MALVERN, Pa.-To date, more than 50 commercial tire dealerships have taken Data View Inc. up on its offer to establish and maintain free home pages for them on the Internet. The Malvern-based firm, which markets computer software for tire and vehicle tracking called ``Quik Look Vehicle Status'' or QLVS, has extended the offer, announced initially in April at the World Tire Conference & Exhibition in Louisville, Ky.
During the conference, Data View also expanded this offer to include other industry suppliers serving commercial tire dealers and retreaders.
``We're pleased with the response-and it's growing,'' said Donald Egan, one of the company's four founders who refer to themselves simply as ``team members'' rather than by job title.
Mr. Egan said Data View plans to continue designing, setting up and housing free Internet Web pages for dealers and suppliers at least for the next 60 days.
Dealers who contact Data View requesting such services receive a worksheet suggesting how their home page might look and what is needed to create it, such as the dealership's logo, a description of its products and services and the addresses of its locations, telephone and fax numbers etc.
After receiving this information, Data View will design, test and then ``house'' the dealer's home page for free, according to the company's literature. Normally, set-up takes about a week, after which the dealership is notified of its unique Internet address.
Mr. Egan said providing this service helps establish Data View's name with potential buyers while also offering the possibility of modest remuneration should users later wish to expand their Web listings beyond the confines of the 8-1/2- by 11-inch page included in the company's free offer.
Moreover, he said, the promotion also was intended to acquaint dealers with the benefits of computer technology and the exciting possibilities just emerging in the realm of ``electronic commerce.''
Since introducing Quik Look last November, he said, Data View has realized the need to update and educate many of the commercial tire dealers it is targeting with its software.
``I've met owners of $10-million companies that still don't even have computers,'' Mr. Egan said. ``And if they don't see a need for a computer they're not going to buy Quik Look,'' he added.
Moreover, many commercial tire dealerships that choose not to computerize their operations today aren't likely to be around tomor-row, Mr. Egan warned. In order toremain competitive, such businesses have to be prepared to provide customers with more than tires and tread rubber.
Today's most powerful and sophisticated dealerships are getting more and more into ``the information business,'' he said. ``They're supplying tires. But beyond that, what they're really supplying is information to each fleet about their tire purchases.
``We've had tire dealers tell us, `I'm not sure what this Internet thing is all about, but I know I need to be on it,'*'' said Mr. Egan.
Besides providing a tremendous forum for the exchange of information, the Internet can benefit tire dealers in several ways, he said.
For one thing, it levels the playing field between large and small competitors. The home page of even the smallest dealership can look as good as that of a huge corporation such as IBM, he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the Internet is fast becoming the way a growing number of sophisticated purchasers are buying products these days.
John R. Fisher, Data View's technical expert, said another reason the company decided to offer free Web pages to commercial tire dealers was to create a ``sense of community'' among industry users of the internet.
People and businesses have been putting up Net sites everywhere and anywhere-and there isn't a single site where you can go to learn about a specific industry, Mr. Fisher pointed out.
Once this has been accomplished, he said, the next step is to persaude commercial accounts to buy tires via the Internet.
Retail consumers already are shopping the Internet in this manner, he pointed out. And suppliers such as Goodyear have responded by providing World Wide Web sites in which consumers not only can determine the best tire to answer their needs, but also the nearest outlet for obtaining it.
Data View's Internet Web site (http://www.online.com/dvi.html) asks users the name and address of their company and whether they would like a demo copy of Quik Look software or their own Web home page.
The site also is equipped with utilities enabling Data View to determine who visited its site and which of its features were of the most interest to each visitor, Mr. Fisher said.