Published on March 31, 2014

TB EDITORIAL: Grab all chances to get customers

AKRON (March 31, 2014) — Barry Steinberg, owner of Direct Tire and Auto Service, in Watertown, Mass., is right.

Auto manufacturer vehicle recalls, which send millions of vehicle owners back to franchise car dealerships for repairs, gives these service outlets another chance to sell service to these customers.

Mr. Steinberg makes it clear—he doesn’t like this one bit.

“We may all look at these recalls and think it is bad for the dealers’ reputation, but this is a great opportunity for them to steal another one of our unsuspecting clients,” he wrote in an email to Tire Business.

True. But isn’t that what all businesses attempt to do—get customers to return repeatedly so they can try to sell them another service or product?

In today’s tire and auto service marketplace, savvy shop owners must take advantage of every situation presented to them to drive business into their operations. If that requires using a negative circumstance—like the recent massive recall of 1.6 million vehicles by General Motors Co. involving faulty ignition switches—and turning it into a positive, well then so be it.

In the past this type of so-called “negative marketing opportunity” might not have mattered so much to independent tire dealers, especially when tire sales were an afterthought at most franchised car dealerships. If consumers returned to the car dealer to take care of a recall service notice, they still went to their local tire store when they needed tires.

Not any more. Most car dealerships today are pushing tire sales as an added profit center. For time-crunched consumers, this is great news. Being able to get their vehicle serviced and have new tires installed all at the same time is a happy convenience.

But tire dealers can take advantage of such situations, too. John Rastetter, director of tire information services for Tire Rack Wholesale, for example, recently voiced concern about the tires used on the new Euro-style vans that are gaining favor in the U.S. Some of these vehicles come with Euro-metric commercial tires that have a “C” designation in the size and a load-range index of 94/92. This is not to be confused with load range C tires commonly found in the U.S.

The Euro-metric tires are rated to carry heavier loads and tire makers here don’t stock that size, according to a story in the March 31 issue of Tire Business. Mr. Rastetter is concerned tire dealers inadvertently may replace these tires with a standard load size rather than one designed for the extra load.

This is just the type of tire service issue that’s made for the tire professional—the independent tire dealer.

Rather than send the owners of these Euro-style vans back to the vehicle dealers, should a tire problem occur, tire dealers can use the opportunity to showcase their expertise and try to create a customer for life.

It’s all part of the sales game in a market where it seems everyone sells tires.

This editorial appears in the March 31 print edition of Tire Business. Have a comment on it? Send an email to tirebusiness@crain.com. Please include your name and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.

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