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Light truck tire dealer sows good will, reaps the benefits LOOKING GOOD: How to optimize your mobile presence

THE INDUSTRY’S LEADING PUBLICATION

How to use Car Care Month to increase service traffic

March 2012 | Vol. 93, No. 3 | $10 | A Bobit Publication | www.moderntiredealer.com

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Features 18 Springing into seasonal maintenance

The Industry’s Leading Publication

Boyd’s Tire uses its website, Groupon and Playpon to promote checkups and bring in new customers

March 2012, Volume 93, Number 3

Departments 4 Editorial Get put to the test

20 ROE: Return on education

6 Online

Use Car Care Month to educate customers, attract maintenance and repair business

Traffic report — Most-read news on Modern Tire Dealer’s website

8 News/views RMA’s mascot goes on tour for National Tire Safety Week

16 Ludwig Report Stock up on tires, as higher prices may well be on the way

36 Business insight Optimizing for the mobile world: Making sure you have a total online presence

38 Counter intelligence

24 No snow needed to sell winter tires

Educate consumers on safety to bring in winter tire sales and additional profit centers

30 Dealer sows good will, reaps light truck tire sales

Customers respond to community involvement, fair pricing and quality products

On the cover: Thank you to our friends at Tire Source Montrose (Ohio) and especially Bobby Gainer, who appears in our cover photo.

Visual merchandising: Improving product presentation increases sales margins

39 Focus on industry From the mouth of McClellan: ‘We’re not chasing volume,’ says Goodyear president

40 Focus on industry Super Bowl party: Bridgestone shares trends with Madonna in tow

41 Focus on industry An all-season UHP tire with legs: Nitto backs Motivo with a 60,000-mile warranty

42 TPMS Be an MD for Acura MDX TPMS: Discard valve stem grommets from Acura MDX TPMS sensors

50 Your turn High tire prices are causing a safety issue

44 Products 46 Quik-Link 47 Classified

Modern Tire Dealer is a proud member of:

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Editorial

Get put to the test B

efore anyone can perform tire service, they must be trained in a myriad of techniques and procedures from identifying lifting points and raising vehicles to evaluating and repairing damaged tires. The Tire Industry Association (TIA) wants to help your technicians. TIA’s 2012 Certified Automotive Tire Service (ATS) By Bob Bissler Instructor Tour is coming to a town near you. The 12-month, 28-city tour kicked off in January in Ohio and Missouri ri and is traveling across the nation. Those who attend the four-day class and pass a 100-ques-tion exam will be certified as Advanced ATS Instructors, allowing them to certify instructors and technicians in the field. Modern Tire Dealer is proud to be one of the 21 sponsors of TIA’s ATS tour. We regularly promote training in the pages of MTD and at www.moderntiredealer.com.

Jim Grant was. He’s owner of four East Ridge Fast Lube locations in Chattanooga, Tenn. He was a student with me in TIA’s very first Certified ATS Instructor training in North Canton, Ohio. Grant says that before the training, if a customer with a front-wheel-drive vehicle buying only two tires asked to have them mounted on the front, he would have done it. These days, more consumers are saving money and only buying two tires at a time. When that happens, the new rubber needs to go on the rear axles. Why? Oversteer. Those new tires on the front can provide all the traction in the world, but if the vehicle goes into a slide, oversteer can cause the rear tires to dangerously lose control. TIA also clears up miscconceptions regarding torque. Since I first learned to to use a torque wrench about 35 years ago, I believed that torque was the force which to holds a wheel onto a vehicle. ho W hat I learned is that torque tor is simply a setting. Wh What actually does hold a wheel on a vehicle? Clampwhe ing force. If you didn’t know that, you could be a candidate for T TIA’s training tour. TIA also teaches an extremely TI valuable procedure to help valua technicians remember the key techn components of clamping force. TIA has come up with the acronym RIST. “R” is for remove debris from mating surfaces. “I” is for inspect the components. “S” stands for snug the lug nuts in a star pattern. “T” stands for torque the lug nuts to specification. And never use more than one extension on the end of a torque wrench. There was a lot to learn in four days, with a lot of hands-on training. I thought it was challenging and very interesting. I was a bit apprehensive about taking the certification test, because I hadn’t taken a test since I graduated from college in 1988. And I hadn’t worked Bob Bissler, MTD’s senior editor, learned that “torque” is simply a setting on cars on a regular basis since I worked in a and “clamping force” is what actually holds a wheel onto a vehicle. body shop 25 years ago. So as the tour’s only trade magazine sponsor, we decided I’m happy to report that — I passed! that someone from our staff should attend the training. For more information on TIA’s 2012 Certified ATS I’m proud to say that is was me. Instructor Tour, visit www.tireindustry.org and click on Could there be training that you need... or that you “Certified ATS Advanced Instructor Training Tour.” ■ don’t know you need? You may be surprised at what you If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me could learn. at bob.bissler@bobit.com.

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Online

Traffic report Most-read news on MTD’s website

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hat’s going on at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.? That’s what a lot of readers of MTD’s website www.moderntiredealer.com wanted to know

last month. Goodyear news ws ranked the highest st in number of “hits”” in February. The topp news items includ-ed “7 megatrends from Goodyear’s Rich Kramer,” “Two Goodyears, a Dunlop and retread innovation,” “What happened at Goodyear’s dealer meeting?” “Goodyear ar North American Tire sales rise 20%,” “Goodyear year adds member to Eagle F1 family,” and “New Dunlop Signature replaces three lines.” Yokohama Tire Corp. news also was popular, with many website visitors clicking on to read “Yokohama’s King addresses pricing, the economy and a new tire, the Avid Ascend,” and “Yokohama to raise consumer tire prices.” Michelin Groupe news was well-read, too, including “One word for Michelin’s profit in 2011: Wow!” A news item on a tire dealer also made the most popular list: “Bauer Built plans to expand in the Midwest.” Rounding out the top news items was one quoting MTD’s contributing writer Saul Ludwig, the industry’s top tire industry analyst, concerning his prediction that “Consumer tire sales should increase.” Also popular were links to a blog from MTD Editor Bob Ulrich asking “Did Bridgestone get flipped off post Super Bowl?” and one of MTD’s photo galleries: “Who’s who — the Goodyear dealer meeting in photos.” An item in our Racing News section also was a winner — “Team Falken scores 1st win at King of the Hammers.” Quite a variety of interests! So for the latest news items, readers’ comments and handy links for additional information, go to www.moderntiredealer.com. And be sure to add your own your comments!

Total access — totally free www.moderntiredealer.com

3515 Massillon Road, Suite 350 Uniontown, Ohio 44685 (330) 899-2200, fax (330) 899-2209 Web site http://www.moderntiredealer.com Editor: ROBERT J. ULRICH Bob.Ulrich@bobit.com Managing Editor: LORI L. MAVRIGIAN Lori.Mavrigian@bobit.com Senior Editor: BOB BISSLER Bob.Bissler@bobit.com Contributors: Auto Service/Technical: MIKE MAVRIGIAN Training/Tire Service: KEVIN ROHLWING Industry Analyst: SAUL LUDWIG Art Director: NEAL WEINGART Neal.Weingart@bobit.com Production Manager: KAREN RUNION Karen.Runion@bobit.com Publisher: GREG SMITH Greg.Smith@bobit.com South and Texas: GREG SMITH Greg.Smith@bobit.com (330) 899-2200, fax (330) 899-2209 Midwest: MICHELE VARGO Michele.Vargo@bobit.com (330) 899-2200, fax (330) 899-2209 West Coast: JOHN DYAL The Dyal Company John.Dyal@bobit.com (760) 451-5026, fax (760) 451-5039 West Coast: MARIANNE DYAL The Dyal Company Marianne.Dyal@bobit.com (760) 451-9216 Automotive Aftermarket: DAN THORNTON djtinc@gmail.com (734) 676-9135, mobile (313) 410-0945 fax (734) 675-6744 Classified Sales: DONNA STEWART Donna_Stewart@cox.net (405) 513-6794, fax (360) 406-7576 Reprint Sales: KAREN RUNION Karen.Runion@bobit.com (330) 899-2200, fax (330) 899-2209 Customer/Subscription Service: (888) 239-2455, fax (888) 274-4580

Modern Tire Dealer is a Bobit Publication Executive offices: 3520 Challenger St. Torrance, CA 90503 Chairman: Edward J. Bobit CEO & President: Ty F. Bobit Chief Financial Officer: Richard E. Johnson

MODERN TIRE DEALER (ISSN 00268496) (CDN IPM #40013413) (USPS #369-170) is published monthly by Bobit Business Media, 3520 Challenger St., Torrance, California 90503-1640. Periodicals postage paid at Torrance, CA 90503-9998 and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to MODERN TIRE DEALER, P.O. Box 1068, Skokie, IL 60076-8068. Please allow 6 to 8 weeks for address changes to take effect. Subscriptions in the U.S. and its possessions, $65; Canadian, $99; Int’l surface mail, $99; Int’l airmail, $198. Single copies, $10, except the January Facts Issue, $30. Address all subscription correspondence to MODERN TIRE DEALER, P.O. Box 1068, Skokie, IL 60076-8068. Please allow 6 to 8 weeks to receive your first issue. Please address Editorial and Advertising correspondence to MODERN TIRE DEALER, 3515 Massillon Road, Suite 350, Uniontown, OH 44685-6217. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced either in whole or in part without consent of Bobit Business Media. All statements made, although based on information believed to be reliable and accurate, cannot be guaranteed and no fault or liability can be accepted for error or omission. For your information: We sometimes make our subscriber information (i.e. fax, e-mail or mailing address) available to carefully screened organizations whose products and services may be of interest to you. If you prefer not to have your information made available, please write MODERN TIRE DEALER, P.O. Box 1068, Skokie, IL 60076-8068.

