LAS VEGAS —Sensing a fundamental shift in the way consumers shop for tires and automotive services, American Car Care Centers Inc. is launching a national consumer advertising campaign the group hopes will make it a household name.
The new campaign debuted in the Oct. 31 USA Today. It promotes ACCC dealers as "the right choice...for the right reasons," and is being complemented by stepped up training efforts for employees of its member dealerships, according to Dave Crawford, ACCC director of marketing.
The new campaign is designed to take the 965-outlet marketing cooperative to the next level of professionalism. It comes as public awareness of tires is heightened in the wake of Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s massive Firestone tire recall, providing an opportunity for tire dealers to attract new clientele by demonstrating their commitment to quality, Mr. Crawford said.
"The Firestone recall is a watershed event in the history of this industry," Mr. Crawford told more than 100 ACCC dealers gathered in Las Vegas at the International Tire Expo/Specialty Equipment Market Association trade show. "Consumers are confused,...they don't know whom to trust...they are looking for answers.
"This is an opportunity for our dealers to step into the roll of the guys in the white hats,... to become the `someone who cares' about the consumer," he said.
To this end, ACCC is developing an enhanced training program for shop floor personnel, trying to change the image of tire changers from "tire buster" to "tire technician."
ACCC is looking at CD-ROM-based training materials for dealerships to use to improve their employees' training, Mr. Crawford said. In addition, the group is reviewing Tire Association of North America (TANA) training procedures and is discussing cooperative training programs with manufacturers of tire changing equipment.
After the initial full page advertisement, a half-page version will run several times in USA Today in November and December, he said.
The ad depicts five children standing on a playground, with the headline reading: "5 reasons to choose us for your tires."
According to ACCC, those reasons are: its 12 month/12,000-mile "Freedom Plan" treadwear and road hazard protection; 24-hour roadside assistance; "trusted" brands; warranty protection at more than 1,000 locations nationwide; and free safety inspection and tire rotation.
The change in consumer attitudes presents tire dealers with the chance to break the cycle of over emphasizing price, said Bucky Stein, owner of Target Tire, an ACCC member.
"We sell safety," Mr. Stein told the meeting. "Why should safety be cheap? We have the chance to become `safety dealers' and get margins back into tires."
ACCC's newspaper campaign—devised and designed in the space of only a few weeks—will be followed later this year, or early in 2001, with local and regional television and radio commercials, according to Len Lewin, ACCC's president and COO.
The group's management also is considering running a TV spot nationally, if the appropriate vehicle is found.
ACCC also will back up the advertising campaign with a package of other promotional activities, including merchandising and public relations initiatives, point-of-sales tie-ins, direct mail and Internet support, Mr. Lewin said.
Michelin Americas Small Tires—ACCC's primary tire supplier and maker of its American Radial brand—is supporting the group's new promotion effort, according to Peter Selleck, MAST's executive vice president and COO, though financial details are still being worked out.
Collectively, ACCC's members sold more than 14 million tires last year and rang up $1.5 billion dollars in sales, Mr. Lewin said.