EDMONTON, Alberta-Edmonton motorists have been on the look-out for four individuals with Fountain Tire uniforms who have been roaming the streets of the city and randomly swiping the tires of parked vehicles. Warning: This gang is armed with tire cleaner and should be approached with caution.
The only evidence the so-called ``SWIPE'' team leaves behind at the scene is a small, incriminating magnet on the vehicles, which the victims can redeem at a Fountain Tire store for free two-year roadside tire service and flat repair coverage.
Since this novel promotion began Sept. 16, tires have been ``swiped'' all over the city at shopping malls, local pro football games, car rallies and rock concerts at the local stadium.
Edmonton-based Fountain Tire has also hooked up with a local FM radio station, ``K-97,'' to promote ``sightings'' of the SWIPE team at various locations and events in the city.
The four-man team wears Fountain Tire-labeled coveralls and has a mission to ``hit'' 10,000 vehicles in the market during September and October.
All this effort is part of a two-month campaign to develop consumer awareness of Fountain Tire's acquisition of the 12 Goodyear Certified Auto Service Centers in the city.
Under the Sept. 6 agreement with Goodyear Canada Inc., which owns 49 percent of Fountain Tire, the dealership converted seven Goodyear-owned stores and five independent Goodyear locations into Fountain Tire outlets.
``Goodyear has more than doubled their market share in Alberta since becoming associated with Fountain Tire,'' said Rick Houle, vice president of Goodyear Canada's western region, in a statement announcing the conversion agreement.
``...We believe combining Goodyear's manufacturing expertise with Fountain Tire's expertise in satisfying customers will enhance our business opportunities in Western Canada.''
Fountain Tire Marketing Manager Brent Hesje said that if this market-wide conversion of Goodyear stores proves successful, Fountain Tire may take over Goodyear company stores in Vancouver and Calgary as well-the idea being that it is ``sensible'' to market Goodyear-brand tires under one retailer's name.
TIRE BUSINESS recently ranked Fountain Tire as the 16th largest tire retailer in North America based on total number of retail outlets.
With the recent acquisition, Fountain now operates 18 stores in Edmonton and another 68 locations elsewhere in Alberta and in British Columbia.
To promote its expansion, Fountain Tire held a grand opening of the converted stores on Sept. 16 and launched what Mr. Hesje described as an ``intensive'' two-month television, radio and print campaign to develop public awareness of the changeover.
Fountain Tire also dispatched its newly organized SWIPE team to spray polish tires on parked cars and leave behind the redeemable magnets.
As the team roams the city, the radio station announces periodic news flashes, such as ``The mayor's tires have been swiped!'' followed by an explanation of Fountain Tire's promotion, according to Mr. Hesje.
So is this promotion a success?
According to Mr. Hesje, the jury is still out. So far the magnet redemption rate at the stores has been higher than expected, and sales were ``great'' at all the 18 Edmonton stores during the kick-off weekend.
Meanwhile, the SWIPE team may see service in other parts of Canada, as Goodyear Canada is considering using the concept in other markets, according to Mr. Hesje.