AKRON—1996 went out on a high note, according to participants in TIRE BUSINESS' Rapid Response Fax Poll, the majority of whom said fourth-quarter sales were up, while prices and costs held relatively steady. Dealerships apparently rebounded from a slow third quarter to post an average 4.1-percent gain in tire sales over the final quarter of 1995. Service sales across the country improved 3.9 percent.
Retail prices had their steadiest quarter for the year but still dipped 0.2 percent over the 1995 period. Costs rose only 0.5 percent.
Dealers in the Midwest, who showed gains throughout the year, experienced slower growth than the national average in the last quarter.
``I see business to be about the same as last year,'' said one Midwestern dealer. ``However, in the past, we usually ran 5-10 percent above, so I would have to say business is not as good as normal.''
Added another dealer: ``The changes in the fourth quarter and expected decrease in the first quarter are both weather-related.''
Dealers along the West Coast fared best during the fourth quarter, posting tire and auto service sales increases of 8.8 and 5.8 percent, respectively.
More than half the dealers said they expect increased tire and auto service sales during the first quarter of this year.
However, 64 percent also said they expect prices to drop and costs to incease.