FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.-Philip P. Friedlander Jr. is encouraging the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association to take a hard look at itself to determine what role it should play in representing the independent tire dealer in the future. In a May 31 speech to the Florida Independent Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, the NTDRA executive, who will retire Dec. 31 after 42 years with the association, said the organization has ``an absolute need'' to develop a strategic plan to redefine its purpose, its position in the industry and how it can make a difference for its membership in the future.
It did attempt such an effort in 1994, he noted, but the initial meetings proved unsatisfactory and the project was shelved.
As part of its strategic plan, the NTDRA must determine what role it should play in representing dealers in their relationships with tire manufacturers,
Mr. Friedlander said.
One tool the NTDRA probably won't use is the Independent Tire Dealers' Bill of Rights, a document implemented in 1992 to put on paper dealers' needs and expectations of their suppliers.
While Mr. Friedlander said the bill has been useful, with some companies having addressed some of the dealers' concerns, he questioned whether it has any future as part of the NTDRA's dialogue with tire makers.
The reason for this, he said, is that no study of dealers concerns, based on the Bill of Rights, has been conducted in two years. And he doesn't see any effort taking place to do another one.
This ``creates a vacuum in terms of whether the NTDRA should be proactive in representing the interests of the tire dealers in industry problems with tire manufacturers and, if so, how,'' he said.
He cited the American Booksellers Association and the National Association of Retail Druggists as examples of other small business associations that have become very aggressive in dealing with some of their respective industries' problems.
The Booksellers Association, in 1994, filed suit against four prominent publishing houses claiming price discrimination, Mr. Friedlander said, while the Druggists Association has been a key player in the price discrimination charges alleged by thousands of pharmacies against most major pharmaceutical manufacturers.
``I am not suggesting that NTDRA should embark on similar type programs, but I am suggesting rather strongly that these associations have defined very clearly what it is they are going to try to do for their membership and pursued it with substantial vigor and commitment and can clearly answer the question: `What have you done for me lately.'*''
Commenting on the ongoing discussions of merging the NTDRA convention and trade show with that of the International Tire and Rubber Association (formerly the American Retreaders Association), Mr. Friedlander said there's been too much talk in the trade regarding joint conventions and trade shows and not enough attention paid to the evolving needs of the independent tire dealer.
``A successful convention and trade show is important to the welfare of a trade association, national or state, but an association which wishes to make a difference should not become too dependent on convention and trade shows in defining its value to its membership,'' he said.
Mr. Friedlander noted that the growth of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week trade shows along with the participation of some large tire makers in those events ``is having a substantial impact on the participation of the auto service aftermarket suppliers in any tire industry shows.''
In addition, major tire companies often are holding their own dealer meetings separate from any association function and are organizing their own trade shows where they are arranging for dealer discounts.
``The NTDRA and (ITRA) should embark on a study to measure the current trends in tire and auto shows and how a joint show could be made financially feasible and would work to the advantage of both groups and their members,'' he said. ``Making this work is more complicated and more difficult than many in the industry seem to understand.''
The NTDRA, he added, began shifting from such large dependence on trade show revenue several years ago.
``My observation is that both national associations and state associations have become too dependent on convention/trade show income,'' he said. ``This requirement has caused a substantial dependence on suppliers, some of whose long-term interests and needs may not be the same as the independent tire dealer.''
Looking at trends in the tire industry and in association movements, Mr. Friedlander said he thinks many dealers no longer view their association's value as positively as they once did.
And on a national basis, he has noted a growing lack of community among dealers. ``I think the split between large dealers and smaller to medium-size dealers may be growing,'' he said. ``This is not necessary since both serve an important function in the distribution system.''
Along with the development of a strategic plan for the NTDRA, Mr. Friedlander suggested the industry needs a new marketing study, similar to the one conducted by Louis W. Stern of Northwestern University in 1983, to help define tire dealers' future and what NTDRA can do to help them prosper in today's price competitive market.
``There is no other place an independent tire dealer can get a view of the market and the industry which is not colored by a tire company, private brand or other manufacturers in the auto and tire industries,'' he said. ``I would urge that this be a major consideration as early as 1997 but no later than 1998.''
In addition, Mr. Friedlander believes the NTDRA and state tire dealer association members need to establish a formalized educational program tied to both small business and to the tire and auto industry to provide the kind of education and training desperately needed by the independent tire dealer.
``There are very few associations of this size that do not have, in some form, an educational foundation, a mechanism for holding university courses in a variety of places, and having programs on a continuing basis to help the dealer,'' he said.