AKRON-Goodyear's decision to sign the nation's third-largest independent tire retailer, Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc., as a franchisee has left at least some longtime Goodyear dealers feeling frustrated. But representatives of Les Schwab and Goodyear say the agreement should have little effect on market share in the Pacific Northwest-the area in which Les Schwab operates 247 outlets-because the dealership does not intend to add more tire lines.
According to Les Schwab President Phil Wick, for the past 12 years the company had purchased farm tires-$750,000 worth last year-through the Goodyear Truck Tire Center in Portland, Ore.
As a G-110 franchise dealer, Les Schwab can now purchase Goodyear tires directly from the manufacturer, a Goodyear spokeswoman said.
The franchise agreement was initiated by Goodyear, Mr. Wick said, to improve distribution.
If Les Schwab continues to offer only those Goodyear lines it purchased in the past, competing dealers should experience little change in their market share, according to Buck Hubbert, owner of Tires Inc. based in Chehalis, Wash.
Mr. Hubbert said he's softened his opinion since commenting on the subject for the December issue of Northwest Tire Talk, the Northwest Tire Dealers Association newsletter. At that time, he said he was disappointed to see Goodyear sign another dealer after he had worked so hard to earn market share. ``When I actually sat down and looked at it,'' he said, ``I thought, `If we continue to give good service,...we'll continue to have the business we already have.' ''
But some area tire dealers disagreed.
``Sure it will hurt, but I'm not going to get excited about it,'' said Donald Ruttan, owner of Basin Tire Center in Othello, Wash. ``I'll just play along.''
So will Jim Cassatt, owner of Schmidt's O.K. Tire Store in Wapato, Wash. ``I guess (Goodyear doesn't) want small dealers anymore. They want to get rid of us,'' he said, adding that he intends to begin selling other farm tire brands in addition to Goodyear.
On the other hand, Art Lutz, president of the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association and owner of Lutz Tire Co. in Portland, Ore., said he believes the Les Schwab-Goodyear agreement is good for the market in the area.
``If Schwab took on the entire Goodyear line, I don't think it would hurt any independent tire dealer,'' he said, noting Les Schwab is not a tire discounter. ``It might wake them up, though.''