MONROE, Ind.—For years, the 80-plus dealerships that make up the Zurcher Tire Group have operated in the shadows, benefiting from the group's combined buying power for tires and business services, but operating in the marketplace as individual tire dealerships.
The recent launch of the "Best One Tire & Service" marketing program, however, will allow them to take advantage of a group identity in terms of advertising and merchandising, Zurcher Tire Group owner and founder Paul Zurcher said. In addition, Best One is offering a nationwide roadside assistance program and nationwide road hazard protection.
Best One, the common identity under which the 180-plus retail and commercial stores of the Zurcher Group will now operate, debuted the week of June 12 with television, radio and print advertising in five key midwestern markets. The program had been in the works for more than two years, Mr. Zurcher said, and has been tested in a few key markets since last fall.
"We have taken advantage of our size in many areas, such as long-distance phone coverage, health insurance, uniforms, equipment, and, of course, tires," Mr. Zurcher said in a prepared statement. "The Best One brand now allows us to gain economies of scale in advertising and merchandising."
Each of the Zurcher Group partner dealerships will retain its own name, but will add Best One signage to take advantage of group identity, said John Miller, director of retail development.
Best One's television spots debuted on network and local news programs in Evansville, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and South Bend, Ind., and Lexington, Ky., Mr. Miller said, and are being supported by radio, direct mail, newspaper inserts and print advertising. The ads' jingle ends with, "I always choose the Best One."
Of the 180-plus outlets that make up the Zurcher Tire Group, more than 80 are identified as at least partly commercial, and these will fly a "Best One Fleet Service" banner. Of these, about 25 are considered primarily commercial.
The commercial side of the business includes Premier Bandag Inc., North America's seventh-largest truck tire retreader. That business will continue to operate for now as Premier Bandag, but a name change to Best One Bandag is possible, Mr. Zurcher said.
The Web site address www.bestonebandag.com already is registered.
"Our focus is on providing fleet customers with complete tire management," said Pete Glesing, director of commercial development for Best One. "Telling a fleet manager that he or she can expect consistent prices...at our 80 fleet service locations often puts Best One stores' bidding business over the top."
Zurcher Group operates under more than 80 different names throughout its seven-state operating area, but founder Paul Zurcher—owner of Zurcher Tire Inc. in Monroe—is the common thread, owning a share of all the dealerships involved. Mr. Zurcher's first store, in Monroe, opened in 1948, but it was not until the early 1960s that he started expanding with partnerships.
The group calls itself the largest Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. buying group in the world, and it is considered one of Goodyear's largest dealerships as well. The group's retail holdings stretch across Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee, and it has wholesale affiliates in other states.
Associate dealers—customers of Zurcher's wholesale businesses—are not eligible at this point for the Best One program, Mr. Zurcher said.
Among the larger individual dealerships involved are S&S Tire Inc., with 18 stores in Kentucky and Tennessee; Indy Tire Centers, nine stores in Indianapolis; Monteith Tire and Auto Service Center in Warsaw, Ind., with eight stores; Southern Illinois Tire, with seven stores; and Southern Indiana Tire, with six.
Nearly all the Zurcher Tire Group affiliates already have Best One store displays and advertising material, Mr. Miller said, but outdoor signage is just starting to be made available.
Best One stores carry most major tire brands, but the group's main brands are Bridgestone, Firestone, Goodyear, Michelin, Mastercraft and General. There are no plans now for a Best One private brand, Mr. Zurcher said, but it's something that could come up for discussion among group members in the future.
As for the new aspects of the program, the road hazard and warranty packages were a high priority for many dealer members, said Roger Laird, controller at Monteith Tire.
"Even though we do not have stores coast to coast, our customers can get assistance anywhere in the country," Mr. Miller said, referring to the new coverage policies.
The Best One group is considered to be one of North America's 10 largest tire retail and commercial dealerships.