store. Harry and Kathy Bauer purchased it from another family member in 1986 and began running it with the help of their son, Nick. As the company history tells it, “Nick was eager to learn the family business” and helped out whenever he wasn’t in school.

Nick Bauer

The couple ran the small Groton store successfully for nearly two decades, focusing on customer service and never stooping to the cheap parts that promised low margins at the price of disappointed customers. Business was good, although FCP Euro now acknowledges at least one speed bump along the way: In 1998, Nick’s childhood friend Scott Drozd started working for the company, then promptly crashed a delivery truck and quit. Oops.

Scott Drozd

Nick Bauer changed his and his family’s life forever one night in 2000. A new website called eBay was gaining traction, and Nick figured it might be a good way to sell Volvo oil filters in his free time. He listed a few things on the site, and they sold well. So well, in fact, that he was soon listing FCP Groton parts on company time. In 2001, Nick registered fcpgroton.com, and by December his website had sold more parts than the brick-and-mortar store. Just like that, the mom-and-pop parts store had turned into an e-commerce business with Nick leading the charge.

The rest, as they say, is history. Remember Scott? He rejoined the company a year later, focusing his efforts on the eBay store while Nick focused on the website. Things went well: Over the next decade, FCP Groton had double-digit growth every year, moving to bigger spaces, opening a call center to field customer inquiries, and honing its strategy. Nick bought out his aging parents, too, allowing them to retire and him to focus on expansion. Eventually, the company was split into two websites aimed at different markets. FCP Euro sold parts for European cars, while FCP Import focused on Japanese cars. With Scott as CEO and Nick as President and Founder, FCP Euro exploded, becoming the company’s larger brand by a wide margin.

In 2013 the decision was made: The company finally closed its original brick-and-mortar store, shuttered FCP Import, and focused all of its energy on the European car parts segment. 2014 brought a new custom-built headquarters in Milford, Connecticut that allowed walk-up customers to be served once again and gave the growing company room to keep expanding.

Genuine vs. OE vs. OEM

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Before we continue, let’s rewind a bit and focus on the main difference between FCP Euro and other online parts sellers: It only sells genuine, original equipment, or original equipment manufacturer parts. What’s that mean? Here’s how FCP Euro explains it:

Original Equipment (OE) Parts: These are the same parts originally supplied to dealerships, except with the dealer logos removed. This is done by manufacturers so the parts can be sold outside the dealer network due to licensing agreements.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) Parts: These are produced by a manufacturer that supplies at least one OE part to a vehicle manufacturer. OEM parts may not have been original to the car, but are held to higher-quality standards and stringent quality control.

Genuine Parts: These parts come branded by the vehicle manufacturer and at a premium cost, as they’re sold through dealerships that have higher overhead expenses. These are the same parts you would find at your local dealership.

Notice what’s not on the list? Parts store brands, as well as those brands you’ve never heard of. Is that stuff cheaper? Absolutely. But as Michael Hurczyn, the company’s Brand Director, told us: “Cheap parts aren’t worth it.” FCP Euro backs that up, too, offering free lifetime replacement on every single part they sell. If you buy a radiator for your BMW and need a new one in ten years, they’ll send it for free. This applies to consumables like oil and brake pads, too. Why? Michael’s blunt in his explanation: “The house always wins. Even if we replace your oil and brake pads every year, you’re still going to buy tons of other parts from us. We do everything we can to not give you a reason to shop elsewhere.”

Want to learn more? FCP has an entire OE Academy on their website, where customers can learn about the different types of parts.

Let’s Go Racing

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FCP Euro had built a fantastic e-commerce business, but something was missing: enthusiasts. Not that Scott and Nick weren’t car people–they had daily drivers with Porsche, Mercedes, Saab, and similar badges–but FCP Euro’s customers weren’t buying because they loved the brand, they were buying because they loved the experience. That’s an enviable position for a company to be in, but Scott and Nick wanted more: They wanted to be a strong enthusiast brand.

Then they met Michael Hurczyn at a marketing conference in 2016, and he showed them how. Michael was a DIY racer campaigning his E30-chassis BMW 3 series in the American Endurance Racing series, and he pitched the massive parts company an outlandish idea: Sponsor his 30-year-old BMW. FCP Euro approved, and they had a good hook, too: Michael ran 83 hours of track time in his E30 that year, with every consumable other than tires covered by FCP Euro’s free replacement program.

Guess what? It worked, and showed that FCP Euro was an enthusiast’s brand, not just an efficient vector for replacement parts. And while a typical company would probably bar other racers from attempting the same free-parts loophole, they kept their promise, actually encouraging racers to buy and replace as many parts as they needed, with no limits on replacement, use, or abuse. At the end of that first season, Michael was hired full time.

Let’s Really Go Racing

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No longer just an E30 racer, Michael suddenly found himself in a growing company with a growing need: Build more dedication to the FCP Euro brand. Within his second hour of employment, he pitched his next idea: Race a Mercedes-Benz C300 in AER and bring his friend Nate Vincent onboard as Director of Motorsport at FCP Euro. By hour three, his budget was approved. Why Nate? Michael figured if they were going to go racing, they couldn’t do it as a side project. Why a C300? The company was already strong in the BMW parts business and wanted to grow their Mercedes sales. Plus, as Michael says, “It’s not another E46 BMW. It’s interesting!”

