NASHVILLE, Tenn.—While a dealer incentive program begun last year by Bridgestone/Firestone Off Road Tire Co. (BFOR) has been successful, company officials say they plan to modify its benefits to encourage even more dealers to participate. BFOR's Advantage Trust Partnership (ATP) provides financial and service incentives to dealers to increase sales of the company's off-the-road products.
BFOR is an operating company of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. that manufactures and markets off-the-road tires.
The program's first year ``was very successful,'' said Rob Mills, with BFOR marketing. Last year, about 100 dealerships with a combined total of about 700 locations across the country participated. Members sign up and renew the program on an annual basis.
Although Mr. Mills wouldn't give a specific goal for the number of dealers BFOR hopes to add this year, he believes the renewal rate will be close to 100 percent. ``It is our primary dealer channel strategy,'' he said.
The ATP program offers two packages that reward dealers based on three factors:sales volume, annual growth and increasing their in-house share of BFOR products. Under the ATP Trust Fund, dealers can earn share credits that can be applied toward BFOR-approved expenses, such as equipment and training.
The program's ATP Benefits package provides service-based incentives, including priority for back-ordered tires, emergency no-charge upgrades to a higher ply or pattern, and priority shipping.
``The big thing in off-the-road is having the tire when the customer wants it,'' said Wayne Gross of Tire Distribution Systems in Nashville.
He said he used ATP's priority shipping 15-20 times last year to meet the needs of heavy equipment owners who couldn't wait several days for a replacement tire.
He also said his dealership will use its 1998 ATP Trust Fund credits to purchase more service equipment.
Jim Parkhouse, owner of Parkhouse Tire Inc., a 10-store chain based in Bell Gardens, Calif., said this type of dealer incentive program isn't really new, but the ATP program has one positive aspect: ``They made it a little easier to understand.''
John Kovack with Parkhouse Tire stressed the importance of the priority ordering service and the ability to upgrade to a higher-ply tire if the type a customer wants is out of stock. ``ATP has merit,'' he said. ``It's definitely a good sales tool.''
Without providing specifics, Mr. Mills said this year's program is ``about 99-percent firm.'' The dollar amount of dealer credits is likely to be increased, he added.
There also will be some adjustments in the service/benefit package, Mr. Mills said, such as discounts on tire-tracking software and on service by a mobile tire shredding unit BFOR owns.
ATP dealers saw an average 20-percent sales increase last year, he said, predicting ``dealer sales will be up in 1999.''