SPRING HILL, Fla.-Consumer Car Care Tire and Auto Centers has spent the past 14 years growing into a 17-outlet, full-auto-service operation in western Florida. Although the company's auto centers have always carried tires, that part of the operation was ``largely a customer convenience''-something to ensure consumers wouldn't bypass an outlet for a competitor, according to a company spokesman.
That's about to change.
Consumer Car Care joined the Metro 25 Tire cooperative in July, giving that tire-buying and marketing group its first representation in the Sunshine State, said Duane Rao, Metro 25 president.
In return, Consumer Car Care got immediate clout in the tire business.
``It kind of made us one of the big boys overnight,'' the spokesman proclaimed.
Before joining the cooperative, Consumer Car Care focused on complete auto service in a typical outlet that featured seven bays and a show room.
``We kind of took a stance of: `Your neighborhood garage,''' the spokesman said.
That won't change, he insisted.
What will change is the company's emphasis on tire sales, which will increase as soon as the outlets fully implement Metro 25's marketing and promotional programs-probably by year-end.
Consumer Car Care is now in a position to more aggressively sell tires, although it is still unclear how much the company's 60/40 service-to-tires sales mix will change.
``We don't want to run heads up with Tire Kingdom or Don Olson (Tire),'' the spokesman admitted. ``But this allows (our outlets) to compete in one of the most competitive tire markets in the world.''
In a market where tire pricing is notoriously low, a buying group's bulk purchase rates can help determine the profitability of a business, according to Raymond Ercolano, Consumer Car Care president.
``Over the course of the past year, we have witnessed a ferocious price and tire war in this market,'' said Mr. Ercolano, who started Consumer Car Care in 1980 with a single outlet in Clearwater, Fla.
``I feel that due to the strong attributes of the Metro 25 Tire program, we will be able to offer our dealers more advantages than the competition.''
The company already has changed its signage to Consumer Car Care Metro 25, and is offering the cooperative's nationwide warranties. Those two items have helped the outlets capture consumers visiting Florida from northern areas where the Metro 25 name is better known, a spokesman said.
Additionally, the company's 17 stores-and the handful of outlets Consumer Car Care distributes to-now can offer the Cavalier, Miller, Hood, Brunswick and Diamond private brand lines from Michelin Americas Small Tires, as well as Metro 25's exclusive National tire line.
``We are now able to offer consumers a greater variety of brand tires, compete more aggressively with the existing tire dealer groups within the state and grow our business by offering consumers more than we were able (to before),'' Mr. Ercolano said.
The company declined to reveal where future expansion is expected but did say Consumer Car Care is set to open more two outlets in Florida by the end of the year.