AKRON—Tire dealers—like the population as a whole—are concerned, bemused, in some cases a bit suspicious of the ``Year 2000 Problem.'' A sampling of comments from dealers found that some are very interested and are actively taking steps to protect their businesses.
Others are taking a ``wait and see'' attitude, believing that no major problems will surface.
``I guess I'm not real concerned about it, but I guess I should be,'' said Suzy Darter, owner of Marion Tire Co. in Marion, Ind. An independent Goodyear dealer, she isn't worried about her office computer system because it's tied into Goodyear's extensive dealer network.
Marion Tire also has a manual backup of its records. Ms. Darter thinks the worst-case scenario would be mistakes on accounts or inventory but said, ``I'm not looking at a big problem.''
Mark Lefebvre, president of Concord Tire and Auto Service Inc. in Concord, N.H., found that 1998 was ``a great time to upgrade'' because of Y2K concerns. His company has spent about $17,000 on new equipment and software.
The dealership's office functions are fully integrated on a computer system with a software package from ASA Tire Systems Inc., Mr. Lefebvre said. But he's not as confident about computer-controlled equipment on the shop floor.
Concord's two locations have three FMC alignment machines, and Mr. Lefebvre said he hasn't heard anything from the company about them yet. As for other diagnostic equipment in the shop, he said, ``I'm reasonably confident they are Y2K compliant.''
Dean Cadieux, manager of Sloat Tire Co. in Batavia, N.Y., said his dealership uses the Tire Works program from Signal Software Corp.
Sloat Tire spent $9,500 to upgrade its mainframe computer and six terminals. The firm sells a wide variety of passenger, light truck, farm tires and small tires and wheels for implements.
The dealership could process orders on paper if it had to, Mr. Cadieux said. ``If (the computer) goes down, we'll survive.''
Another dealer with a Signal system is Lelon Cross, owner of Cross Tire and Auto Service in Little Rock, Ark. He plans to spend $7,500 for both a software upgrade from Signal and for new hardware and, ``considering that our system is five years old, that's not too bad.''
Mr. Cross also has an alignment unit from Hunter Engineering Co. and has been told it is Y2K compliant.
Bauer-Built Inc. in Durand, Wis., has spent the past year purchasing new hardware and software, according to President Jerry Bauer.
The company has 50 different business operations, all connected to a main computer, Mr. Bauer said.
A lot of dealers have been pushed into upgrading their systems by suppliers and customers.
``Our major customers insist that we be (Y2K) compliant,'' said Doug Campbell, sales manager at International Truck and Tire in Sarnia, Ontario.
Dan Rygel, owner of Auburn Tire Factory in Auburn, Wash., thought his computer network was in compliance. He was told his system was OK by a local technician who built it, he said.
Then, when Mr. Rygel attended a meeting of the Northwest Tire Factory buying group, dealers were given a software disk to check their machines. He discovered two of his three computers, both less than three years old, would have Y2K problems.
``If I found out about it later, it would really be a problem,'' he said, adding that each of the machines will cost about $200 to fix.
Big Four Tire Service Inc. has served its clientele in Sacramento, Calif., for 27 years without using any computers, according to owner Martha McAfee. Her bookkeeper uses a computer at home to keep the company's books.
Mrs. McAfee is convinced that people are ``making a big hoopla'' of the Y2K problem. ``I'm sure it will be solved,'' she said.
Marion Tire's Ms. Darter noted that phone companies have developed systems that allow people to screen out calls from telemarketers.
``If we have the technology that can screen out calls from an aluminum siding salesman at dinner time, then we can solve this problem," she said.