In businesses as varied and individualistic as tire retailing, wholesaling and retreading, there are as many past and future challenges as there are tire dealers and dealer associations. For Marvin Bozarth, executive director of the International Tire and Rubber Association, the biggest problem its members have faced to date is: How to bring their equipment and technology into compliance with Year 2000 requirements.
``Sometimes you're spending money when you don't know whether it's necessary or not,'' said Mr. Bozarth, who added that accounts receivable, databases and bank accounts were ITRA members' biggest Y2K-related concerns.
``You need to keep as many paper copies as you can, because you may have to prove that you hold those accounts if the computer records are wiped out,'' he said.
Major future challenges for ITRA, Mr. Bozarth said, include fighting efforts to remove the federal excise tax on new truck tires; educating motorists that ``rubber on the roads'' doesn't always come from retreads; and furthering efforts to train tire industry personnel.
``There's a tremendous shortage of people in all parts of the industry—retreading, manufacturing, retail,'' he said, and the industry is investing all it can in training, but it's an uphill battle to attract and keep qualified young people.
David E. Poisson, executive vice president of the Tire Association of North America, said government regulations remain ``one of the big problems people face.'' But only a few years ago, the major challenges of owning a tire dealership included ``the material aspects of running a business," such as obtaining necessary capital, construction of new facilities, and dealers being unable to get tires when they needed them.
Now and in the future, however, dealership problems will be more in the realm of properly trained personnel, marketing, consolidation in the tire industry and competition from mass merchandisers, according to Mr. Poisson. ``We've become much more service-oriented and much less product-oriented,'' he said.
Wise tire dealers, he said, will put together ``a medium- to long-term business survival and growth plan,'' including a technology strategy, a succession plan, training for everyone from tire technicians to upper management and ``a comprehensive risk-management plan that anticipates changes in the marketplace and protects tire businesses from unexpected litigation.''