SAN ANTONIO-Goodyear officials unveiled two marketing plans during the company's annual dealer meeting Jan. 26-29 to assure independent dealers the company intends to continue using them as its primary distribution channel. Goodyear will launch the ``Growth and Consistency'' and ``Certified Auto Service Promotion Fund'' programs to help solidify the idea that dealers will remain the company's major mode of distribution, according to Al Eastwood, vice president of replacement sales.
The Growth and Consistency program offers incentives for automotive and light truck product purchases to dealers who are asked to meet individual goals on a quarterly basis, Mr. Eastwood said. Incentives increase following each successful quarter, allowing dealers to double their earnings if purchasing objectives are met in four successive periods.
The Certified Auto Service Promotion Fund will be offered at the more than 2,600 CAS locations across the country. A percentage of dealers' purchases of tires covered by Goodyear's Quality Plus program will go into a fund for retail advertising and promotions of Quality Plus tires.
``Quality Plus'' is a lifetime warranty program that applies to all but Goodyear's lowest-end tires and covers the full cost of adjustment/replacement, not a pro-rated amount. The Quality Plus warranty is a standard feature, offered without extra cost on about 75 percent of Goodyear passenger/light truck tires, a spokeswoman said.
Additional details about the programs were not disclosed.
Mr. Eastwood said both programs met positive response from dealers during the San Antonio conference, which set a dealer attendance record with more than 2,400 representatives.
But Hal Barkley of Frasier Tire Service in Sumter, S.C., said he is reserving judgment on the programs until he gets ``something in writing from Akron.''
Other Goodyear dealers said they left San Antonio with confidence in Goodyear's commitment to its independent dealers.
Connie Hartje, co-owner of Hartje Farm, Home & Tire in La Valle, Wis., said she believes the conference was a morale booster for many dealers.
``I think Goodyear is very committed to backing us,'' Ms. Hartje said. ``I think they will stand behind you 100 percent.''
For both dealers and company executives, a major goal of the San Antonio dealer meeting was to repair the strained relationship that turned sour with Goodyear's signing of tire distribution giants such as Sears, Roebuck and Co., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Discount Tire Co.
Goodyear's swing toward nontraditional avenues of distribution ``scared a lot of dealers'' into wondering just where they stood with their supplier, said Mr. Barkley.
The recognition of that fear prompted Goodyear to make explaining its distribution policies to dealers a conference goal, Mr. Eastwood said. ``When we departed from our traditional reliance on independent dealers..., the perception was that we were doing that in a lack of support for independent dealers, and that's absolutely not true.''
At least some dealers agree. ``I think (Sears) has helped the independent dealer, I really do,'' said Harvey Kovac, president of Cooper City, Fla.-based Kovac Automotive, who added that his business has benefited from Sears advertising and referrals.