LAS VEGAS—Software developer ASA Tire Systems Group has launched an automotive aftermarket Web site designed to connect customers with independent tire dealers. Consumers can log onto the site, eTirePlace.com, enter their location, then search for dealers offering tire brands and services they want. A list of tire stores appears with icons displaying the services each location performs.
The site also can link consumers to a dealer's Web site and e-mail address or provide a map to direct them to the store of their choice.
"Our mission is to get tire dealers ready for the 21st century," ASA President Wayne Croswell said during a Nov. 4 press conference at the International Tire Expo in Las Vegas.
But eTirePlace.com won't stop there, he said. It eventually will feature auto industry news, stock quotes, ads, auctions, industry topic groups and a directory of aftermarket business Web sites.
Dealers must pay an annual $1,200 fee per location to subscribe to the service, but eTirePlace.com is free for consumers, Mr. Croswell said. ASA currently is offering dealers a free 60-day trial period.
eTirePlace.com is a wholly owned subsidiary of Framingham, Mass.-based ASA International Ltd., parent of ASA Tire Systems.
To date, almost 600 locations are registered with the site, and they include tire retailers, wholesalers and commercial dealers, Mr. Croswell told Tire Business. ASA first introduced the site at its October dealer conference in Palm Springs, Calif.
David Henise, president of Henise Tire Service Inc. in Cleona, Pa., immediately signed up his two retail stores with eTirePlace.com after an employee attended the Palm Springs meeting. Although his dealership has its own Web site, Mr. Henise felt he needed to be part of a site that would draw heavy traffic.
"We don't have the resources or the talent to put together a Web site and advertise it on our own, so we thought this might be the small independent's ticket to getting some good, solid Internet exposure," Mr. Henise said.
"We're never going to be No. 1 on the search engines, or the first to pop up on someone's screen when they're thinking about tires."
While visiting ASA's booth at the ITE, Pam Fitzgerald, president of Mike Gatto Inc. in Melbourne, Fla., registered all six of her Gatto's Tires & Auto Service locations with eTirePlace.com. She hopes other dealers will become excited about the Web site because "it's something we have to do."
Gatto's Tires has Web sites through Goodyear and the Yellow Pages, but Ms. Fitzgerald said she wants the dealership to have a stronger presence on the Web and thinks eTirePlace will help.
The idea to create eTirePlace.com came up during a discussion between Mr. Croswell and an associate about eBay, a popular online trading service that auctions off mostly collectible items.
But Mr. Croswell thought an online site based on the eBay concept could be developed exclusively for the tire industry to auction tires, used equipment, retread equipment, casings etc.
During those brainstorming sessions, he decided an e-commerce Web site could be useful to more people if it included services beyond auctioning tires and equipment. He then expanded his vision for eTirePlace.com to encompass the whole automotive aftermarket, complete with industry-specific news, sites and a search engine.
ASA also is considering features such as a listserve (Internet mailing list) for users interested in information on a specific automotive area—such as air conditioning—and vehicle owner surveys.
ASA developed the site in partnership with Inforonics Inc., an Internet services firm.
To kick off the Web site, ASA is first offering the dealer locator feature to raise revenues from advertising and subscribers, then plans to add the other proposed aftermarket features.
To get the word out to consumers, ASA plans to begin advertising in January on cable networks such as ESPN and the Weather Channel, on radio stations and in consumer magazines that "make sense," such as Good Housekeeping, Mr. Croswell said. The company isn't ruling out billboards, banner ads on Web sites like eBay or NASCAR signage, but hasn't finalized any contracts for those options at this time.
ASA also unveiled a new e-commerce application during the ITE/SEMA show called eTireLink. Users who run ASA's TireMax or TirePro software can now sell tires directly to customers via the Internet through eTireLink.
The application is browser-based and enables online customers to access tire inventory and pricing information.