Just like that, a race team had been formed, and they started sucking the rest of the company in. The Mercedes was purchased, and hands from every department–shipping, customer service, development, procurement and more–went to work. They were building the C300 in the entryway to their distribution center, but they got it done: The Mercedes won its very first race, proving the idea (and the team) could work. They’d done it on a budget, too, buying, building and racing the car for $50,000, a small fraction of what most $50-million companies would spend to go endurance racing for a season.

At the same time, FCP Euro inked a deal to get its logo on a Pirelli World Challenge effort, too, sponsoring a BMW. The $80,000 expense stung, sure, but the exposure couldn’t be argued with. FCP Euro was no longer just the top result for BMW owners Googling a part; it was the company they wanted to buy from, the one they’d seen on track. And thanks to the C300 build, Mercedes-Benz grew to be the company’s second-largest brand after BMW.

And there were internal benefits: Remember those helping hands? The racing efforts gave the company a rallying point, something staff posted pictures of in cubicles and looked forward to on weekends. Scott, the CEO, didn’t quite know what to make of it. He hadn’t been coming to the track, and mostly knew the racing as that cool thing they were doing that seemed to be helping sales.

That changed during the 2017 company picnic, an annual tradition which moved that year to a new venue: The Pirelli World Challenge race at Lime Rock, where the entire company was there to watch the FCP Euro liveried BMW speed around the track. As Michael tells it, “That picnic was eye-opening.” Suddenly Scott Drozd got it and realized what racing had brought to the company. Michael says from that point forward their CEO has been 100% onboard with any and all racing efforts.

There’s another angle here, too: Relationships. Sure, FCP Euro was selling more parts because of its racing efforts, but it was selling sponsorship on its cars to its biggest vendors, too. The C300, for example, sports as many LIQUI MOLY logos as FCP Euro graphics. These logos helped in two ways: One, they paid for the racing, and two, they brought the two companies together. Michael couldn’t share too many specifics about these other deals, but noted that their LIQUI MOLY relationship had increased from $147,000 in revenue to over $1,000,000–and he credits racing with a large part of that.

Let’s Buy TCR Cars

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Michael’s E30 sponsorship ask had turned into company-wide support of two race cars. And it had worked, boosting staff engagement, vendor relationships, and sales. So for 2018, he hatched a plan: The C300 had worked to boost Mercedes-Benz sales, but Volkswagen parts presented a tremendous opportunity. There are just about as many VWs on the road as BMWs, but VW parts sales totaled only 10% of FCP Euro’s BMW sales. How do you get VW enthusiasts to buy parts? If the Mercedes was any indication, you go racing in one.

At the same time, TCR Touring cars were getting more and more popular in the US, and VW was selling a mean-looking Golf GTI TCR car. Michael ran the numbers and came to a realization: For not much more than what they were paying to sponsor the Pirelli World Challenge BMW, they could bring the professional race effort in-house and have total control over the brand experience. Just like that, the company ordered two TCR cars and enlisted Heinlein Racing Development to handle the logistics of getting the cars to each event. Scott, once the skeptical CEO willing to take a chance on racing, was now visiting AER and World Challenge events with his wife, geeking out over the new cars and proudly showing friends the race team. He got the rest of the executive team onboard, too, helping them to realize what racing had brought to the company.

Oh, and the company? It was onboard, too. FCP Euro employees are still the ones building the E30 and the C300, and it shows. Every FCP Euro race car sports dozens of signatures left there by the staffers who made it possible. Even the newbie unloading parts trucks probably played a role in the company’s latest race win.

What’s Next?

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FCP Euro is still growing like a weed, and it keeps winning awards and winning races. They’ve already outgrown that new building from 2014, so they’re currently building the FCP Euro Customer Experience Center, which will offer more space and more retail opportunities for their customers, including automated parts lockers for after-hours parts pickups. Michael thinks FCP Euro could do hundreds of millions of dollars of business every year, and we believe him. We asked him to sum up the reason for FCP Euro’s success, and he had a pretty good answer: “We try to actively participate in the community we operate in instead of just profiting off it.”

Need proof? Head on over to FCP Euro’s DIY Blog, where they’re posting daily about our world. Everything from new product reviews to down-and-dirty tech items are there, as well as other project cars. Check it out, and then bookmark FCPEuro.com for any time you’re looking for European car parts from a company that cares about our world. And if you spot somebody wearing an FCP Euro shirt in a paddock, ask them how their car is doing–the odds are good they’re racing something.

You can check out a digital walkthrough of the new FCP Euro Experience Center here:

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Comments
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einy
einy HalfDork
2/26/19 8:08 p.m.

FCP Euro is my go to store anymore for GTI parts.  Love working with those folks !!!

bludroptop
bludroptop UltraDork
2/26/19 8:33 p.m.

I've bought parts from them since the Long Hill Rd days- pre-internet.

Nice to see the become so successful. Congratulations.

gunner
gunner HalfDork
2/26/19 9:16 p.m.

While all(it seems like) the other BMW vendors chase profits FCP chases the community.  I'm going from roughly 50% parts bought from FCP to 90%. Thanks for the write up!

Tyler H
Tyler H UberDork
2/27/19 10:44 a.m.

Love FCP Euro because I can just go buy the part I need without wading through junk parts and cross-shopping 5 different brands.

The FCP back story is fascinating and makes me feel even better about feeding this needy old M3.

 

atl530i
atl530i New Reader
3/2/19 6:41 p.m.

Great story.  I've been buying parts from FCP since they were on eBay.  I still buy parts from them today for my many BMW's.  

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