WASHINGTON-For the first time since the adoption three years ago of the ``Independent Tire Dealers' Bill of Rights,'' attendees at this month's National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association convention in New Orleans won't be told how tire makers are measuring up to its precepts. Reason: The NTDRA this year did not survey its dealer members-and therefore has no survey findings to report-on tire manufacturers' compliance with the ``Bill of Rights'' document, adopted by the membership at its 1992 convention in Las Vegas.
Not to worry though, assured NTDRA Executive Vice President Philip P. Friedlander Jr.: ``The Bill of Rights is alive and well.''
In fact, it's likely another such survey will be taken by the association as early as the first quarter of 1996, he said.
Mr. Friedlander said the association held off conducting the survey this year because procedural changes are being contemplated-particularly in the way survey results will be presented to tire manufacturers in the future.
Among the proposals being considered is whether to make public the written responses of individual tire makers to survey findings, according to Mr. Friedlander.
Changes to the Bill of Rights survey will be a major topic of discussion when the association's board of directors meets during the New Orleans convention, Oct. 11-14, he said.
The board also will be asked to rank in importance the various concerns expressed by dealers in previous surveys. This information, in turn, will be used to formulate future surveys, he explained.
Using an automated system, called Selectravote, individual responses of each of the board's 95 members can be recorded and instantly tabulated at the group's Oct. 11 meeting. Mr. Friedlander described this as ``an attempt to involve the board in a more direct way'' in the decision-making process.
One thorny question the board also must consider is whether tire makers will respond to dealers' concerns if their written responses are to be made public.
Among the topics covered in the Bill of Rights are such controversial subjects as direct selling by manufacturers through national accounts and company stores, equality of tire pricing and advertising allowances to dealers as compared with mass merchandisers and discounters, and whether or not a tire company relies on the independent tire dealer channel as its primary avenue for expansion.
NTDRA's incoming president Paul Bobzin said he doesn't want relations with tire makers to become ``too confrontational'' as a result of these discussions.
``We're in an era. . . of working together,'' said the owner of La Canada (Calif.) Tire Center Inc., referring to relations between the NTDRA and tire makers. And during his forthcoming presidency, Mr. Bobzin has pledged to work with all segments of the industry to better its public image.
Still, he said, ``Dealers have a right to express their concerns.'' And manufacturers ought to be given a chance to have their say in response. However, Mr. Bobzin said he doesn't believe relations have to become confrontational in the process.
If adopted, such a measure would answer the complaint voiced by dealers that, heretofore, they have not been told what their supplier had to say in response to unfavorable survey findings.
For the past two years, dealers participated in the survey by answering and returning printed questionnaires concerning their treatment at the hands of tire manufacturers. These responses were then tabulated and the results presented in generalized form during the convention's ``town meeting'' sessions.
Months later, individualized results were presented to each tire maker by association officials during their annual company visits. By tradition, however, little public mention was made by the association of dealer complaints against specific manufacturers or of the manufacturers' responses.
This would change if the board decides to publish the tire makers' responses.