With the world so focused on the rising price of a barrel of light crude oil, it's a wonder that people even get into their cars and drive around anymore. Despite these adverse conditions, a warm light was shining on automotive replacement parts distributor Genuine Parts (NYSE:GPC) this morning as it released its earnings.

Genuine Parts operates in four main segments that overall produced 7.3% sales growth in the third quarter. The automotive parts group (53% of total net sales) produced a 3% gain; the industrial parts group (27%) was up 14%; the office products group (17%) increased 8%; and the electric/electronics materials group (3%) advanced 15%. To support these strong gains in industrial parts and electric/electronics materials, the company thinks the manufacturing sector (which is the primary customer base) is advancing at a "healthy rate."

The company produced earnings of $0.56 per share in the third quarter, which was on target with the consensus estimate and $0.05 (or 11%) ahead of last year's earnings. This good news bucks the trend of recent earnings disappointments from CSK Auto (NYSE:CAO) and AutoZone (NYSE:AZO), a reduced third-quarter outlook from Advance Auto Parts (NYSE:AAP), and less-than-glowing summer sales at Pep Boys (NYSE:PBY).

You read all kinds of excuses from these companies in the automotive aftermarket parts industry, from high gas prices to sluggish consumer spending. My take on the difficulties these companies are experiencing is twofold: a reliance on retail sales and an industry that is as competitive as the telemarketers calling at dinnertime.

If you're an income investor looking for a solid payer with a diverse product offering in this industry, then Genuine Parts is the obvious choice. The company's juicy dividend yield of 3.27% far outdistances the only other competitor paying a dividend: Pep Boys, with a 2.17% yield.

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Fool contributor Phil Wohl spent more than 12 years on Wall Street and drives a red 1994 Ford Mustang GT convertible. He does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.