RALEIGH, N.C.-Multi-States Farmers' Service Co. Inc. has let the air out of its private label ``Safemark'' tires after being unable to keep up with production quotas. But the small buying group consisting of state farm bureaus won't be abandoning its private brand tire business-only lumping its purchases into two larger, more muscle-bound buying groups: Jetzon Tire & Rubber Co. Inc. and Universal Cooperative Inc., which, respectively, market the Jetzon and CO-OP private brands nationwide.
According to Perry Crutchfield, treasurer of the North Carolina Farm Bureau Service Co., which handles many of the administrative functions of the Raleigh-based Multi-States group, it came down to strictly a ``numbers game.''
``To be more competitive,'' he said, ``we started looking for a bigger buying group''-with annual tire purchases of $100 million to $130 million. He estimated Multi-States' tire sales at $10 million to $12 million annually.
Multi-States will continue to operate a marketing program under the Safemark name, though Safemark-brand tires no longer will be available.
The group's decision provides a no-loss situation for Kelly-Springfield Tire Co., which made most of the Safemark tires and is a primary supplier of both Jetzon's and Universal Cooperative's private brand tires.
Mr. Crutchfield said it wasn't always possible for Multi-States to absorb runs of 450 passenger, a like amount of front farm and 150 rear farm tires several times per month to keep the Safemark brand in production.
So it began relying more on marketing various sizes of what he called ``neutral'' Kelly-made brands including Supersport, Pacemark and, in farm tires, Powermark.
Members of the Multi-States group-which has more than 1,500 sales outlets-are the farm bureaus of Utah, Vermont, Georgia, Nebraska, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North and South Carolina, with the last four being the major tire purchasers, Mr. Crutchfield noted.
Under the continuing Safemark program, participating farm bureaus will market a full line of passenger, light and medium truck, and agricultural tires, as well as replacement plow and tractor parts and a number of other products, including petroleum, twine and replacement batteries.