Carlyle Fraser transformed a small auto parts distributing company into the world-renowned Genuine Parts Company.
In the 1920s, America fell in love with the automobile. More and more vehicles began traveling the roads, creating a need for an auto parts distribution system that could keep pace with the demand to keep our automobiles running. The National Auto Parts Association was created to meet those needs in 1925, setting standards and selling parts to jobbers. As a founder, Carlyle Fraser was on the front lines.
Fraser launched his own company in 1928 with business partner William “Bill” Martin, purchasing Motor Parts Depot in Atlanta, Georgia for $40,000. The previous store owner warned Fraser that “The automobile business has reached its peak.” Fraser was not discouraged.
In its first year, the store, renamed the Genuine Parts Company, had annual sales of $75,000 and six employees. Genuine Parts (GPC) pushed swift, reliable service as a way to outflank the competition.
Fraser’s relationship with the National Auto Parts Association (NAPA) became a perfect match. NAPA was created to help build a system of auto parts distribution. Partnerships made through NAPA helped Fraser take his single auto parts store and turn GPC into a network of distribution centers that bought auto parts from manufacturers and sold those parts to auto parts stores.
Over the years, Genuine Parts (GPC), in relationship with the NAPA brand, grew rapidly as independent garages for car repair emerged to meet the needs of the nation’s growing number of automobiles.
The stock market crash of 1929 and economic instability of the Great Depression also increased demand for auto parts because more people and businesses were repairing older vehicles rather than buying new ones. In 1931, GPC started refurbishing used parts to help customers in need of quality products at affordable rates.
During the 1930s, company sales went from $339,000 to $3.18 million. In the year of its 20th anniversary in 1948, the company had $20 million in sales. That same year the company went public, selling 150,000 shares of common stock at $11 per share.
A successful businessman, Fraser was elected President of NAPA, serving from 1941-1942. He also served as director of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States (1940-1949) and appointed a delegate to an International Labor Conference in Paris (1945).
Economic prosperity in the post-war years meant more and more Americans owned cars, with many families owning two. An increased number of cars on the roads meant a growing demand for auto parts.
In 1948, 20 years after GPC’s founding, sales hit $20 million and the company became publicly traded for the first time. The public could purchase common stock for $11 a share.
Fraser once attributed his success to being born under a lucky star, but admirers believed that it was hard work that set his star on the rise. Fraser developed Genuine Parts into the largest auto parts distribution business in the world, generating $82 million in sales by 1961.
In 1961, Fraser received the Saturday Evening Post’s first Automotive Service Industry Award “in recognition of his far-sighted leadership and outstanding service to the automotive service industry, his community and his fellow citizens.”
He was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame posthumously in 1981.
Genuine Parts Company Inductees and Awardees
1993 Awardee Dan Askey
1997 Inductee Joseph R. Degnan
1989 Awardee Earl Dolive
2020 Inductee Thomas Gallagher
1991 Inductee William C. Hatcher
1992 Inductee Wilton D. Looney
1999 Awardee Larry L. Prince
1995 Awardee John J. Scalley
1997 Awardee Carol Yancey