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News/views

RMA’s mascot goes on tour for National Tire Safety Week The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) will conduct its 11th annual National Tire Safety Week (NTSW) June 3-9, 2012. To promote NTSW and raise awareness of the various aspects of tire safety, the RMA is taking its mascot, “Phillip the Tire,” on the campaign trail this election year. In January, the association announced that Phillip the Tire is running for the U.S. presidency with the campaign slogan “America Needs Inflation.” The purpose of the campaign and NTSW, an initiative of the RMA’s year-long “Be Tire Smart — Play your PART” consumer education program, is to draw attention to the need for proper tire care and maintenance. (PART is RMA’s acronym for pressure, alignment, rotation To promote National Tire Safety Week, RMA mascot Phillip the Tire (a.k.a. RMA’s and tread.) Public Affairs Manager Laura Polacheck) was a guest of the Spirit of Goodyear “Many participating retail crew and blimp pilots Rob Delarange (L) Jerry Hissem (R). outlets use National Tire To help with the promotion, the Goodyear Tire & Safety Week to promote tire care through advertising, promotions, free tire pressure checks and media Rubber Co. recently hosted RMA’s mascot at its Wingfoot Lake Airship Hangar in Mogadore, Ohio. outreach,” says Dan Zielinski, RMA’s senior vice The blimp the Spirit of Goodyear flashed special president of public affairs. “More than 21,000 tire messages for the mascot, including “National Tire dealers, auto dealers and automotive repair shops Safety Week,” Be tire smart, play your PART, ” and participated during the 2011 National Tire Safety “Under pressure? Check your tires.” Week.” For more information on the Be Tire Smart program RMA provides tire retailers, auto dealers and and National Tire Safety Week, visit the website automotive repair shops with free “Be Tire Smart” www.betiresmart.org. brochures and other materials.

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News/views Goodyear recalls LT tires Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has recalled 41,000 Wrangler Silent Armor light truck tires produced from March 31 through May 31, 2009. The sizes being recalled are LT235/80R17 LRE, LT325/60R18 LRE, LT275/70R18 LRE, LT265/70R17 LRE, LT245/75R17 LRE and LT285/70R17 LRD. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Defects Investigation, the tires being recalled “may experience a partial tread area separation under certain severe usage conditions.” Goodyear will notify owners and replace the tires free of charge. The safety recall is expected to begin on or before March 22, 2012.

Book tells Discount Tire founder’s stor y Michael Rosenbaum’s “Six Tires, No Plan” tells the story of Bruce Halle, founder and chairman of Discount Tire Co. Inc. The company is tied for number one on the latest MTD 100 list. With 800 retail stores throughout the United States, Discount Tire Co. Inc. grossed more than $3 billion in 2010. The book tells how Halle got his start in 1960 with a total of six tires (four of which were retreads) and $17,000 in debt. Now at the age of 81, Halle has gone from debtor to Forbes’ 96th richest American (September 2011). Written by business consultant and former business journalist Michael Rosenbaum, the book can be ordered on Amazon.com.

ITDG launches intranet site The Independent Tire Dealers Group LLC (ITDG) has launched a new online tool. The intranet program allows members to access inventories of select members across the country and order tires at the same time. Edward Long, vice president of sales and marketing, says, “The system has made it much more transparent for the members to work with each other and keep purchases inside the group.” ITDG Online has been a collaborative member effort that began more than a year ago and was led by ITDG member and stockholder Clayton Miller at Mainstreet Tire USA in Colorado Springs, Colo. Miller worked closely with ITDG members and the software development company to create a straightforward online program that is easy to use and understand.

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News/views

bites TGI across the globe Tire Group International LLC (TGI) has appointed Brett Romberg territory manager for Canada. The move continues the company’s expansion of its international sales team. In partnership with Transportation Resources Partners (TRP), TGI is positioning itself as a leading wholesale tire distributor worldwide. Apollo’s new UHP tire Apollo Tyres Ltd. launched a UHP summer passenger tire at the 82nd International Motor and Accessories Show in Geneva, Switzerland March 8-18, 2012. The tire is available in W- and Y-rated sizes. Apollo was introduced in Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Netherlands in 2011. Plans are to expand into Switzerland, Austria and Denmark. Bauer Built to expand Bauer Built Inc. has named Jim Fenn to a new executive vice president position. Fenn has been at Bauer Built for 30 years and is a 42-year tire industry veteran. As Vice President of Business Development, he will expand and grow Bauer Built’s business across the Midwest. CIMS promotes safety At the recent meeting of the National Automobile Dealers Association, CIMS Tire Registration emphasized to U.S. auto dealers the importance of consumer safety, and its relationship to tire registration.Visitors to the CIMS exhibit learned that while tire registration is a mandate of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, it is important for tire sellers to underscore the reasons behind the process. TCS goes retail mobile Tire Company Solutions (TCS) Technologies has launched mobile versions of their client’s retail websites and web applications. The mobile sites allow easy access to the dealer’s website from a smartphone or tablet device. Boyd’s Tire & Service Center, a sevenstore chain located in Columbus, Ohio, is TCS’ first customer. Boyd’s is profiled on page 18 of this issue.

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TIA, RMA: tire aging bill hurts dealers Representatives of the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) met with Maryland legislators on Feb. 21, 2012, to oppose the state’s proposed tire aging bill. HB 729 would require redundant labeling of tires with date of manufacture. The bill would also impose record-keeping mandates on small businesses that sell tires. RMA’s Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs and Corporate Counsel Tracey Norberg testified that the bill would force retailers and manufacturers to issue factually inaccurate statements about tire performance and create impractical consumer notification requirements that have no documented safety benefit. “We put together a very strong showing,” says TIA Executive Vice President Dr. Roy Littlefield. “We systematically addressed consumer education, training, and our efforts with NHTSA. Dealers each discussed the liability, paperwork record keeping and inventory concerns that this bill would create.” Littlefield says this is a great example of what can be accomplished by the associations working together and speaking in one voice.

Bridgestone’s Aiken: 100 million tires The Aiken County, Tenn., passenger and light truck tire facility of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC (BATO) has produced its 100 millionth tire. “Our teammates here in Aiken are dedicated to making the best products possible every day,” says Plant Manager John Stewart. “It’s a reflection of our company’s global philosophy, which we call the Bridgestone Way.” The 100 millionth tire was a Bridgestone Dueler A/T RH-S, one of the company’s premium light truck, SUV and CUV tires. The tire was signed by guests attending the early afternoon event and will be displayed in the plant’s welcome lobby. The Aiken County facility, maker of both radial passenger and (Left to right) BATO’s Vice President of light truck tires, began opManufacturing Barry Owens, Aiken Plant erations in 1999. In 2011, the Manager John Stewart and Aiken County company announced two phases Council Chairman Ronnie Young with the Aiken County facility’s 100 millionth tire. of expansion for the plant.

Union ratifies pact with Cooper Tire The United Steelworkers (USW) Local 207L ratified a new five-year labor agreement with Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. Union members voted 627 to 321 in favor of the agreement, as reported after voting concluded Monday, Feb. 27, 2012. The agreement affects 1,050 union members in Findlay, Ohio. In a joint statement, both parties said they are pleased to have reached an agreement and are looking forward to the Findlay consumer tire manufacturing plant employees returning to work. The agreement ends a three-month lockout that began on Nov. 28, 2011.

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News/views

bites VAST Aftersoft retreading Retread software is available from Aftersoft Network N.A. Inc. that targets the production control of truck tire retreading. Aftersoft’s new VAST Enterprise-Retread software is a fully integrated option for the VAST Enterprise Management System. It offers order management; production control; quality assurance; and sales and distribution management. Sumitomo grows in Brazil Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd. recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for its first tire production factory in South America. The ceremony was carried out on the construction site of the passenger tire factory in Fazenda Rio Grande City, Parana State, Brazil. Sumitomo plans to begin producing passenger tires at the plant in October 2013. Production capacity will be 15,000 tires a day by the end of 2016. Terry’s opens distribution center Alliance, Ohio-based Terry’s Tire Town is opening a 135,000-squarefoot distribution center in East Taunton, Mass., to replace a smaller, leased facility in Brockton, Mass. The expansion follows a series of acquisitions resulting from a strategic partnership in November 2010 between Terry’s Tire Town CEO Will Tolerton, of the company’s founding family, and Talisman Capital Partners. NCTDA Hall of Famers The North Carolina Tire Dealers Association (NCTDA) inducted two tire industry veterans into its Hall of Fame at its annual Buying Expo & Trade Show in Raleigh, N.C. in February. Bucky Stein, Target Tire, Jacksonville, N.C., and George Pugh, Pugh’s Tire Service, Greenville, N.C., are this year’s inductees. User-friendly Dunlop website Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. has launched the redesigned Dunlop tire website, DunlopTires.com. It is designed to connect consumers with their local Dunlop retailers. The site features a Tire Buying Guide and Retailer Locator, as well as information on tire care.

