WASHINGTON-An unprecedented meeting is planned between the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association and the American Retreaders' Association to discuss how the two trade groups might work together in areas of common interest. During its June meeting, the NTDRA's executive committee approved extending the invitation for a conference and the ARA board has voted to accept. Now both groups will decide the location, topics of discussion and who will attend the meeting, to be held sometime in October.
NTDRA President Art Lutz said the idea for the conference was not prompted by any particular issue but arose out of meetings of his association's strategic planning committee earlier this year. ``It's really a matter of planning for the future,'' he said. ``Improving communications will be a goal.''
Many people have the mistaken impression that the two associations don't meet or agree with each other, said Mr. Lutz, who described the relations between the two groups as ``very good.''
``I hope after the first meeting we will recognize the value of having another meeting,'' Mr. Lutz said.
ARA President Michael Berra described the upcoming meeting as a ``novel'' approach. ``It reflects the change in thinking of the boards of both associations.''
Each association has strengths in their respective areas, e.g. the ARA in retreading and the NTDRA in automotive service, he said. Yet the two groups also overlap in other areas, such as certain membership services and industry issues.
The two associations also attract many of the same dealerships and suppliers. Mr. Berra's own company, Community Tire Co. Inc. of St. Louis, is a member of both associations.
Representatives of the two groups will explore areas where they could develop joint participation, such as membership programs, certification and training programs, and maybe even trade show events.
The groups may also discuss joint projects ``to enhance benefits for their memberships,'' Mr. Berra said. ``Wherever (the meeting discussion) goes, it's not going there tomorrow. It will occur over a period of time.''
Both Messrs. Lutz and Berra stressed that the meeting is essentially exploratory in nature. Depending on the outcome of discussions, certain ideas or subjects may be pursued with additional meetings or simply tabled. ``I have no idea where this is going to go,'' Mr. Berra admitted.
But both presidents agreed that the possibility of joining forces on certain projects is indicative of the changes in the industry and the trend toward consolidation in many areas of the tire business.
Mr. Berra noted that both associations are strong in membership and in finances, so the idea of consolidating resources in certain areas shouldn't be construed as a sign of weakness on either side. ``The overall concern is: What can we do in a cooperative effort to benefit both our memberships?''
Mr. Berra mentioned that one area in which the associations could join forces is in the ARA's retread technician certification program, perhaps creating an industrywide certification program.
The ARA is finding it difficult to find the staff to administer the certification tests, he said, but the NTDRA, with technical consultants located around the country, might be able to oversee this area. And getting both industry groups to participate in the program could bolster its credibility in the industry, he said.
Mr. Berra also noted that, in recent years, both associations have been urged by some trade show exhibitors to discuss the possibilities of alternating the years of their individual shows or even combining the annual events.
Some companies have complained about the cost of exhibiting at two industry trade shows each year. But Mr. Berra said any changes to the current setup wouldn't be an option for a while, as both associations have commitments for convention sites for the next three to five years. Also, any proposal would have to be beneficial to both groups, as the trade shows are a major source of revenue for the host association, he said.