Did you watch the Indianapolis 500 race on television during the Memorial Day weekend? Millions of tire users did. And that telecast surely must have heightened their awareness of the crucial role tires play in vehicle performance. With the cars screaming around the two-and-one-half mile course at speeds up to 220 mph, who could fail to be impressed with how much is riding on just four hand-sized contact patches of rubber?
What better example to illustrate the importance of tires when talking to customers?
The fierce rivalry between Goodyear and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.-rekindled by the latter's return to Indy after 21 years-focused unparalleled attention on the tires used in North America's most famous auto race.
This race-generated excitement, in turn, offers dealers an exceptional opportunity to sell the benefits of tire performance-no matter what brands they handle.
Although tires often are relegated to commodity status in the marketplace, they were anything but taken for granted at Indianapolis. There, TV and radio announcers tracked and frequently pointed out which tires were on the leading cars.
In fact, from all the pre-race news coverage given what was dubbed ``the Indy tire wars,'' one might have thought the race was primarily a contest between Goodyear Eagles and Firestone Firehawks rather than the race teams that compete on the Indy Car Circuit.
For a time, the Firehawks looked like certain winners, running No. 1 and No. 2 on lap 184 of the 200-lap race. But suddenly Scott Pruett, in second place, struck the wall and front-runner Scott Goodyear subsequently received a two-lap penalty for passing the pace car-denying him and BFS the victory.
In the end, it was the Goodyear-shod car of Jacques Villeneuve in the winner's circle, leaving ninth-placed Hiro Matsushita the highest finisher on Firestones.
Both tire makers, however, will be winners at the cash register, after the additional sales are counted up. So too will be those dealers astute enough to profit from the public's newly whetted appetite for tire performance.