Tom Gallagher led Genuine Parts Company (GPC) for more than 25 years, as Chairman and CEO and, earlier, COO and President. In his 12 years as CEO, Tom roughly doubled Genuine Parts’ sales from $8.4 billion in 2003 to $16.3 billion in 2017. Currently he serves as a non-executive Chairman of GPC.
Gallagher was born in 1948 and graduated from the University of Maryland in 1970 with a BS in Marketing and a minor in Finance and Economics. Gallagher joined GPC right after graduation as a Management Trainee. Over the next 18 years he would continue to rise up through the management ranks throughout GPC, moving to management positions in New York, Massachusetts, Paris, France, Georgia, and Washington. In January of 1990 he became President and COO of GPC and eventually President and CEO in August of 2004 until 2012. He then served as Chairman and CEO until 2017 when he retired to a non-executive Chairmanship position. Gallagher was a relentless innovator who initiated and expanded programs to increase the competitiveness of independent, locally-owned parts stores, train and enhance the image of automotive technicians, and advance the interests of millions of auto owners across North America. He was able to do the same when he was instrumental in expanding NAPA to Australia and New Zealand. Tom led Genuine Parts Company, the parent company of NAPA, for more than 25 years. During his tenure as Chairman and CEO as well as President and COO of GPC, Tom positively influenced every aspect of the company’s business, guiding the organization during a period of robust growth and long-term value creation for the company’s consumers, independent stores and repair shops, suppliers, shareholders, employees, and communities.
Tom helped improve the competitiveness and ensure the ongoing commercial viability of independent, locally owned parts dealers and repair shops at a time when the tide of the industry was moving toward large corporate chains. Beginning in the mid-1980s, Gallagher saw the expansion of corporate-owned auto parts retail chains and repair shops, and became concerned about the long-term competitiveness and ultimate viability of independent, locally-owned NAPA stores. To combat the increase in commercial competition, he led the NAPA Direct Ship Program, which allowed independent NAPA stores to order fast-moving items directly from NAPA suppliers, without the items going through the NAPA distribution system. This allowed independent stores to get items shipped within 10 days and even overnight for substantial discounts. Today, more than half of NAPA’s business is done through direct shipments. He also initiated the NAPA Master Installer Rebate Program, which helped NAPA stores compete with manufacturer-direct suppliers. A final effort to support the independent NAPA store was the Progressive Owner Program (known today as NAPA’s Growth Cap Program), a program that guarantees bank loans to experienced owners interested in buying or building additional stores. Today, more than 500 independent NAPA stores are part of this program.
In connection with supporting locally owned shops, he also initiated programs to train generations of new and established automotive technicians and polish the public image of mechanics. This helped strengthen the long-term health of the industry and gave technicians enhanced opportunities to succeed in their careers and provide for their families. With Gallagher’s emphasis on supporting industry professionals, NAPA now offers state-of-the-art training for technicians and provided support to major trade organizations including the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and the Automotive Service Association (ASA). Programs like the NAPA Autotech program provides aftermarket technicians with structured, disciplined, measurable, and high-quality technical instruction creating better career development opportunities.
Gallagher was also a champion of legislative and public policy efforts designed to protect the interests of consumers while maintaining the healthy free-market competition and keeping replacement parts and auto repairs broadly affordable to the motoring public. Gallagher helped create and lead CARE, the Coalition for Auto Repair Equality, which mounted a concerted, sustained and ultimately effective program to educate consumers and policymakers on the dangers involved in the proposed anti-competitive legislation.