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Jack and Earl Echlin founded Echlin and Echlin in San Francisco in 1924. They manufactured automotive replacement parts such as igniter gears and oil pump gears. Eventually, they bought a small ignition company and went on to become one of the leading U.S. ignition manufacturers.
While Earl established a small machine shop, Jack appointed himself salesman of the firm and soon devised a one-evening sales clinic for salesmen of auto parts stores whose training had been largely neglected. Salesmen from out of town began asking for the class, and soon Jack was traveling to cities across the country conducting his one-evening workshop. Jack Echlin expanded his class into a technical as well as a sales clinic, in which students were taught the value of replacement parts.

His workshop and this new company achieved a national reputation, and his classes became the cornerstone of Echlin's marketing program.

In 1928, Echlin signed a contract to supply oil pump and ignition gears to the National Automotive Parts Association (NAPA) which, in turn, distributed those parts to garages across the country. Soon after Echlin began supplying ignition parts as well, and this was the beginning of what has become a lifelong relationship between NAPA and the Echlin brand.. NAPA became recognized as one of the most efficient distributors in the automotive parts market.

Continuing to demonstrate their understanding of the industry's needs, Echlin commenced publication of an ignition catalog in 1929. It was the first time an entire list of ignition parts was listed within a single Car Guide and proved to be a boon to mechanics.

This innovation was quickly followed with another--the Echlin Visumatic Business System, a specially designed cabinet in which a mechanic could organize a small inventory of popular replacement parts. Commonplace today, the Visumatic system was groundbreaking. This device (in effect, an inventory management system) moved automotive parts into the repair facility, where the mechanic had immediate access to them. The Visumatic system is still used by the NAPA Echlin brand today.

Echlin continued to grow through acquisition and development of new product lines including engine management expansion, as well as fuel systems parts.

Although a large source of the company’s success had been the distribution to warehouse distributors and non-traditional markets, Echlin’s greatest success has always been its relationship with NAPA, making the NAPA Echlin brand a household name.

In May of 1998, Echlin agreed to be acquired by Dana Corp. At the time, the Dana deal created an auto parts colossus but five years later in February of 2003 Dana agreed to sell a significant portion of the Engine Management operations of its Automotive Aftermarket Group to Standard Motor Products, and the Echlin brand joined the SMP family. Standard Motor Products continues to enhance and support the Echlin brand by strengthening the partnership with NAPA and positioning NAPA Echlin as the premier aftermarket automotive brand.

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