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JK Tyre targets the U.S. JK Tyre & Industries Ltd. is one of the largest full-line tire producers in India. It exports tires to more than 80 countries, making it a global tire company. But Raghupati Singhania wants more. As vice chairman and managing director, Singhania is leading the push for more capacity. He is aggressively expanding truck radial capacity in India and will subsequently set up truck radial capacity in Mexico. The JK organization was founded more than 100 years ago. Its JK Tyre subsidiary started manufacturing tires in 1977. At the time, it had annual capacity of 500,000 tires. Entering 2012, JK Tyre had the capacity to produce 16.6 million tires per year. By the end of the year, Singhania expects that to grow 17.5%, to 19.5 million. By 2015, capacity “will grow to 26 million tires annually.” With the recent addition of a radial passenger and truck tire manufacturing plant in Chennai, India, JK In 2011, JK Tyre posted sales of $1.3 billion. Vice Tyre has nine plants. Six Chairman and Managing Director Raghupati Singhania expects sales to increase by 20% this are in India; three are in year. “By 2015, our goal is to increase sales to Mexico, in or near Mexico $3.4 billion,” he says. City. The Chennai facility has the capacity to produce 7.5 million passenger and 1.4 million truck tires annually. In three years, JK Tyre’s total capacity of passenger radials will be increased to 12.5 million and truck radial tires to 2.7 million. In Mexico, JK Tyre produces radial passenger, light truck and truck tires; and bias light truck, truck, farm and industrial tires. According to Singhania, the company is converting bias truck tire capacity to farm and specialty tire production for the U.S., “a good market for us.” Over time, Singhania says he wants to increase exports to the U.S. in all areas. That includes passenger tires, not only Tornel (made in Mexico) but also the company’s namesake brand (made in India). The company also exports select OTR tire sizes, up to 57 inches, produced at its three-yearold plant in Mysore, India. “A 63-inch is on the cards,” he says.

Rollier to step down at Michelin Michel Rollier, 67, managing general partner and chairman of Groupe Michelin, will leave the position on May 11. If shareholders agree, JeanDominique Senard, who was elected non-general managing partner in May 2007 and managing general partner last May, will succeed Rollier Michel Rollier (left) will leave Groupe as the group’s chairman. Michelin in May. He will be succeeded by Jean-Dominique Senard. Pete Selleck, chairman and president of Michelin North America, says, “Michel Rollier’s leadership throughout the recent global economic crisis kept Michelin on track, growing and profitable. He leaves a strong legacy and a robust, top-performing company.”

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Ludwig Report

Stock up on tires, as higher prices may well be on the way

L

ast month I wrote that due January 2011. High prices, unseasonable warmth and a growto sharply lower raw material ing yet shaky economy are all factors that were likely keeping costs during 4Q11, I would sales volumes from growing. Truck tire sales also were flat in not expect to see any further tire January, but dealers remain optimistic. Retreaded tire sales, price hikes any time soon. Unfortuwhich had previously been strong throughout 2011, fell 3%. nately, that was a wrong call because predictability of future raw material Raw material costs surge early in 2012 prices is all but impossible. Since the The average cost for a size 215/60R16 major brand tire was start of 2012 there has been a sharp up 1% while the selling price was up 2%. The average cost upturn in nearly every raw material and selling price for a 215/60R16 private brand tire was flat. that a tire manufacturer uses. CarThe recent surge in raw material costs is making it less likely bon black is up 20% and other key By Saul Ludwig that tire prices will show any meaningful decrease in the near ingredients such as natural rubber, future, as was previously expected. butadiene and styrene (used to make synthetic rubber), zinc oxide and chemicals all have turned up, too. Yokohama has Pricing seen as a mixed bag already responded with an 8% price hike for consumer and In January 2012, 46% of passenger tire dealers saw pricing as truck tires which started Feb. 1 and Continental increased truck very firm while another 36% saw it as normal. The remaining tire prices 9% effective Feb. 15. I would not be surprised to 18% saw it as aggressive. Forty percent of truck tire dealers see others follow. Yes, the consumer has been rebelling about saw pricing as normal while 40% saw it as aggressive and 20% price hikes for everything (have you been to your supermarket saw it as very firm. lately?), but as to tires, manufacturers need to recover costs if they are to be a solid supplier. Additionally, inventories at tire manufacturers Dealers SEP OCT NOV DEC(R) JAN(P) JAN(11) were sharply reduced during the latter months Passenger tire of 2011, so there are few excess products that Will improve 50% 43% 33% 38% 46% 54% need to be discounted to be sold. So you may Will worsen 8% 0% 14% 6% 23% 0% want to build some inventory at current prices Will stay level 42% 57% 53% 56% 31% 46% as I see little risk of seeing those values depreTruck tire ciate any time soon. Higher prices may well Will improve 45% 38% 25% 39% 60% 71% be on the way.

How dealers view their near-term business

Monthly survey

Will worsen Will stay level

9% 46%

0% 62%

8% 67%

7% 54%

10% 30%

0% 29%

R-Revised P-Preliminary A number of independent tire dealers were surveyed concerning current business trends. Except for tire prices and costs, the results of the January 2012 Passenger tire dealers were delaying purchases survey are compared with those of January 2011. Fifty-four percent of passenger tire dealers believed inventories were in line with current business levels, while 31% said Optimism remains for the next six months inventories were too high. The remaining 15% felt inventories According to our dealer survey, roughly 46% of passenger tire were too low. Roughly 90% of truck tire dealers we surveyed dealers believe business will improve over the next six months indicated inventories were in line with current business levels, while 31% believe it will stay about the same. The remaining while the remaining 10% felt inventories were too high. 23% believe it will worsen. As for truck tire dealers surveyed, 60% see business improving while 30% see business staying Overall, service outlook remained optimistic about level. Ten percent see business getting worse. Dealers Dealers who provide automotive service reported that 35% are optimistic that costs will start to come down due to lower of revenues, on average, were generated by service during Janumanufacturer raw material costs experienced during 4Q11 ary. Dealers indicated that service business grew by 7%. â– and the expiration of the Chinese import tariff in September. Analyst Saul Ludwig is a managing director with Northcoast January unit sales flat for tire dealers Research Holdings LLC based in Cleveland, Ohio. He concentrates According to dealer reports, on average, retail sales of new on the tire and chemical industries. He has been writing for Modern replacement passenger tires were flat when compared with Tire Dealer since April 1975.

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Spring car care

Springing into seasonal maintenance Boyd’s Tire uses its website, Groupon and Playpon to promote checkups and bring in new customers By Bob Bissler

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t Boyd’s Tire & Service Center, a seven-store chain located in Columbus, Ohio, the change in seasons is a chance to bring in additional business. “We promote spring car care packages that include an oil change, a maintenance inspection, fluid top-off, tire rotation and a brake inspection,” says Jon Boyd, tire business and customer service manager. “We piggyback on the changing seasons and do spring and winter car care packages. Getting maintenance when the seasons change means something to our customers.” Boyd says that winter car care packages are important because consumers need to ensure their vehicle’s coolant can sustain the cold. It’s also crucial to ensure the tires aren’t’ worn out so they can handle snowy conditions. “Spring car care packages are a little different,” he explains. “It’s probably a little less about safety and more about, ‘How did your car make it through the winter months?’” Boyd’s offers spring maintenance discount coupons on its website, www.BoydsTire.com. The company also does print advertising in Valpak and the Town Money Saver, as well as radio spots. TV exposure is also very helpful.

“We have really good relationships with Channel 6 and with Channel 10 here in Columbus,” Boyd explains. “They come to us whenever they have an automotive issue that they want to talk about. We’ve been on their local news plenty of times answering questions for them. We also fix all of their vehicles.”

High-tech mobility

Recently, Boyd’s has been embracing the latest technology to promote maintenance. Last year the company had a new website designed with a “Sign up and save” function. “The person puts their e-mail address in, it gets saved in a database and whenever we have any specials or functions we send out an e-mail blast,” says Boyd. “We’ll be doing one for our spring car care package.” In February 2012, Boyd’s went super high-tech and launched a new mobile website for smartphones. Designed by Tire Company Solutions (TCS) Technologies, a software and technology provider for the tire, auto and retread industry, Boyd’s is TCS’ first mobile website customer. Now, anyone with a smartphone can access spring maintenance deals from Boyd’s Tire.

Groupon and Playpon

Boyd’s Tire & Service Centers stays actively involved in its local communities. The Ohio chain participates in fundraisers that support charities such as Autism Speaks, the American Cancer Society, Recreation Unlimited, the Autism Society of Ohio and the NBC4 BowlAThon. It’s a win-win situation for the tire dealership and the community, says Jon Boyd, tire business and customer service manager.

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Another way Boyd promotes seasonal maintenance is through Groupon promotions. The company did one in December 2011 for winter car care packages. Groupon (www.Groupon.com) is a deal-of-the-day website that features discounted gift certificates usable at local or national companies. “The Groupon went fantastic,” says Boyd. “We sold 177 $39.95 winter car care packages. Groupon collects all the money and then the people come in and redeem the Groupon in our stores.” Boyd says the promotion generated a lot of service revenue in addition to the $39.95 from each Groupon sale. It also brought in many new customers. “That’s what we wanted — to have as many people find us as possible,” he says.

