So you think the profit margins on tires are way too low? You might want to consider selling Reebok Corp.'s famous footwear.
Our sister publication, Rubber & Plastics News, recently reported that Reebok ordered its prime contractor in Thailand, Bangkok Rubber Co., to stop making Reebok shoes at a facility where that contractor hired Burmese refugees at far less than the Thai minimum wage.
Refugees, fleeing their country's civil war, were being paid only half of the legal Thai minimum wage of $4.60 per day.
Let's see, in the States a pair of Reebok shoes sells for. . .
Tire industry honchos have long lamented that despite technological advances, the cost of a set of tires hasn't escalated much in the past 20 or so years. Yet many of the people who grouse about tire prices will spend more than a hundred bucks for a pair of sneakers.
What's wrong with this picture?
``Fast Women,'' the headline said.
The article, in American Woman Motorscene magazine, was about the all-female American Women Racing Team who pilot pace cars for the PPG Indy Car World Series races.
At least one of the drivers competes in the IMSA Firestone Firehawk Endurance Series.
The mag is written, for the most part, by women for women who are car and racing buffs.
You paint your store. You update the magazine rack. Maybe add some new advertising or marketing programs. Has it made a difference?
Greg Painter operated a ``typical'' auto parts store, originally known as Capital Engine, in Helena, Mont. But he wanted out of that so-familiar kind of place-dark, dingy, with rack-upon-rack of auto parts.
Consumers assumed he sold only engine products and parts.
So he built a new state-of-the-art store, renamed it Dr. Zoom's Auto Parts, and, according to Big A Auto Parts Inc.'s Straightaway magazine, Mr. Painter's retail business jumped by more than 50 percent.
The new store features his collection of old traffic lights, gas pumps and road signs. Even a replica of a 1940s Texaco station in one corner.
``I just made Dr. Zoom's an attractive place to shop, and backed it up with customer service,'' he told the magazine.
A major acquisition apparently occurred in the tire industry while we all were sleeping. Only the Wall Street Journal Europe seemingly knew about it.
In a story from Paris, the newspaper reported that Groupe Michelin's first-half profits more than tripled. OK-TIRE BUSINESS ran a similar story.
Absent from our report, though, was the Journal's identification of Michelin, which it said ``also owns the Goodyear, Uniroyal, BFGoodrich, Bridgestone and Kleber brands. . . .''
One-stop shopping, indeed.
Yep, the best votes money can buy.
The Republican presidential straw poll in Iowa simply did what pols in Chicago have often been accused of doing: buying votes. The Iowa event is billed as a GOP fund raiser, however this year's ``contest'' seemed to ruffle some feathers.
This past May, Maurice Taylor Jr., president and CEO of Titan Wheel International Inc. (owner of Titan Tire Corp.), entered the presidential follies. His campaign staff of 25 works out of his Des Moines, Iowa, tire factory.
National Public Radio reported that he began buying so many tickets-at $25 each-for the Iowa event that candidate Bob Dole got miffed and had to resort to bringing in bus loads of supporters.
``Morry'' Taylor told the Associated Press he relishes the role of confusing the GOP presidential field, that he plans ``to have some fun,'' and admitted he bought 1,000 straw poll tickets. Rivals suspect the millionaire bought twice that many.
Leave it to Republican Party mathematics, then, to explain how he placed sixth in the straw poll-with only 803 ``votes.''
Sobriety-not something you might expect to find at a sobriety checkpoint.
But only one truck driver out of 569 stopped July 21 on Interstate 77 south of Charlotte by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicle Enforcement (DMV) faced an alcohol-related charge. And he was not technically ``driving while impaired,'' according to Maintenance Matters, the newsletter published by the Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations.
The DMV credits word getting out about its ``Booze It and Lose It'' campaign.
Officers placed 12 trucks and 13 drivers out of service after finding six driving without licenses and five with revoked licenses. Three drivers were cited for drug possession and three others for carrying concealed firearms.
At least they weren't drunk!
And we're not talking smog.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the City of Angels is handling a rather sticky, or shall we say stinky, case about an ex-employee of a Los Angeles car dealership who is suing the company for ``racial harassment.''
AutoWeek reported the ex-employee's taken a novel approach, claiming an unconventional method of harassment: dealership execs repeatedly walked into his office without provocation and ``broke wind.''
However the dealership's attorney somehow established that ``there was indiscriminate passing of gas in the office,'' no doubt without regard to color or creed. (Maybe they had bean burritos for lunch?)
``I never realized when I went to law school,'' he said, ``I would be defending someone's right to pass gas as an expression of free speech.''
Phew! Can't wait for this one to hit the U.S. Supreme Court's docket.