AKRON-Although this year's rapidly rising cost of gasoline may have annoyed many motorists, industry officials said it has yet to significantly affect the price of tire manufacturing or retailing. Transportation costs, however, have been slowly rising as the price of gasoline increased 7.1 percent from January through April, according to Runzheimer International, a Rochester, Wis.-based management consulting firm specializing in travel and living costs.
Gas prices tend to increase just before summer, a Runzheimer International spokesman noted. Still, current prices are the highest since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
A number of retailers contacted by TIRE BUSINESS said they have yet to see slowdowns in service business or tire sales, both of which might be expected to occur should motorists and truckers decide to drive fewer miles in attempts to spend less money on gas.
``I haven't seen any difference'' in the number of retail customers, said Dave Ronda of Ronda Tire Inc. in Grand Rapids, Mich. ``Nobody likes it, but (the prices) will come back down sooner or later,'' he continued.
Spokesmen for Continental General Tire Inc. and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. also said rising petroleum costs have yet to significantly affect the cost of tire manufacturing.
The CGT spokesman added that he does not expect the price increases to affect the company in the near future, either.
Instead, manufacturers and dealers operating sizable trucking fleets said the largest impact has been on their own fuel costs. But gas prices typically are unsteady, they added.
``It's a squishy cost. It's hard to get your finger on it,'' said ITCO Tire Co. President Buck Burwell. Mr. Burwell's wholesaling firm operates 250 trucks daily.
Mr. Burwell said he suspected the increased transportation costs would begin to become apparent in April's financial statements.
Mike Downey, owner of Downey Tire Centers in Santa Rosa, Calif., said his firm will wait a little longer before deciding whether to increase its service prices to offset the higher fuel costs, which have risen 25 to 30 percent in his area.
Since Downey Tire purchases about $100,000 worth of gasoline each year, ``that represents a $25,000 to $30,000 increase'' in fuel costs by the end of the year, Mr. Downey said.