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Boyd’s Tire & Service Centers recently launched a new mobile website for smartphones. Anyone with a smartphone can access spring maintenance deals from the Columbus, Ohio-based seven-store chain.

Now Boyd’s Tire is about to do a “Playpon” for a spring car care packages. “It’s a lot like Groupon, but they donate a portion of your sales to whatever local school you choose,” he says. “That’s a catchy way of trying to give back some of the revenue and then make everyone look good in the deal. Plus, we want to help schools out anyway.” Boyd says Playpon is an excellent way to promote the businesses on a local community level. Playpon dedicates 15% of every sale to local schools and local non-profits. The schools win, Boyd’s Tire shops win, and most importantly, the consumer wins. “Being involved in the local schools follows our philosophy of being involved in our communities,” Boyd explains. “Each store manager is well aware that if there is any need or request for any support for schools, local charities or if the football team needs sponsorship, we do it as much as we possibly can. People in our communities know it, and we get recognition.” Boyd says he’s now looking into conducting free car care clinics to promote seasonal maintenance. “It fits into our philosophy of community involvement because it’s for the community, it’s free and it brings in business for us.” ■

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As part of spring car care packages, technicians at Boyd’s Tire & Service Centers use this checklist to point out suggested maintenance to customers. In addition to a maintenance inspection, spring checkups also include an oil change, a fluid top-off, a tire rotation and a brake inspection.

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Spring car care

ROE: Return on education Use Car Care Month to educate customers, attract maintenance and repair business By Bob Bissler

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The Car Care Council’s wallet-sized card with maintenance tips helps techs educate consumers. The cards can be dowloaded for free at www.carcareindustry.com.

t’s common sense to auto repair technicians. Regular vehicle maintenance keeps cars running efficiently and extends vehicle life. And it saves the consumer a lot of money in the long run. Tire dealers can help keep customers in the know when it comes to getting the best return on investment for their vehicle. And that consumer investment is a business opportunity for dealers. The Car Care Council wants your customers to be in the know, too. That’s why the organization conducts National Car Care Month every April. What can a tire dealership do to get involved with Car Care Month? “Getting involved with National Car Care Month can be as simple or as elaborate as a shop would like to make it,” says Car Care Council executive director Rich White. “Shops can participate in many ways — whatever level they are comfortable with. For example, a shop could get a banner from the council to celebrate Car Care Month, hang it over a bay and invite customers to come by for a free tire inspection and pick up a free Car Care Guide from the council.” Shops can partner with other shops or retailers to host a larger community car care event with free vehicle inspections. White says tire dealer businesses that get involved in National Car Care Month at any level will make their organization more visible to the vehicle owners in their community. To help shops and other aftermarket organizations hop onto the National Car Care Month bandwagon, the Car Care Council has produced a variety of resources, marketing and promotional materials that can be found in the Car Care Month Tool Kit, available at www.carcareindustry.com. The

Weathering national exposure The Weather Channel Companies (TWCC) features vehicle care and maintenance content from the Car Care Council on weather.com, its online weather news and information site. A top-20 website, weather.com and the digital properties of The Weather Channel reach 62 million web consumers each month. The Car Care Council, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating consumers about the benefits of vehicle care, maintenance and repair, has

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partnered with weather.com to provide selected tips and advice for motorists with links back to the new council website, www.carcare.org. With 15 million unique web consumers daily, TWCC has the sixth largest website in the United States. “We continue to look at how to improve the user experience on weather.com, and that includes offering the best content about how weather affects daily life,” says Michael Finnerty, vice president, weather.com for The Weather Chan-

nel Companies. “This content gives our consumers valuable information as part of our WeatherReady section to encourage safety preparation for a wide variety of severe weather conditions.” The weather.com site includes both videos and articles about auto safety from the Car Care Council, available from weather.com/safety. Consumers will find information and advice regarding topics such as car maintenance, safe driving and the effects different seasonal weather has on your car.

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Spring car care site also offers ideas for good, better and best levels of involvement. A video shows how to host a community car care event. One resource the Car Care Council offers is a mirror dangler with a list of gas-saving driving tips on one side and gas-saving maintenance tips on the other. The number-two item on the list is “Keep tires properly inflated.” The danglers can be hung on each customer’s rearview mirror when they bring their car in for service. There are many other quick and easy ways to participate in National Car Care Month: Tire dealers, auto service shops and other retailers can partner and host free vehicle inspection events that will make them stand out in their communities.

Event planning, courtesy of the Car Care Council April is National Car Care Month, so to give you plenty of time to prepare, the Car Care Council (CCC) has put together some tips to help tire dealers plan vehicle check-up events. 1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

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View the CCC’s new “Community Car Care Events” video online. This 10-minute video is designed to help businesses host their own consumer vehicle checkup events. Download a free car care month planner. This free PDF planner provides a step-by-step guide on how to set up and organize a vehicle checkup event. It can be downloaded online at www.carcare.org. Decide the size of the event. Any event — small, medium or large — takes time to plan. Allow plenty of time to prepare. An in-house checkup lane is ideal if you want to participate in National Car Care Month on a small scale. A medium-sized event is generally conducted by several businesses and takes place in a parking lot to allow ample space to have several checkup lanes. A large car care awareness event may take many months to organize and plan. These events are usually held in parking lots and involve several businesses and several checkup lanes. You may opt to secure sponsors to help defray the costs. Set a date and time for the event. Technicians and volunteers are the keys to making your event a success. So consult with those who you plan to involve about their schedules, and determine a date based on when most are available. If there is a shortage of technicians available, consider bringing in students from your local automotive training facility. Check for any potential conflicts — or opportunities — within the community. Most communities have an online “Calendar of Events” that will tell you what you need to know. The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers.

• Print car care articles and leave them out for customers to read while they are in a waiting room or standing at the counter. • Tailor your company’s on-hold message to remind customers that April is National Car Care Month. • Send customers to the Car Care Council’s website (www.CarCare.org) to view the free digital Car Care Guide, available in English and Spanish. And if you want to get more involved, there are many ways to do that too. “Central to National Car Care Month are community car care events that feature free vehicle checkups or inspections,” says White. “While consumers don’t like mandatory state safety and emissions inspections, they love these free checkups. Research from focus groups, surveys, Facebook comments The “Drive Smart, Save and interviews at events Money” mirror dangler, availreinforce the popularity able free of charge at website www.carcareindustry.com, of the events.” White says the free helps consumers save fuel. events are valuable opportunities for consumers and techs, shop and store owners and managers to interact. “They are educational, promote good will in the community and are a great way for tire dealerships to identify additional repair opportunities,” he says. According to White, the businesses that host events see an immediate spike in business. “Not only are you reinforcing the loyalty of your current customers, but also attracting new customers,” he explains. “If a consumer could talk to a doctor for 15 minutes free of charge, who is that consumer likely to call when they need to make an appointment? “Plus, with eight out of 10 cars on the road today in need of some sort of repair, offering vehicle checkups beyond tire inspections can help shops grow their businesses.” ■

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Winter tires

No snow needed

to sell

Educate consumers on safety to bring in winter tire sales and additional profit centers By Bob Bissler

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eather alert: The United States is experiencing a mild winter with less snow. But that doesn’t mean winter tire sales should suffer. In areas of the country that experience cold temperatures, there is still a market for winter tires even without major snowfall. And when you can sell winter tires, you can sell other services along with them such as tire storage and a second set of wheels.

The Canadian perspective

Winter tire sales are a three-season project. You order them in the spring so you can get them in the fall for use in the winter. In Canada, the winter tire market represents a greater percentage of the total market than it does in the U.S. It also

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is defined differently. According the Rubber Association of Canada (RAC), winter tire shipments in 2011 totaled 7 million units, down 1.2% compared to 2010. They still accounted for nearly 38% of total replacement passenger and light truck tire shipments. In the U.S., winter tire shipments were up. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), passenger tires with traction and snow traction treads totaled 9.5 million units, up 9.2% compared to the previous year. However, they represent less than 5% of total replacement passenger tire shipments. (The RMA does not include light truck tires in its winter tire statistics.) Canada generally gets more snow than the U.S. Canada also is experiencing a winter with less snow than usual, but in certain parts of the country, that means only two feet of snow instead of six.

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l winter tires

Also, winter tires are mandatory in the Canadian province of Quebec. From Dec. 15 through March 15, all passenger cars and light trucks are required to drive on them. Normand Latremouille, Canadian winter tire segment manager for Michelin North America Inc., says tire dealers outside of Quebec could sell more winter tires, regardless of the amount of snowfall. “In other provinces it’s a different story. If we look at Canada’s biggest population area, which is Toronto and south Ontario, many people say their all-seasons are OK. Dealers must say to them, ‘No, you need winter tires in the Canadian winter because of the cold. It’s more for the cold than for the snow that we have.’” If consumers are taught that the compound of an all-season tire starts to harden at 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius), they will be more likely to consider winter tires (see “The pencil principle” sidebar on page 27). “What keeps your tire going on the road is flexibility,” says Latremouille. “Winter tires are made with a more flexible compound that can resist the colder temperatures.” While the U.S. may have less snow than usual, there are still many areas with temperatures well below 45 degrees F. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average contiguous U.S. temperature in January 2012 was 36.3 degrees F. That’s 5.5 degrees F above the 1901-2000 long-term average, and the fourth warmest January on record. But it’s still cold enough to make winter tires a necessity.

