To the general population in North America, 1993 could very possibly be remembered as ``The year of the flood.'' But for independent tire dealers, and the tire industry at large, it would be difficult to select a similar all-encompassing catch-phrase to describe the past year.
No single news story or event seemed to typify 1993 universally for tire dealers. Instead, a wide variety of news stories came and went throughout the year-some of which seem likely to produce lingering effects.
Take, for example, the allegations of automotive service fraud, which have been increasingly in the news since Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s 1992 settlement of 19 class-action suits charging it with defrauding customers with unnecessary auto repairs.
Other large retail chains similarly accused in 1993 were Kmart Corp., Midas Muffler, Big O Tires Inc. and Winston Tire Co. Moreover, with state investigators preparing additional sting operations to test service outlets within their borders, more accusations are sure to come.
Even though 1993 held few headline-making product ``breakthroughs,'' there was no scarcity of controversy surrounding products already known to the marketplace.
Goodyear, for example, sued General Tire over that company's alleged infringement of the patented design of Goodyear's Aquatred wet-weather radial. Meanwhile, Groupe Michelin took umbrage with Goodyear over whose products offer the more superior wet-weather performance.
Similarly, International Marketing Inc.'s truck tire balancing product, Equal, was accused by Fuller Brothers Inc. of releasing dangerous formaldehyde gas once it reaches operating temperatures inside the tire.
Meanwhile, President Clinton's initial year in office brought turmoil to dealers left trying to determine how his health care reform proposal, family leave law and tax reforms will affect their operations.
Goodyear further aroused dealers' ire by signing distribution deals with Discount Tire Co., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Canadian Tire Corp., expanding the company's changing approach to selling tires.
These are just a few of the many stories of interest that occurred throughout year and are recapped in this special section feature. In our next issue, to be published Jan. 24, TIRE BUSINESS will look at what independent tire dealers can expect in 1994.