Who's looking out for the independent tire dealer these days? That question arises following Goodyear's recent decision to begin selling tires through Sam's
Club, the members-only discount chain owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and feared by dealers for
its low-ball pricing.
One day before announcing its intentions, Goodyear informed the Tire Association of North
America, which in its newly revised role as a "tire industry association" obligingly accepted
TANA, which last November changed its name and expanded its membership to include tire
makers and suppliers, needs to decide where its loyalties lie when the interests of dealers and
manufacturers don't coincide.
Only six years ago, the same group, then called the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders
Association, issued "The Independent Tire Dealers' Bill of Rights," protesting similar actions by tire makers that were not in the best interest of dealers.
Now the association appears flattered at having been forewarned of Goodyear's move and has
accepted it without so much as a protest.
TANA President Pamela Fitzgerald, herself a Goodyear dealer in Melbourne, Fla., called the tire
maker's willingness to inform the association a "real breakthrough for us in dealer-manufacturer
Ms. Fitzgerald said Goodyear has assured TANA its expansion into Sam's was "not being sought
at the expense of independent tire dealers."
With all due respect to Ms. Fitzgerald and the association, some dealers may
disagree—particularly after seeing their prices on Goodyear tires being compared with Sam's on
the discounter's wall.
Equally surprising is the resigned response by Goodyear dealers, who not long ago were
outraged when the tire maker began selling its brand through Sears, Roebuck and Co. stores.
Independent tire dealers have remained North America's leading retail tire channel, thanks in
great measure to a strong national association that guarded their best interests.
TANA must keep this at the forefront when making future decisions.