Professional race car driver Kelly Williams conducts a Car Care Clinic at an Active Green + Ross tire center in Toronto, Ontario. The 75-store chain conducts the clinics as part of its corporate policy of community awareness.

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“Within Canada and the U.S., our message is make sure you’re equipped properly for the environment you’re in,” says Ron Margadonna, Michelin’s senior technical marketing manager. “If you’re in a fairly moderate to severe winter climate, you really need winter tires. “Your all-season tire is just not going to cut it in those severe conditions. Winter tires are equipped not only to grip snow, ice and slush, but there’s also the temperature aspect.”

Black ice

“We keep repeating the safety aspect of winter tires,” says Andy Chiodo, marketing manager at Active Green + Ross, an Ontariobased chain of 75 tire and auto centers. “When customers come in for tire replacements in the fall, we say, ‘Here are the winter tires that we recommend for your car.’ If they say they don’t need winter tires, we ask if they’ve ever experienced black ice. “You never know what the ground temperature is in the morning. The safety part of it is the big sell.” To help spread the word, Active Green + Ross conducts car care clinics throughout the year. “We have a lady’s clinic that has been so well-received, men want to come,” says Chiodo. “We have a professional race car driver named Kelly Williams who does them for the women for us. That’s part of the community awareness on tires.” He says the clinics are promoted through newspaper announcements, posters and flyers. The free clinics usually get from 30 to 40 people who come to the two-hour evening events. “We’ll go over car maintenance, tire pressures and the difference between winter tires and all-season tires,” says Chiodo. “It’s strictly for consumer education; we’re not selling them anything. Hopefully by educating them, they will come and bring us business. We give them a tire pressure gauge with our name and number, and we show them how to check their tires.” Another way to promote the sale of winter tires during the fall and spring changeover seasons is to use point-of-sale materials from manufacturers. Chiodo does this, and also recommends posting an informative article on your website, in a regional magazine or a local newspaper. The RMA and the RAC both provide posters and pamphlets that can be handed out to consumers. “It’s information from an independent agency saying you’re better off with winter tires,” says Margadonna.

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Winter tires

Active Green + Ross brings winter tire customers back in the spring by offering free winter tire changeovers. Shown is the Guelph-Burlington facility of the Ontario-based, 75-store chain.

“The Rubber Association of Canada sends out posters saying that winter tires should be equipped in sets of four,” says Chiodo.” There’s the 7 degrees C poster, too. We use that as a selling point. Once the temperature drops down to 7 degrees C or lower, it’s not safe to have all-seasons. (It’s) mid-October when we start talking about that.”

Store at your store

An additional profit center related to winter tire sales is the service of winter and summer tire storage.

The pencil principle Want to easily illustrate to your customers the difference between winter tires and all-season tires? Keep pencils in your break room’s freezer. First show your customer the flexibility of a room-temperature pencil eraser. Then let them feel how hard the frozen rubber eraser becomes thanks to the cold temperature. It’s an easy way to illustrate an important safety issue.

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“Some of our locations will store them on site and some will use an outside storage company that will pick them up, store them for us and bring them back,” Chiodo explains. “Tire storage is becoming more and more popular, especially downtown where people don’t have the space to store them. It’s the convenience factor.” Active Green + Ross charges anywhere from $60 to $100 to store a customer’s winter tires. If a customer stores their tires, the company will switch them over for free in the spring and fall. This additional service actually does more than simply bring in extra business. It also gets the customer back into your shop. “Any time you can get a consumer in your business twice a year, fall and spring, that’s a good thing, particularly if you’re in business beyond tires such as mechanical work,” says Margadonna. “But from the tire perspective and the safety perspective, that means that those tires are being inspected at least twice a year by trained professionals. For tire dealers that is a huge benefit and opportunity.” Tire dealers have had help spreading

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Winter tires the word on winter tire safety in recent years. Manufacturers, associations and the media also have placed greater emphasis on consumer education. “The media does a good job of educating consumers,” says Chiodo. “As soon as we have the first snowfall, you’ll see on the TV news and in the newspapers stories on making sure you get winter tires, and also that all-seasons don’t An additional profit center for dealers is selling a second set of perform. Media is a big wheels for winter tires. They pay part of it. for themselves by eliminating “We get involved, too. mounting and balancing charges. After the first snowfall, people from the media will show up at our stores and report on all the last-minute people coming out and getting their winter tires.” The result is that many consumers who come into your shop are already educated, says Nelson Tonn, vice president, marketing and supply chain for Fountain Tire Canada, a 140-store chain. ■

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Tire changeover snowballs into added wheel sales With winter tire sales comes the opportunity to sell a second set of wheels. The winter tires are mounted and balanced on their own wheels, so changing them over is less expensive because they are already mounted and balanced. “Our selling feature on a second set of wheels is, if we sell them to you, we won’t charge to change them over in the spring and fall,” says Andy Chiodo, marketing manager at Active Green + Ross, in Ontario, Canada. When customers come in for tire replacements in the fall and spring, here’s what Chiodo tells them. “When you switch them over each year, it becomes more costly than buying a separate set of steel wheels. The cost is anywhere from $60 to $100 for a set of four, and if you multiply that over four years, there’s (the price of) your steel wheels. The cost of a steel wheel is anywhere from $69 to $79. “It pays for itself in the long run, and you’re protecting your aluminum OE wheels so they don’t get damaged from sliding or from the salt they use on the roads.’”

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Light truck tires

Dealer sows good will, reaps light truck tire sales Customers respond to community involvement, fair pricing and quality products By Ann Neal

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espite the slow economy, business has been brisk at Texas Tire and Accessory LP in Hallettsville, Texas. Right now, oil and gas drilling production activity related to the nearby Eagle Ford shale formation is driving new customers into the 7,600-square-foot shop owned and operated by Todd Schindler. Drilling in the vast 400-mile-long shale formation is generating thousands of jobs in southeastern Texas. As drilling and oil field services companies step up hiring, Schindler’s employees are rigging trucks with toolboxes and grille guards for their workers. The impact has been significant. Year-to-date, tire sales are up 10%, while accessories purchased by oil industry workers have boosted overall sales by 30%. In contrast, overall sales increased 5% in 2011 over 2010. “Pipeline manufacturers, drillers and others come through as their sector of business is developed and then they are gone. We appreciate their business but it is not long-term,” says Schindler. “We cannot survive on them in the long run. We must take care of our local customers.”

Family focus

The economic downturn didn’t hit this rural area of Texas as hard as other parts of the nation, according to Schindler. As many people farm and ranch, the community was able to absorb the layoffs that did occur. Yet a relatively stable economy alone would not have kept an independent tire dealer afloat in a community of just 2,700 people. Texas Tire and Accessory survived because Schindler and his employees never see revenue walking in the door. Instead, they welcome individuals and families looking for high-quality tires, products and services at a fair price. To show his appreciation for their business, Schindler supports something that matters very much to his customers: youth development. Texas Tire and Accessory contributes to 4-H and Future Farmers of America (FFA). Money to cover the ribbons, belt buckles, trophies and banners that recognize youth achievement is donated by Texas Tire and

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Pickup trucks are popular choices for both men and women in rural Hallettsville, Texas, home of Texas Tire and Accessory, reports owner Todd Schindler (right) and Manager Mike Jahn.

Accessory. “We don’t do this for the advertising. We do it because it’s the right thing to do,” says Schindler. However, doing the right thing for the area’s children resonates strongly with the community’s adults. The 4-H and FFA members appreciate and remember Texas Tire and Accessory, as do the volunteers who stage the livestock shows, market auctions and county fairs. And, of course, the parents remember, too.

Women and light trucks

In this part of Texas, many of the moms whose children participate in 4-H and FFA need a pickup truck to keep pace with their families’ activities. “It’s not uncommon to see a woman drive a 3/4-ton, four-door pickup,” says Schindler. Most families own at least one truck; many have several. So it’s no surprise that sales of light truck tires make up about half of Schindler’s business, with women making about 50% of those purchases. When shopping for replacement tires for their vehicles, about half of the women buy LT-metric sized truck tires; the other half purchase P-metric tires. Most of Schindler’s female customers drive light trucks, CUVs or SUVs. He turns to his inventory of Michelin, Goodyear, BFGoodrich and Uniroyal products for a tire that matches the vehicle’s weight and intended use.

