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BLOG: Car dealers miss tire education opportunities

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(Crain News Service photo)
Jamie LaReau

DETROIT (Aug. 28, 2014) — As a teen, I didn’t know how to change a tire. Neither did my girlfriends.

In fact, I don’t know how to change a tire now. My plan is to call roadside assistance if I ever have a problem.

But that could be a long wait and, depending on the neighborhood, a scary one. So I should learn. And this is where savvy car dealers have an opportunity to do community outreach and get consumers in their doors for new or repeat business.

A recent survey, as reported in The Wall Street Journal, says 52 percent of American teens ages 15 to 17 do not know how to change a tire. It also says 44 percent don’t know how to check tire tread depth, and 32 percent do not know how to check tire pressure.

The study, paid for by Michelin North America Inc. and the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), surveyed 1,001 teens in late June.

If the study is accurate, the need for education in car maintenance is clear.

I believe a lot of people take basic car care for granted given the technology upgrades that now allow for such conveniences as run-flat tires and computer warning systems to alert you to problems.

I have written about auto dealerships that offer service clinics to customers. They teach some of the service basics, educate consumers on how an engine works and introduce them to local service technicians. Some clinics also teach customers how to use the technology on their cars.

But I don’t know of any car dealership that offers a car maintenance clinic to teach youths, or anyone else, the hands-on basics of car care: how to check the oil level, check tire pressure and troubleshoot vehicle problems that might arise on the road.

Such a clinic would be a community service and build customer loyalty and satisfaction. It also would allow some of us a chance, finally, to learn how to change a tire.

Jamie LaReau covers the automotive retail beat for Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business. This piece appeared on its website. Ms. LaReau can be reached at jlareau@crain.com.

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