SAN JOSE, Calif.-Tire Masters International Inc.-a wholesaler and distributor of Nitto brand tires, mainly on the West Coast-is in the process of winding down operations and is expected to be out of business by year's end. Officials at the San Jose headquarters of Tire Masters and sister company Nitto Tires-both subsidiaries of Japan's Nissho Iwai Corp.-have confirmed that TMI is closing, although Kurt Marumoto, TMI president and CEO, would only say, ``We are attempting to sell a portion of the company.''
He refused to elaborate, or comment further about the reasons behind TMI's actions. Several subsequent calls to Mr. Marumoto were not returned.
However, Sukeyasu Takeda, general manager of the Los Angeles office of Nissho Iwai American Corp., another Nissho Iwai subsidiary, told TIRE BUSINESS that TMI has decided to ``get out of the business.''
Gary Ceazan, executive vice president of Nitto Tires, also acknowledged TMI is closing, but said officials are trying to sell part or all of its operations.
Tire Masters handles ``everything from wheelbarrow to tractor trailer tires,'' a TMI advertisement says-including Dunlop, Nitto, Pirelli, Lee, Douglas and Marshall brands-and also distributes wheels and automotive parts.
Mentioned as a possible suitor for TMI is a company called Competition Parts Warehouse (CPW), a large West Coast distributor based in Fresno, Calif.
CPW, which began in the 1970s mainly as an auto parts distributor, reportedly has four wholesale locations in California as well as some retail outlets.
Tire Masters operates wholesale distribution centers in Northern and Southern California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington. In Hawaii, it also has a wholesale distribution center as well as a retail operation, Interstate Tire Warehouses, doing business as Consumer Tire Auto Centers.
Asked if he is preparing to go out of business, Lou Cardoza, vice president/general manager of Consumer Tire, said: ``I hope not-I'm doing everything I can to see that that doesn't happen.''
The dealership currently operates eight retail locations in Hawaii, but Mr. Cardoza said he is in the process of closing down four stores. ``We have established a retail identity here since about 1971,'' he said. ``This company has been through several owners, the current being TMI.''
It appears both TMI and Nitto Tires are involved in talks with the CPW operation.
Mr. Ceazan said whether or not CPW buys Tire Masters, Nitto ``is certainly willing to establish CPW as the Nitto Tires distributor'' on the West Coast. He anticipates achieving such an arrangement by Oct. 3.
According to several TMI customers, the company made a formal announcement to all its suppliers and dealers that, effective Dec. 31, TMI would no longer be in business.
Bill Melvin, owner and president of Melvin's Tire & Auto Service Inc. in Porterville, Calif., said he was told by TMI officials that the company is in the process of ``liquidating everything,'' and that most of Tire Master's existing inventory is expected to be available in CPW's warehouses as of Oct. 3.
In 1990, Nissho Iwai Corp. acquired TMI, then two years later formed Nitto Tires in order to consolidate sales operations and oversee the U.S. distribution of Nitto brand tires, which previously had been handled by Nissho Iwai American.