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Light truck tires it is true that thrift has become a watchword for families in today’s tight economy, consumers are willing to pay a premium for value, he says. And they see value in safety. “Yes, women are price-conscious. But they are also safety-conscious. Safety is a bigger factor than price. When we discuss safety, I mention the tires I have on my family’s cars. I tell them it is worth more dollars to me to have my wife and four daughters arrive at their destination safely.” The brands Schindler sells are proven performers, which helps ensure customer satisfaction. He typically stocks Sales of light truck tires make up about half of Schindler’s business, with women making about 50% of those purchases. He says most families own at least one what he considers to be higher-quality truck; many have several. He also offers accessories such as spray-on bed liners. products. “I don’t want comebacks because of failure,” he says. “We want Beyond personalizing products and services to an individual’s to make sure customers remember they did not have problems vehicle needs, Schindler feels respect is the most important with our service or tires. The only time I sell a lower-priced tire part of the buying experience for women. “Be very respectful is when customers demand one or that’s all they can afford. I because women make the dollar decisions in many families.” don’t look for the cheapest tire because I want it to last.” Schindler’s shop has earned a reputation for offering quality Safety trumps price at a fair price, which appeals to both women and men. The dollar decision does not always revolve around getting “When people hear my pricing, they consider it very fair,” the lowest price. The brands Schindler carries seem to be at he says. “When asked how I do it, I tell them I don’t try to odds with consumer trends to shop for low prices. While get rich off one transaction.” There is yet another dimension

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Light truck tires to his pricing strategy. “There are no surprises with us. The reason for our success is our philosophy to give customers the total price.” Schindler’s shop has been a fixture in this small southeastern Texas community for the last 10 years. With a service station and agricultural vehicle supplier his lone competitors, he says most would consider his operation the only game in town. But he’s not isolated from the challenges facing independents in larger markets. Big-box retailers, new-car dealerships, repairservice chains and other competitors try to coax Schindler’s customers away. “My goal is to keep my customers from going to

other cities for tires. I want to keep them here,” says Schindler. Even though rural communities like Hallettsville radiate a sort of slow-paced ambience, there is no room for complacency. Customers, even if they are friends and neighbors — or perhaps because they are — constantly expect more and more value from local businesses.

Diverse offerings

Texas Tire and Accessory offers a broad range of products and services. “This small town cannot support an individual tire store, lube shop and accessory shop,” says Schindler. “We pulled it all together. Our diversity helps us stay in business.” Services offered in the three-bay garage include oil changes, lube, tire balancing and flat repair. In the accessory shop, customers find grille guards, steps, bumpers, tool boxes and spray-on bed liners. An accessory Schindler initially shied away from now accounts for about 10% of total sales. “Spray-on bed liners are an example of the diversity that keeps us alive,” he says. Customers bringing in their vehicles for tires, services or accessories know they will get an accurate estimate of the time required as well as a fair price. It’s something time-pressed customers appreciate. “Most drop off their vehicles,” says Schindler. “A lot of women work in town and will drop off their or their husband’s car and come back later. We are truthful about the wait. It gives them the ability to adjust their schedules.”

Cultivate a connection

Schindler chooses promotional strategies to match his customers’ expectations and values. With the start of spring baseball season, community members will see him at the fields coaching and helping with field improvements. His support of 4-H and FFA will continue. As many of his customers are avid hunters, Schindler participates in hunting-focused trade shows. Radio and newspaper advertising, done as a member of the Michelin Alliance program, make up a portion of Schindler’s marketing tactics. By far, however, he focuses the majority of his efforts on building good will and a community reputation. ■ Ann Neal is a freelance writer with more than two decades of experience managing employee, financial and marketing communications and Web content in the commercial trucking industry.

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Business insight

Optimizing for the mobile world Making sure you have a total online presence By Wayne Croswell

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ust when you thought things were settling down on the Internet front, the playing field has changed again. Not long ago all you had to do was to create a website, find a hosting company, make a few changes here and there, and you were “good to go.” Well, times have changed. A strong online presence is crucial to your business, especially for retailers, and now more than ever. In addition to the constant upkeep of your website, you currently also have to worry about search engine optimization (SEO). In other words, you must make sure “what’s under the website” is satisfactory to search engine robots so that your site will be found and ranked as high as possible. These robots continuously crawl through websites and log them into databases. They do this crawling so that when someone types a term like “Tire Dealer” into a search engine like Google, a list of appropriate websites to go visit is displayed. Search engines naturally want the most relevant sites to be listed first. Your objective is to get your company website ranked as high as possible. This way, people searching for your type of business will find you. There are many tricks of the trade to help you in this quest. My suggestion is simple; leave it to the experts. The tricks of the trade keep changing and what works today may not be beneficial tomorrow.

Mobile searches will surpass PC searches

Now, you might be wondering why times have changed. Did you know that more Internet searches will be performed in 2012 on mobile devices than on PCs? Stop and think about what that means; it means that more people will be looking for your website on smartphones, Apple iPads and tablets than on PCs. With the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices, this should come as no surprise. Don’t expect this trend to slow down either; I fully anticipate that it will continue to rise. So what is the big deal if you already have a website, right? Wrong! Is your website optimized for mobile devices? Most likely, it isn’t. What does it mean to be optimized for a mobile device? The answer is simple; the real

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Is your website optimized for mobile devices? What might display nicely on a larger PC screen often doesn’t cut it on a mobile device.

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estate for a website is much smaller on a mobile device than on a PC screen, and to be optimized for a smaller screen you need to maximize that real estate. What might display nicely on a PC screen often doesn’t cut it on a mobile device. The last thing you want a user to experience is a screen that can’t be viewed on their preferred device without a lot of tricky navigation. If your website is not optimized for a mobile device, you can be sure that in a matter of seconds users will leave your site and find a competitor’s site that gives them what they are looking for. To make matters worse, all mobile devices are not created equal. This means that there are different optimization techniques needed for each type of phone or device that will view your website — such as Apple iPhones, iPads, tablets, Droids and Razors.

Put yourself in the mobile user’s shoes

When you create a website that is optimized for a mobile device, you need to think about your target user and about the crucial things that they might be searching for. Don’t include the “frills” that only make sense for a website designed for a PC. For example, it might be nice to show pictures of your store, work staff and company events on your full website, but it doesn’t make sense to try and squeeze them onto a mobile footprint. Follow the “KISS” (we’ll call it Keep It Simple, Silly) method when designing your mobile site. Some obvious things to include are your address with a link to a mapping site, your phone number with clickto-call technology, the ability to set up an appointment, and a few other key features. Don’t overengineer it; learn from what is out there and design your mobile website with a “function over form” mentality. Visit other sites from your own mobile devices and see what they have done right. And keep in mind that SEO is also different for mobile search engines. Here again, there are tricks of the trade specific to mobile websites that the search engine robots look for when ranking sites.

Always remember that what might work on a regular website, won’t necessarily work for ranking on mobile sites.

The facts...

In case you are not convinced that you need to pay attention to mobile weboptimization, let me share a few statistics about mobile websites. • 57% of mobile users would not recommend a business with a bad mobile website. • 40% of mobile users turn to a competitor’s website after a bad mobile experience. • 61% of mobile users call the business after searching. • 59% of mobile users will visit the business after searching. • 90% of mobile users will act within 24 hours. • 50% of mobile device searches turn into sales. These are just a few of the compelling reasons you need to optimize your website for mobile devices — or say goodbye to many mobile users and sales. It is not difficult or expensive to optimize for the mobile world. To do it right you need to turn to an expert. This can be complex to try and solve on your own. But, a really neat thing about mobile websites is they can be developed quite economically — and often have a high return on investment. If you want advice on improving your online domination or where to find the experts, give me a call. I wish you the best in mobile optimization! In my next article, we will explore the world of social media and how to take control of your social branding to boost your profits. ■

More Internet searches will be performed in 2012 on mobile devices than on PCs.

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As CEO and president of WECnology LLC (see website www.wecnology,com), Wayne Croswell is a “complimentary technology advisor” for independent tire dealers. Croswell can be reached at wcroswell@wecnology.com or (603) 249-5530. Quik-Link: 800-687-1557 ext. 13120

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Counter intelligence

Visual merchandising Improving product presentation increases sales margins

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isual merchandising is an important element in the counter intelligence process. Visual merchandising is about presentation; it’s about selling products and creating a warm, friendly atmosphere for customers. Visual merchandising is not a science; there are no hard and fast rules. The main idea is combining By Wayne Williams products and environment with the intention of increased sales. I’m friends with a tire retailer in Simi Valley, Calif., who subscribed to the showroom-is-awarehouse theory of merchandising. When he opened his store decades ago, Simi Valley was a small cow town on the outskirts of a city. Agriculture was the primary industry. But things changed; fields were turned into housing developments and shopping centers, schools popped up, and it grew from an agricultural hub to a vibrant city suburb. Several years ago I visited this friend, and we spent an afternoon visiting other tire dealers and a few specialty retailers in his immediate area. We then returned to his store, and as we walked just inside the entrance, I asked him to turn around, face the parking lot and describe his showroom. He didn’t say much. I stood next to him and said, “I see tires that are not in proper order, with labels not facing outward. There are old, uncomfortable chairs, and not enough chairs for all of your customers. I see old magazines hanging off the edge of a small table, and old, sun-bleached tire banners that are drooping in the center with layers of dust. I see cases of half-opened, tube florescent bulbs stacked on top of vending machines.” With that, he turned around and said, “I don’t know how long those light tubes have been on the vending machines.” He made a decision to do something about it right then and there. First, all tires were removed, and new ceiling tiles were installed, bright paint was applied to the walls, and tire-stained floor tiles were replaced. He then bought two oversized leather couches, along with several new

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tables. He also installed a large-screen TV in the waiting area, along with several high-top tables with stools. His customers, especially the long-time, loyal customers, could not stop talking about the upgrades. He ordered a variety of tire displays from vendors and manufacturers, and tires were properly merchandised off the floor. Custom wheels were polished and displayed, and the showroom was completely transformed. Lastly, he hired a young, local artist to hand-paint images on the walls that tied in with early, bygone-era photos of his town.

