SALINAS, Calif.-It may not be a trend yet, but on California's environmentally conscious central coast, EcoTerra Ltd.'s International-brand remanufactured tires are slowly growing in popularity. That spells bigger profits for dealers who decide to market the bead-to-bead retreads-and a bonus for the environment, according to one dealership that recently began selling the tires.
Tom Long's Tire Service Inc. has been extolling the virtues of ``America's environmental tires'' in newspaper and radio ads for its six commercial/retail outlets in the central coast area.
Art Marder, sales manager for the company's main store in Salinas, would not reveal just how many of the tires have been sold. But he said ``results have been great-customers have had no complaints.'' And ``they've all been pleased with the fact they have a road-hazard warranty and all the other things that are included.''
Why sell EcoTerra tires? ``To help the environment. And it's a profit-making tire for us,'' he said. ``We buy it for less, and can afford to sell it at a higher profit margin than a comparable new tire.''
Tom Long's also has stores in Seaside, Monterey, King City, Hollister and Gilroy. And while Salinas is a farming town where ``workers are much more interested in what they can get for their money,'' Mr. Marder said, people living in an area like Monterey Bay-a well-known nature preserve-are ``much more ecologically minded.''
Though the dealership's ads play heavily on the ecology angle, not everyone buys these tires solely to help the environment. Consider the economics.
Tom Long's sells Michelin, Bridgestone, BFGoodrich and Kelly-Springfield brands. EcoTerra's tires are 30 percent lower in cost than a big-name brand, Mr. Marder said, and about the same price as a high-end Star tire, a Kelly associate brand.
Add $52 to a Star's price for road hazard coverage, lifetime balancing, rotation and flat repair, he said, and a customer starts to see EcoTerra's cost benefits.
``If remolding is explained to customers, and we let them make their own decisions,'' he added, ``a better percentage of them do go with the EcoTerra tire.''