FLINT, Mich.-Back when he took the helm of the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association almost a year ago, tire dealer James Faught of Flint, Mich., promised to be more than merely a ``ceremonial president.'' True to his word, the NTDRA's 69th president, whose term will expire at the close of the association's New Orleans convention, Oct. 12-14, has proven to be a man of action-spearheading what may be the most provocative if not controversial proposal in the group's 75-year history.
In his role as president, Mr. Faught has called on the NTDRA and its rival, the American Retreaders Association, to consider holding their conventions and trade shows together as part of a consolidated week-long event that would include other tire and rubber industry groups and activities.
As he envisions it, the proposed ``Industry Week'' would feature a combined trade show along with individual association and company meetings, educational seminars and technical presentations, which presently are held separately at different times of the year. The theory is that consolidating such events would save time and money for all concerned.
And while the NTDRA is in no position to dictate the time or place of such an event, Mr. Faught pointed out that the association's 1997 convention is scheduled for Las Vegas-one of the few cities capable of hosting such a large show.
In effect, the proposed event would resemble the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week held annually in that city under the joint sponsorship of several automotive aftermarket groups.
The AAIW show has attracted increased attention and participation in recent years from tire suppliers and dealers alike-prompting some exhibitors to push for a similar ``mega'' show directed at tire dealers.
To study the feasibility of the concept, Mr. Faught is attempting to recruit a task force representing industry groups such as the NTDRA, ARA, Rubber Manufacturers Association and other interested parties, including dealers and tire manufacturers.
He said the NTDRA has mailed invitations to some 29 prospective task force members, asking them to attend the group's first meeting, Nov. 7-8 in Cleveland.
Mr. Faught has agreed to head the task force during the coming year even though his term as NTDRA president expires in October. He has vowed to see the concept through to fruition or exhaust all efforts trying.
The issue is simply too important to ignore, he said. ``The members need it, suppliers and exhibitors need it-everybody needs it.'' But somebody has to put it all together-and you can't accomplish that in the span of a one-year term as president, he emphasized.
Mr. Faught considers the NTDRA's most significant accomplishments during his presidency to be:
1) Establishing an on-going dialogue with other trade associations in the tire industry;
2) Fostering awareness of the need to review how the industry's trade shows are managed; and
3) The understanding that the association needs to continually expand its services to members.
During the past year, the owner of Northwest Tire & Service in Flint also chaired the Strategic Planning Committee, charged with reworking the NTDRA's bylaws and developing its goals and mission beyond 2000.
But because the NTDRA derives much of its annual revenue from its fall convention and trade show, the ramifications of consolidating it with other industry gatherings, have occupied the committee's attention this past year, he said.
In fact, the ``trade show issue'' was the primary focus of the association's annual tire manufacturer visits last winter, he pointed out. Encouraging tire company participation in such shows was the principal topic of discussion when association officials met with manufacturers late last year, according to Mr. Faught. This is one reason why the association's October convention will boast ``more tire brands'' and a ``larger percentage of trade show space'' devoted to tires than any event in the association's history, he said.
Departing from previous practice, the NTDRA this past year did not survey its members as to how their tire suppliers are complying with the provisions of the ``Tire Dealers' Bill of Rights,'' adopted by the association in 1992.
However, such surveys may be resumed in future years because tire manufacturers as well as dealers have expressed their interest in viewing the results. ``As negative as some people think it is,'' Mr. Faught said, ``it's an amazingly positive vehicle'' for establishing dialogue with the tire companies. Although trade shows are a highly visible aspect of the NTDRA's operations and necessary from an economic standpoint, they are by no means its most important function, Mr. Faught said. Member services are just as important and will become increas-ingly so in the future.
Consolidating the annual trade shows of the NTDRA and ARA would, he believes, permit staff members of both associations to devote more time and attention to other important functions such as membership services, political action and industry relations.