Where once he might have opposed any talk of joint ventures between the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association and other industry organizations or companies, today Philip P. Friedlander Jr. sings a different tune. The NTDRA's executive vice president believes that for the association to successfully meet the needs of its members, it must forge strategic alliances with other industry groups on projects of mutual benefit.
Such talk of conciliation is an about face for Mr. Friedlander and the NTDRA. Until recently, they have nixed most talk of broad-scale industry-wide cooperation. Nor has the association's oftentimes stormy relationship with tire manufacturers and the American Retreaders Association encouraged joint projects.
But with his retirement looming at the end of 1996, Mr. Friedlander believes the time is right to speak out on issues he wouldn't have dared touch even five years ago. ``I can't be a political issue (now),'' he said. ``I'm done. I have no vested interest.''
Drawing on his 42 years at the NTDRA, including 17 at its helm, Mr. Friedlander believes the association and other industry organizations must start cooperating in areas where it makes sense to do what's best for themselves as well as tire dealers.
``The tire industry has finite resources and does a poor job of utilizing them,'' he said. In some areas the industry duplicates efforts, in others it does nothing, he explained.
``For example, show me a market research program, either retail or commercial, done by the RMA (Rubber Manufacturers Association), the NTDRA or the ARA (American Retreaders Association),'' he challenged.
There is a need for a study similar to the 1983 NTDRA commissioned industry report compiled by Dr. Louis Stern of Northwestern University. It could be financed, he said, by pulling together industry resources.
Driving Mr. Friedlander's thoughts, in part, is his perception that today's tire dealers have different needs than those of recent decades.
Dealers 30 years ago were more militant and likely to rally around causes.
In the '50s, '60s, '70s and even part of the '80s, the association's main aim was to provide dealers with protection from inroads by the federal government, from other forms of regulation and from the tire makers themselves.
That protective element still exists,but today there's more.
``You've got to give tire dealers the opportunity to get a competitive edge, particularly when they don't have the advantage of size,'' he said.
But because NTDRA members are so diverse, ``that competitive edge has to come from a lot of different places,'' Mr. Friedlander said.
For the NTDRA to provide its dealer members with the programs and information they need to remain strong and profitable, it will have to forge some of these alliances, Mr. Friedlander said.
Already the NTDRA has initiated talks with the RMA about areas of mutual cooperation, similar to those held previously with the rival ARA.
While the discussions with the ARA have yielded little headway, the RMA has agreed to continue exploring areas of common interest, including researching the development of a single trade show for the entire tire industry.
To that end, James Faught, president of the NTDRA, announced in June that he would appoint a task force to explore establishing ``a rubber/tire industry show week.'' The ARA will participate on the task force.
But the alliances Mr. Friedlander is talking about go beyond a single industry trade show. They involve all areas of the business where there is a need and mutual benefit can occur.
The NTDRA, for example, is working with Bank One, Dayton, to open up the Money Express credit card to the association's affiliate membership and to offer the card to franchisers. A major tire maker also has expressed interest in offering the card.
``By going outside the traditional tire dealer, you can build Money Express,'' he said.
In addition, the association is working on two initiatives-one in the auto parts area, the other in the commercial area-trying to bring resources together for mutual benefit, he said.
Can such alliances occur?
Mr. Friedlander is uncertain. ``These are my strategic views in terms of the association movement in this industry, not whether or not I think it can be accomplished,'' he said.
Philosophically, though, he sees the need for the industry to look at the bigger picture. ``And an alliance is a bigger picture,'' he said.
As for his legacy when he retires:
``I would really like to see some pieces of the strategic alliance that I've been devoting a great deal of energy to be operational,'' he said.