LOUISVILLE, Ky.—Marvin Bozarth, executive director of the International Tire and Rubber Association, has joined the chorus of independent tire dealers in criticizing Ford Motor Co.'s decision to ``become a factor in the retail tire market.'' Writing in the September edition of The Tire Repair/Retreading Journal, Mr. Bozarth said that in one day he saw or heard eight radio and TV commercials promoting tires sales at Ford dealers. Only two competing tire companies ran ads during the same time periods, he said.
``I don't know the extent of Ford's advertising budget for tire products,'' Mr. Bozarth wrote, ``but they are serious about selling tires.''
Mr. Bozarth said he phoned four Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealerships to ask about tires for a 1995 Lincoln Town Car, and their responses were mediocre.
``Before Ford becomes a major threat to the independent dealer, its sales and service operations must undergo major changes,'' he said.
However, he predicted that if auto sales decline, auto dealers will promote tire sales more aggressively.
Mr. Bozarth added that he believes tire dealers supply most Ford dealerships now, but if the auto maker reaches even half its expressed tire sales goal of 6 million units per year, ``what are the chances they will continue buying from dealers?''
Mr. Bozarth wrote that Ford probably will establish direct supply routes from tire makers, and if Ford's tire program is successful, other auto makers may set up similar programs.
Drawing a parallel to Ford's tire initiative, ITRA's executive director said he believes new-truck manufacturers may get involved in commercial tire sales and service.
He added that many truck manufacturers now offer 24-hour service to fleets through their dealers and the next step might be offering a comprehensive fleet management program.
He said some truck dealers now say they aren't interested in tire sales and service, but a downturn in new truck sales might cause these dealers to consider tire sales as a way to make up for declining income.
Mr. Bozarth also believes truck dealer tire programs could even threaten retreaders.
``When you consider that truck manufacturers may be able to buy new tires for resale at OEM prices in the future, it could be very difficult for the retread industry to compete.''