WASHINGTON—It has been a year of transition and restructuring for the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, and now the 76-year-old trade group is making probably the single most noticeable change of all—altering its name. On May 16 the NTDRA board voted to rename the organization the Tire Association of North America to better reflect its broader, more inclusive representation of the tire industry. In conjunction, the association has extended full membership to all companies involved in the tire industry, including tire manufacturers and suppliers.
In discussing the name change, the third in the association's history, the board contemplated retaining ``tire dealer'' in the name or adding ``automotive service,'' Executive Vice President David Poisson said. ``But in the end, the one thing that binds all (the members) together as a group is that they all are active in the tire business.
``We want to involve all segments of the tire business and have all become members on equal terms,'' he added. ``We want our name not to be regarded as exclusive. We want our name to be regarded as inclusive.''
Mr. Poisson noted, ``There is no other group that makes tires the only purpose of its existence.''
To avoid confusion for its upcoming convention and trade show in November, the NTDRA won't officially roll out its new name and logo until the show, according to Mr. Poisson. But the expanded membership criteria are effective immediately.
Until now, the NTDRA offered full membership privileges only to tire dealerships and retreaders, with a restricted classification for suppliers, manufacturers and those not in the business of retail or commercial distribution. ``The board has changed the language to make membership open to any company in the tire industry,'' Mr. Poisson said, adding, ``We want everyone who has an interest in tires to be part of the organization.''
And it is unlikely the tire dealers' historic power in the association will be diminished, Mr. Poisson said. ``Retail outlets numerically outnumber any of the other classes.''
Each member, dealer or supplier, is entitled to one vote, he said. But including manufacturers and suppliers on equal terms with the retail industry should help diminish their adversarial relationship, said both Mr. Poisson and NTDRA President Ted Wiens.
``We want to find ways to bring more people to the table to look for ways to make the industry thrive,'' Mr. Poisson said. ``... There is little or no likelihood we can be a healthy retail tire community without a healthy manufacturing tire community.''
The change in membership criteria won't change the association membership count of 4,000, because supplier members are included in the current tally and make up about a fourth of the total.
But the suppliers will have an opportunity to be more involved in the organization, including collaborating in training, participating in membership programs and services, and receiving lower exhibitor rates at the trade show. ``They will be part of the decision-making at the table and be part of the debate to improve the industry,'' Mr. Poisson said.
The membership and name changes come as the association is undergoing major restructuring. Since last fall, the NTDRA: hired Mr. Poisson to succeed Phil Friedlander, who retired Jan. 1 after 42 years ; merged its 1997 convention and trade show with the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week event in Las Vegas; reduced its administrative staff by more than half to cut expenses; and announced plans to relocate its headquarters from Washington to lower-rent facilities in suburban Virginia.
With the planned move, the association will be changing its stationery and registering itself in a new state, so now was the best time to change the name, Mr. Poisson said.
But the decision was not an abrupt one. In fact, the NTDRA board had been contemplating a name change for years, according to Mr. Wiens.
About four years ago, the board held serious discussions about a name change to go along with a new logo, which emphasized automotive service.
Putting ``North America'' in the name indicates the group's desire to reach out to Canadian and Mexican tire industry representatives, Mr. Poisson said. Already the board includes two representatives from Canada, and Mexican industry representatives have approached the NTDRA about becoming more involved in the group, according to Mr. Poisson.
TANA will be the fourth name for the trade group, which was founded as the National Tire Dealers Association in 1921, renamed the National Association of Independent Tire Dealers in 1936 and became the NTDRA in 1955.