The Tire Association of North America is about to enter a new era and should take the opportunity to strengthen its support of the independent tire dealer. With the planned resignation of David Poisson as its executive vice president, TANA soon will come under new administrative leadership. On an interim basis, it will be run by Ross Kogel Jr., its director of marketing, who also is interested in taking the job full time.
While TANA now seems to have its financial house in order, the group still needs to re-establish its role as an industry force.
Whoever is the next full-time executive vice president should move the association in that direction and create solid new reasons for dealers to become and stay members.
Mr. Poisson has done a credible job the past three and one-half years in making the association fiscally sound. It had fallen on hard times in the mid 1990s, culminating with a disastrous convention and trade show in Atlanta in 1996. The association lost $1 million that year as attendance at the annual event declined precipitously.
During his tenure, Mr. Poisson slashed the size of the association's administrative staff, moved TANA's headquarters out of the nation's capital to less expensive offices in Reston., Va., launched a new CD-ROM training course, opened membership beyond tire dealers to include suppliers, and—most significantly—revived the group's trade show. In doing so, however, TANA relinquished ownership of the exhibition to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).
Now it needs to establish itself as a potent voice on behalf of its membership.
In the past, the former National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, TANA's previous name, administered its own insurance programs for dealers, had a highly effective lobbying effort and met annually with tire manufacturing executives to air dealer grievances.
Several years ago, it created The Independent Tire Dealers' Bill of Rights, which articulated the way dealers wanted to be treated by suppliers.
While that document angered many tire company executives, it fostered dialogue that led to reforms and improved relations between dealers and suppliers.
Today, TANA continues to be primarily a dealer organization. But even with tire makers as members and directors, the association still has the opportunity and obligation to arbitrate dealer-supplier disputes.
TANA can and should develop more valuable benefit programs that help independent tire dealers compete. And it should serve as a watchdog over legislative issues.
While we don't advocate returning to the confrontational approach of years past, tire dealers need a strong national advocate. TANA's leadership should strive to make that happen.