AKRON—In the past few years, business-to-business (B2B) Web sites tailored for the tire industry have started up with the promise of facilitating online business relationships among dealerships, wholesalers and manufacturers.
These particular Web sites, created by entrepreneurs independent of any tire makers or distributors, offer everything from online trading exchanges to savings on auto parts to dealership location services. That long list includes tiredex.com, trucktirexchange.com, parts.com, tirecasings.com and others.
But are these sites as useful to tire dealers as they have promoted themselves to be? Several dealers told Tire Business that using B2B sites is a low priority.
"Computers are not a way of life for us yet," said Sherry Clay Marcoe, co-owner of Jeff Clay & Sons, a one-store dealership in Kissimmee, Fla.
Ms. Marcoe regularly uses e-mail and purchases tires online from her main distributor, but she said she hasn't looked for inventory on B2B sites because her current distribution network supplies everything she needs.
In Watertown, Mass., Barry Steinberg, president and CEO of Direct Tire & Auto Service, posted 500 tires for sale on tiredex.com for 30 days and did not hear from even one interested buyer. Mr. Steinberg visits B2B sites two to three times per week but isn't impressed with online traders because he feels that if he can't make good business deals with tire manufacturers and distributors, then he's "not worth (his) salt."
"Every day is a new day in the tire business," Mr. Steinberg said. "I don't want to have to go online and see what the hot deal is today. It's more of what I need, not necessarily what (trading sites) have. I prefer to strike a personal relationship with vendors and deal with the people I enjoy dealing with. That's what you build a business on, and that's what relationships are all about."
For some dealers, day-to-day operations leave no time for searching and experimenting with B2B sites. At Scranton, Pa.-based Jack Williams Tire Co. Inc., the technology focus is on the dealership's own Web site, said Scott Williams, vice president and general manager.
"We've just been so busy doing other Web things and working on our Web site and integrating some of our systems," Mr. Williams said, "that I just haven't really gotten into (B2B sites)."
Mr. Williams, who handles all of his firm's Internet activities, said that he if had an in-house Web manager to free up some of his time, he probably would experiment with B2B.
Billy Fuqua Jr., principal of Los Angeles-based Washington Tire & Wheel Inc., sells tires and wheels to consumers through his dealership's Web site but said he's usually too busy to communicate with other businesses online because of the barrage of e-mail he receives from customers.
"I don't even know what's on my Web site half the time because we're so busy responding to e-mails," Mr. Fuqua said. We get about 100 a day."
Mr. Fuqua, who operates what he called a "mom and pop" store, would be willing to buy and sell through B2B sites if they were linked to other tire companies such as Heafner Tire Group's Competition Parts Warehouse division and Yokohama Tire Corp.
But he also feels skeptical about trading via an online exchange with unknown parties.
"The human element is still important," Mr. Fuqua said.