To win a greater share of the truck parts market in the U.S. – and potentially lay to groundwork to boost both new and used commercial vehicle sales – Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) is overhauling its aftermarket parts business; an effort that includes completely revamping its retail inventory management or “RIM” system, raising the level of dealership performance, as well as improved leveraging of its network of six component re-manufacturing facilities.

“Parts availability is the biggest driver of success in this business,” Friedrich Baumann, DTNA’s senior VP-aftermarket, explained during a recent round table meeting with reporters in Miami, FL. “We need to make sure downtime in minimized for the customer, that our parts business is more closely aligned with the TCO [total cost of operation] goals of the customer. We must deliver on this day in and day out.”

Todd Biggs, DTNA’s director of aftermarket parts and service marketing, noted that accomplishing those goals will require a more “retail” approach by its Alliance Truck Parts division as well as by creating what he called a “true all-makes” aftermarket parts portfolio.

[Click here to see photos of the NASCAR Nationwide race team sponsored by Alliance.]

“We want to get a bigger piece of the [parts and service] pie but not just for DTNA brands,” such as Freightliner and Western Star, Biggs said. “Part of that is helping the dealers see opportunity. By pulling customers into the dealership for parts, whatever their make of truck, we can help build trust in that dealer so that at the point they need to buy a new or used truck, they go to them.”

That’s also critical to helping DTNA and Alliance craft what Biggs dubbed a “reverse strategy” to build truck sales. “Our research shows that while 50% of the ‘first owners’ of a truck come back to the dealer for parts and service, only 34% of second and third owners do,” he explained. “Basically, after 6 years of ownership, most aren’t returning to the dealer. So we want to create more ‘value’ for them so they do return.”

Baumann said DTNA’s new RIM system – which goes into pilot testing with select dealers this week – is a crucial piece of that effort as its designed to vastly improve parts forecasting as well as better position high-demand parts for national fleet customers.

Another piece focuses on the dealers themselves, through DTNA’s new “Elite Support” certification process, which uses 135 specific criteria across 19 “customer experience points” to measure dealership performance – a process that typically takes nine months for a dealer to complete, Baumann said.

“We have 120 locations certified so far, with 18 in the process,” he said. “We hope to have 300 plus by 2014.”

Finally, Baumann said DTNA expects its reman facilities – five in the U.S. and one in Canada – to play a larger role down in helping customers manage TCO for their operations. “We see a huge opportunity in electronic component remanufacturing, especially on the powertrain side,” he noted.

Baumann even envisions a role for DTNA’s new Detroit Connect Visibility all-makes telematics solutions for mixed fleets – due to roll out in the first quarter next year – in helping grow the company’s presence in the aftermarket business.

“We’re going to introduce and onboard tablet [computer] with this system that will be mounted in the vehicle to create a much more ‘integrated’ telematics solution for truck support and service when out of the road,” he pointed out. “We believe there’s a lot of prospective for parts demand for this going forward.”

Baumann also stressed that DTNA’s push to revamp its aftermarket parts strategy is in recognition of the huge impact OEMs can have on customer TCO.

“About 50% of vehicle TCO is related to what an OEM can manage,” he explained. “About 35% [of TCO] is related directly to fuel economy, with 15% related to pats, service and [vehicle] downtime. That’s why all of our initiatives are designed to help customers better manage their TCO.”