Take a fresh look

This dealer was blinded by routine; it’s easily done. Take a fresh look at your store, inside and out. Ask your customers what you could do to make your store more comfortable and inviting. Ask a few women customers; they make up a large percentage of your customer base, and they will appreciate that you asked. The New Oxford Dictionary of English defines visual merchandising as the activity of promoting the sale of goods, especially by their presentation in retail outlets. There are many retailers today, such as Target stores, which do a fantastic job of product presentation. Wal-Mart is currently spending hundreds of millions on improving its visual merchandising. The visual merchandising inside a Starbucks is amazing. As a marketing guy, I can’t help but notice every shelf has been planned and well-executed. Though the Internet is a valuable resource for consumers to research tires and auto service, the retail outlet is still, by a huge margin, the crossroads of all channels. In my past experience as a regional director for a large regional retailer, I worked hard with my store managers and counter staff to merchandise for margin. I remember one store manager made this comment in a monthly sales meeting, “I wish my tire margin would go up.” My reply was, “I wish it would go up, too.” Then I asked all the managers in the room what amount of increase they thought we could achieve by wishing our gross profit margin would improve. Zero was the correct answer. Wishing doesn’t get the job done. Upon visiting that particular store, it was easy to see why their margin was so low. They only displayed cheap, low-priced tires. After several hours of re-displaying and re-merchandising the salesroom floor, it was visually merchandised and merchandised for margin! I wish all problems were that easy to fix! ■ Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at exsellmkting@gmail.com.

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Focus on industry

From the mouth of McClellan ‘We’re not chasing volume,’ says Goodyear president By Bob Ulrich

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e’re not inventing anything. We just want to play where the market’s going to grow.” Steve McClellan’s message to attendees at the 2012 Goodyear Dealer Conference in Orlando, Fla., echoed what the company said to them last year. McClellan, president of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s North American Tire business unit, emphasized the company’s mantra of competing in targeted market segments. “We’re not chasing volume,” he told attendees. “And we’re not producing tires in unprofitable or low margin segments. The focus is on selling high-value, branded products filled with technology in segments that provide the greatest potential for return.” Goodyear defines “high-value” products as “primarily premium tires that consumers are willing to pay for.” The strategy appears to be working. For the first time since 1999, the company posted four profitable quarters in the same fiscal year.

Get connected

“I rely on my rig so grocery stores won’t go bare.” Alan K., Landmark Foods. “We are all connected to Goodyear: you, me, fleets and consumers,” said McClellan, who has been with the company for 24 years. “A few minutes ago, you heard real people from all walks of life tell you about their connections to Goodyear. They all share two things in common: There’s a lot on the line when they drive, and they drive on Goodyear. “And when they’re driving, the reality is that they’re not always thinking about their tires. They’re doing what’s important, like getting food delivered on time or getting the streets plowed. We make that possible. “So when you sell tires to your neighbors in your stores, you’re selling a way for them to do what’s important in their lives, with peace-of-mind and confidence. That’s how you connect to them.”

North American strategy

“We will be the company of choice, creating sustainable value.” Rich Kramer, chairman, CEO and president, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. From FedEx Corp. to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the buzzword of late is sustainability. “Our primary goal is to build sustainable economic value,” said McClellan. One of the ways to accomplish

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In 2012, 55% of the vehicles on the road have high-value tires on them. In 2016, that number will increase to 74%. Why? Within the next five years, 80 million vehicles with low-value tires will be scrapped, replaced by vehicles with high-value tires, says Jack Winterton, Goodyear’s president of consumer tires.

that in North America is through what Goodyear calls operational excellence. “In short, that means implementing standard processes to reduce waste. It means maximizing efficiency to be a better supplier for you, no matter what the business environment is like. It’s not about the work itself, but about how we work. “Operational excellence is a continuous journey with no end that we believe will result in best in class customer service, which means you get the products you need, when you need them, with no wasted cost or effort.”

Eagle F1 Asymmetric All Season

“Goodyear will continue to promote strong mid-tier offerings in every category. Todd Pickens, senior director of sales, North American Tire. Goodyear divides the consumer tire market into four categories: commuter touring, performance, all-terrain and winter. Examples of mid-tier Goodyear tires in these categories are the Assurance Fuel Max (commuter touring), Eagle GT (performance), Wrangler SRA and DuraTrac (all-terrain) and Ultra Grip Winter (winter). The new Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric All Season tire is a premium tier performance tire. The asymmetric tread pattern is based on Goodyear’s complementary summer tire, the Goodyear Eagle F1 Asymmetric 2. It features “dual zones” for dry handling (the outside shoulder) and all-season handling (inside shoulder). The all-season UHP tire will be available to dealers in July in 36 W– and Y-rated sizes. Goodyear is backing the tire with a 45,000-mile limited tread wear warranty. ■

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Focus on industry

Super Bowl party Bridgestone shares trends with Madonna in tow ridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC used Super Bowl XLVI to share its vision with some of its top independent dealers. According to Michael Fluck, director of brand and retail marketing, understanding — and leveraging — “mega-trends” among consumers will help the company create innovative marketing programs that will strengthen the Bridgestone and Firestone brands. He listed three of these trends.

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households in the U.S. have Internet access. In addition, more than half of Americans have a smartphone. “By 2013, mobile will be the number one Internet access device.” 3. Going green is going mainstream. According to the “2011 Image Power Green Brands Survey,” 72% of the respondents believe it is important to buy from green companies, and 30% say they plan to spend more on green products in the next year.

1. Females are the CEOs of the household. “American women are responsible for 83% of all consumer purchases,” said Fluck. They represent $5 trillion in consumer spending power. And 90% of them are actively involved in their car maintenance and purchasing decisions. 2. The media landscape is shifting. Fluck said 80% of

Green technology alone is not good enough, said Fluck. Product performance cannot be sacrificed, and price remains a consideration. “Consumers really don’t want to pay more.” Bridgestone’s Ecopia fuel efficient tire line meets all three objectives, he added. ■ Madonna speaks during a Bridgestone Super Bowl Halftime Show press conference.

Above: Kristi and Steve Kelle of Kelle Oil Co. in Braman, Okla., specialize in farm tires. Below: John Baratta, president of consumer replacement tire sales for Bridgestone Americas, poses with his wife, Donna.

Above: Christine Karbowiak, chief administrative officer and executive vice president of Bridgestone Americas Inc., and John Ziegler Jr., director of operations for Mighty Tire Wholesale Inc. in Canton, Ohio, smile for the camera. Left: The New York Giants celebrate their Super Bowl victory.

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Focus on industry

The Motivo’s tread pattern features “fin sipes,” which Ngo says are both “functional and aesthetically pleasing.”

An all-season UHP tire with legs Nitto backs Motivo with a 60,000-mile warranty By Bob Ulrich

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onger tread life separates the Nitto Motivo from any other all-season ultra-high performance tire. There are other tires in that category with W- and Y-rated sizes. But only the Motivo backs those speed ratings with a 60,000-mile limited tread wear warranty. It also has the highest tread wear warranty for the rear tires on a car with staggered fitments: 30,000 miles. Angelo Naval, national sales manager for Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc., says performance vehicle owners who want all-season UHP tires value long life and a quiet ride over all other characteristics. “Most of the time, people are asking for mileage. We pushed our engineers to find that balance between performance and mileage.” A special “wear-oriented polymer” works with silica-reinforced rubber to give the tire its long life without sacrificing attributes such as wet and dry traction and all-season Discount Tire Direct Marketing performance. Manager Dan Meadows (left) In addition, the tire’s and Vice President Mark Macasy mmetrical tread Guinness attended the Motivo pattern is non-directional, ride and drive in Phoenix, Ariz.

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which allows the tires to be cross-rotated, thereby reducing irregular wear. The design also optimizes the tread block arrangement in order to minimize road noise. By May, there will be 50 sizes in the line, says staff engineer Alan Ngo, broken out as follows: 17-inches: 14 sizes, ranging from 215/55ZR17 101W to 275/40ZR17 98W. 18-inches: 14 sizes, ranging from 235/55ZR18 104W XL to 275/35ZR18 99Y XL.

19-inches: 13 sizes, ranging from 255/55ZR19 111W XL to 275/30ZR19 96W XL. 20-inches: nine sizes, ranging from 245/45ZR20 103Y XL to 315/35ZR20 110Y XL.

Ngo, who worked on the Motivo project, says the Motivo is designed for family sedans, sport compact cars, cross-over vehicles “and vehicles that come from the factory with ultra-high performance tires.” Nitto is marketing it against other all-season UHP tires such as the Continental ExtremeContact DWS (which has a 50,000-mile limited tread wear warranty), Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus and Yokohama Avid ENVigor. The category “is a new battleground for all tire manufacturers,” adds Stephen Leu, Nitto’s marketing and digital strategist. The tire made its debut at the 2011 Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas, Nev. What’s next for Nitto? Ngo says the company is working on a cross-over vehicle tire. ■

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TPMS

Be an MD for Acura MDX TPMS Discard valve stem grommets from Acura MDX TPMS sensors SUBJECT VEHICLE: 2007-10 Acura MDX. RELEARN PROCEDURE? Yes, directions follow. SPECIAL TOOLS NEEDED? No.

