So your kids or grandkids got every Power Rangers toy on the market for Christmas last year? All that the poor animals at the internationally renowned San Diego Zoo got were some old tires. On a dealer excursion to the zoo during Continental General Tire Inc.'s (CGT) recent international dealer conference, a tour guide said the zoo uses a lot of tires as ``toys'' for its animals. Keepers play a hide-the-food-in-the-old-tire game with the cheetahs, for example. It keeps the animals active and motivated. (Might make a great promotional tool for a tire dealership, as well.)
And talk about tire chafing-to everyone's amusement, one of the zoo's elephants likes to walk along while rolling a tire under its belly. A brand preference survey should be completed by mid-year.
'Elmer's' best friend
While lunching with trade journalists at CGT's dealer conference, Ed Kalail, the company's longtime director of public relations, got off the best line.
The topic of conversation rolled around to a particular race horse named ``Punchy.'' He's owned and raced by Tom Reese, CGT's executive vice president and head of the commercial division, who, with wife, Ann, have owned thoroughbreds for 17 years.
So how's the horse doing? he was asked.
``What kind of glue do you use?'' quipped Mr. Kalail.
In true horseman fashion, Mr. Reese took the crack in, er, stride, joking that ``horse flesh is going for 59 cents a pound.''
Actually, Punchy won four stakes races in 1993. Last year he won one race, finished second in another, then got hurt in his third start and has been convalescing since. He'll run again, Mr. Reese said, but won't ever be the same.
Neither will CGT-Mr. Kalail told dealers he plans to retire this year.
Love those 'discounters'
Part of the ``fun'' (they call it) of going to Tijuana, Mexico, is the give and take with curbside vendors. On one of CGT's excursions, tire dealers were bused south of the border for an afternoon of shopping/bargain hunting.
The constant barrage by trinket sellers trying to negotiate a sale price could get quite tedious.
But at least one tire dealer made the trip not once but twice.
Frank Froehlich, president of Fremont Tire Inc., Sioux City, Iowa, and president of the Iowa Tire Dealers Association, said he couldn't wait to get back. ``I'm a tire dealer,'' he said, grinning. ``I just love all that haggling over prices!''
Just say, 'Charge it"
Here's something the brains behind electric vehicles probably haven't considered:
Bob Farmer from Boulder, Colo., sent a letter to AutoWeek saying the ``Northeast states and California are asking for brown outs big time when battery-powered electric cars are in use in a few years.''
He believes ``everyone will put their cars on charge at about the same time,'' causing a system-wide power overload.
So if the quakes, floods, wild fires and illegal aliens don't get Californians, maybe the brown-outs will.
Power to the people
J.D. Power & Associates, the consumer preference research firm, had some pithy advice for car dealers that could apply to tire dealerships.
Explain how the car works, they suggested, to increase ``Initial Quality Survey'' figures. ``At the industry level,'' Power noted, ``the number of reported problems was only 100 per 100 cars if the (car's) controls were explained, but jumped to 165 problems per 100 cars'' when no explanation was given.
Duh...repeat the following to customers: ``This is a tire. It's round and black. Your car probably takes four of them.''
Edited by Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk
While trying on a sombrero, Tom Kastner, general manager of General Tire Service, Countryside, Ill., is approached by a Tijuana street vendor.
Tire Business photo by Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk