Regarding your Jan. 24 editorial, ``Waking up tire makers,'' I question the validity of the conclusions drawn from your survey-(particularly those based on the statement that) ``For nearly two out of three dealers surveyed, retail sales increased an average of 7.3 percent during 1993.'' I question whether this increase was due to an increasing market or due to fewer dealers sharing the same, smaller market. To quote those statistics in a way that implies the replacement tire market is healthy and growing is a disservice to readers-if not a complete distortion of the facts.
I believe we are seeing some increases by the surviving dealers. But those increases are coming as a result of some of our competitors not being able to survive. Perhaps some who haven't survived deserved to go under. But many were honest, hard-working people who were squeezed to the point they couldn't survive.
I feel great compassion for those who didn't survive-perhaps in some small part due to people like you who mislead them with an incorrect analysis of the condition and health of the tire business.
I also sympathize with the tire manufacturers. They cannot merely ``price'' their product at a level that allows them to be profitable (as your editorial suggests).
They must become ``lean and mean'' in (today's) mature industry where the average service life of the product is increasing very rapidly.
Every set of tires delivered as original equipment (on a new car keeps that consumer from becoming) a potential aftermarket tire purchaser for two to five years.
If we accept that 1993 was a ``record'' year for OE tire shipments by manufacturers, then replacement market sales will be curtailed accordingly for the next two to five years.
I question whether there is a correlation between the unprofitable manufacturers and those doing business with the various warehouse clubs at substantially lower margins than those (given) the balance of the industry.
Since I believe there is a finite number of tires to be sold and therefore also a finite number of tires that should be manufactured, tire makers ought to be concerned about the ability of their dealers to compete profitably with each other as well as with the warehouse clubs.
In other words, manufacturers shouldn't price their product to warehouse clubs at marginally profitable levels, hoping volume will make it worthwhile. (Otherwise) the volume manufacturers receive from independent dealers-which usually is more profitable due to higher margins-will decline as a result of the competitive edge they've given the warehouse club operations.
It therefore becomes a downward spiral assuring that manufacturers and their independent dealers become less and less profitable until such time as many go out of business, thereby producing a false surge in profitability and leading some people to fool themselves about the meaning of the statistical data from industry surveys.
Jack D. Knoll
Wilson's Tire Service
Santa Cruz, Calif.
More Training Needed
Tire dealers-especially farm tire dealers-need to do more than send a salesman door-to-door to sell tires, take orders and deliver tires all winter. It's also a time to train new help.
When the weather breaks, many dealers hire just about anyone needing a job-even those having no experience or training.
We've found many problems with tires serviced by inexperienced workers. Here are some examples:
38 psi in an 18.4x38 tire;
Valve caps and rim nuts between the tire and tube;
An 18.4x38 tube in an 18.4x30 tire;
Five incidents in which the tube was pinched between the bead and rim;
Tubes installed backwards with the valves on the wrong side;
Valves pulled off tubes; and
Nine tires that were frozen solid.
One tube-that only was on the tractor 11 hours-was ruined because the calcium (ballast) had not been properly mixed. The hot calcium crystals did not dissolve and (the tube's contents) turned into a 350-lb. solid block (of crystal).
These are a few reasons why tire workers are sometimes called ``tire knockers.'' If dealers would pay a little more and provide better training, these people could be called ``tire specialists.''
Paul A. Graff
Graff General Tire Service