MONTEBELLO, Calif.-In an effort to improve the reputation of Hispanic-owned tire dealerships in the Los Angeles area, the Southern California dealers association has made what some might consider a ``politically incorrect'' move-the formation of a Hispanic chapter.
Ed Cohn, executive director of the Southern California Tire, Automotive & Retread Services Association, admitted when announcing the formation of the Hispanic chapter that he was initially skeptical of creating an ethnic-based chapter.
But Sergio Rivera, a SCTARSA director and originator of the Hispanic chapter, argued that since many Hispanic tire dealers are not fluent in English, a chapter that conducted meetings in Spanish would overcome communication problems when educating these dealers on industry standards and government regulations.
Mr. Rivera, who works for Tire Dealers Warehouse in Compton, Calif., freely admits that Hispanic-owned tire shops in the Los Angeles area have a generally poor reputation for following industry guidelines. Many shops, for instance, still conduct the prohibited practice of regrooving passenger tires, he said.
Mr. Rivera estimated 80 percent of the tire businesses in the Los Angeles area are owned by Hispanics-many who need direction.
``We want to help them get their act together,'' he said.
Mr. Rivera said that often deal-ers are too proud, or too stubborn, to admit they don't understand certain rules or procedures, so a Spanish-speaking chapter concept offers ``a comfort level.''
``The purpose is not to alienate ourselves,'' Mr. Rivera stressed. Rather, the chapter hopes to draw new members into the SCTARSA and eventually get them involved in other association activities. Since its founding in July, the chapter has signed 12 new members to the association.
About 30 people have been attending the monthly meetings at a Bakers Square restaurant in Montebello, where the group discusses such issues as Occupational Safety & Health Administration regulations and new state rules on tire disposal.
Many of the chapter members are fairly new to the tire business, but there also are dealers who have run businesses for 10 or 15 years, Mr. Rivera noted.
``We tell them they work so hard for this and they can lose everything (with inferior or illegitimate procedures),'' Mr. Rivera said.