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henever the engine is running on the 2007-10 Acura MDX, the tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) control unit continuously monitors all four tires. The system has seven indicators: four tire indicators; a low pressure indicator; a message indicator; and a TPMS system indicator. If the TPMS control unit detects pressure below 25 psi, it alerts the driver by turning on the low pressure indicator and turning on the appropriate indicator on the multi-information display. The control unit also turns on the message indicator and sets a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) in the control unit. When the pressure is increased to normal, the control unit will turn off the indicators and store the DTCs. To remove an old sensor, follow these steps. NOTE: Vehicles equipped with TPMS must use wheels made for the system, or the system will not work. The original equipment wheels have a TPMS mark on them, and a counterweight cast into

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the opposite side of the spoke to balance the weight of the sensor (see Figure 1). 1. Raise the vehicle, and support it with safety stands in the proper locations. 2. Remove the wheel with the faulty sensor. 3. Remove the tire valve cap and valve core, and let the tire deflate. 4. Remove any balance weights, and then remove the tire from the wheel. Note these items to avoid damaging the tire pressure sensor: Do the outside of the wheel first. Position the wheel as shown so the valve stem is 90 degrees from the bead breaker. Do not position the bead breaker of the tire changer too close to the rim. Position the wheel so the tire machine and tire iron are next to the valve stem and will move away from it when the machine starts. Then remove the tire from the wheel. 5. Remove the valve stem nut and washer, and then remove the tire pressure sensor/valve stem assembly from the wheel. NOTE: The valve stem grommet might stay in the wheel; make sure to remove it.

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Figure 1

Figure 2

6. Remove and discard the valve stem grommet (item 1, Figure 2) from the tire pressure sensor. To install a sensor, follow these steps. NOTE: Use a new nut, valve stem and screw. 1. Install the new valve stem grommet on the sensor-transmitter (see Figure 2). 2. Before installing the tire pressure sensor, clean the mating surfaces on the sensor and the wheel. 3. Install the tire pressure sensor to the wheel, install the washer and tighten the valve nut finger tight. Make sure the sensor is resting on the wheel (see Figure 3). 4. Tighten the valve nut to 3 ft.-lbs. (4 N.m) while holding the tire pressure sensor toward the wheel and take the following precautions: Do not use air or electric impact tools to tighten a valve stem nut. Tightening the nut beyond the specified torque can damage the nut. Make sure that there is no space between the sensor and the wheel. 5. Lube the tire bead, and position the wheel so the tire machine and tire iron are next to the valve stem and will move away from it when the machine starts. Then install the tire onto the wheel. NOTE: Make sure the tire bead is seated on both sides of the rim uniformly. 6. Inflate the tire to 44 psi (300 kPa) to seat the tire bead to the rim, then adjust the tire pressure to specification, and install the valve stem cap. 7. Check and adjust the wheel balance, then install the wheels to the vehicle. 8. Remove the safety stands, and lower the vehicle. 9. Memorize the pressure sensor IDs.

To memorize Figure 3 the sensor ID using the Hitachi Data System (HDS), follow these steps. 1. With the ignition switch in the OFF position, connect the HDS to the 16-pin Data Link Connector (DLC) located under the left side of the dashboard. 2. Turn the ignition switch to the ON position, and memorize the ID of the tire pressure sensor by following the screen prompts on the HDS. If all IDs are memorized properly, go to step 4. If the TPMS control unit fails to memorize one or more sensor IDs during the learning process, go to the next step. 3. If one or more IDs fail to learn, causing DTCs to set, the HDS will provide a procedure to fix this that involves raising the vehicle. To solve this problem much faster, do this: a. Using HDS, clear all DTCs. b. Using an assistant, start the learning process while driving the vehicle under 10 mph. The TPMS control unit should now learn all four sensor IDs. If it is still having trouble learning IDs, refer to the appropriate service information. 4. After the IDs are memorized, reduce the pressure in all four tires to less than the appropriate specification, and check to see that the four tire indicators come on. ■ Information for this column comes from Mitchell 1’s ”Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems Guide” for domestic and import vehicles through 2010. Headquartered in Poway, Calif., Mitchell 1 has provided quality repair information solutions to the automotive industry for more than 80 years. For more information, visit www.mitchell1.com.

To memorize the sensor ID automatically, follow these steps. 1. After rotating the tires or replacing a tire pressure sensor, drive the vehicle for at least 40 seconds at a speed of 15 mph or more, and all the sensor IDs will be memorized automatically 2. After the IDs are memorized, reduce the pressure in all four tires to less than the appropriate specification, and check to see that the four tire indicators come on.

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Your turn

High tire prices are causing a safety issue Dear Editor: Concerning your November 2011 editorial “Are tire prices too high? I say yes.” When you take into account the purchase cycle for most tire buyers is 40,000 to 80,000 miles, which equals three to four years apart, our customers walking in the door see a 30%-plus price increase. In rural areas this is a major problem. I believe that safety is being compromised due to the cost of quality products. Drivers cannot afford to take advantage of quality tires and the technology they provide to keep our roads as safe as they can be. Ask any shop how their second-hand tire supply is or the shape of the off tires. People are now running their tires well below the wear bar indicators. Not by choice, but because they can’t afford new tires. We have lots of customers only replacing two tires at a time, and in a few months they purchase the other two. This results in mismatched tread depth/tire patterns, etc., which all decrease the predictability of the car’s handling in adverse conditions. Do we need another problem like the Ford tire pressure problem? The tire manufacturer and their raw material vendors are causing this huge safety issue that will be another thing independent tire dealers will have to deal with on the front line. There are many reasons that we can say why the price

is so out of hand, but the bottom line is that the American public’s safety is suffering and only the lawyers and judges win in this unfortunate scenario.

“I have been in the tire business for 35 years in Omaha, Neb., and have seen cannibalism at its finest. Wholesalers are coming in to our market calling on anyone and everyone, and the pricing is the same whether you buy two tires a month or 500 tires a month. Everyone buys at the same price! In this case, size really doesn’t matter. It truly is survival of the fittest. The little dealer has no chance and soon will go the same way as the small drug stores, the small hardware stores and even the small grocery stores. Everything today is MEGA, MEGA, MEGA and our Washington friends really have no plans for small business. I just hope we don’t have another four years like these last four with our government. Can we really afford an additional six trillion dollars debt added to the $15 trillion we already owe? So, what can we do to change the face of business today? I don’t have the answers, but I can tell you this, I will continue to fight for my share of the business with or without any manufacturer or government assistance. I might be lost in the system, but I will never be forgotten!” Thomas Cullinane, Owner Southwest Tire Co. Omaha, Neb.

“Tires sales are slow due to no snow. People are not buying tires because they are not slipping and sliding. They are going to wait now until travel season starts. I guess my snow dance did not work this year! Let it snow!” Jerry Reygaert, Owner Reys Auto & Tire Shelby Township, Mich.

Jason P. Gerry, Manager, Retail Sales Pete’s Tire Barns Inc. Orange, Mass.

‘Increases are worse than perceived’ Dear Editor: Concerning the sidebar on page 34 in the January 2012 MTD Facts Section: I have addressed this issue with other dealers and customers: You take 100 and add 8% then 8.5% and 9% it is not 25.5% as the sidebar titled “$155 a tire ? I wish!” states. The answer is 27.7%, because you do not total the percents alone, but the previous percents, also. Just a heads up. The increases are worse than perceived. P.S. I love your editorials. Dave Richards, Owner Canton Bandag Co. Canton, Ohio Yes, that is right, Dave — in my haste I did not factor that in. Nice catch! And thanks for the compliment on my editorials! Note: Dave is a member of MTD’s National Advisory Council.-Ed.

“No bad weather, no sales. It could be a difficult spring with too much inventory, soft sales and potential softening of prices by manufacturers as raw material costs stay flat or decrease. I’m not sure about raw material costs going down as the price of oil goes up. I need a dart board or crystal ball.” Tony Sagona, President Midtown Tire Inc. Rochester, N.Y. “Because of SKU proliferation, manufacturers and distributors do not stock enough tires to make fill rates above 60%. Manufacturers are selfish and have forgotten that partnering with distributors is the best way to distribute their products. Hold off buying tires. Prices will be coming down by the end of the first quarter.” Jeff Cohen, Co-owner Traction Wholesale Center Bensalem, Pa.

Join Modern Tire Dealer’s National Advisory Council

Each month, Modern Tire Dealer is guided and influenced by a select group of readers — members of our National Advisory Council. These members’ opinions are the heart of the monthly Ludwig Report, compiled by well-known industry analyst Saul Ludwig. If you’d like to join this prestigious group, please let us know. We’d love to hear from you. Contact Editor Bob Ulrich at Bob.Ulrich@bobit.com or call (330) 899-2200, ext. 11.

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Modern Tire Dealer March 2012  

Magazine for the professional tire industry

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