No one in the tire industry likes the negative news coverage generated by last year's Firestone tire recall and Ford Motor Co.'s current tire replacement program.
But you can't argue with the fact the massive amount of publicity surrounding those events has made tires a household concern.
It's clear more consumers than ever are asking questions and seeking answers about the rubber their vehicles are riding on.
Which begs the question: What are you doing at your dealership to take advantage of this increased public awareness?
If you've taken steps to address the opportunities presented by this heightened consumer interest, congratulations.
If you've done nothing or very little, you're missing a tremendous opportunity to solidify your relationship with customers who are looking to you for professional advice about their tires.
But it's not too late.
Consumers today need and want help with their tires and one of the best places to start is with inflation. A lot of people don't know how to take care of their tires and don't understand the importance of proper inflation.
This is an area to exploit. Tires have gotten so good that many-if not most-motorists take them for granted.
Yet statistics show that about 30 percent of cars have at least one severely underinflated tire. Another survey shows that fewer than one in two motorists knows where to look on a vehicle for the recommended tire inflation pressure.
We also suspect many motorists don't know how to properly use a tire gauge. Even if they do, fewer still fail to check their tires on a regular basis.
This presents an opportunity. Consider giving away a tire gauge-even better yet, one with your company's name and phone number imprinted on it-with each tire purchase. That can create a lot of good will and help assure that your customers are satisfied with their tire purchase, not to mention making their vehicles safer.
You might also ask if they know how to use the gauge and if they've ever inflated a tire. If they haven't, walk to the car and demonstrate how to get an accurate reading. While you're there, point out where to find the vehicle makers' recommended tire inflation pressure.
If you don't think this is a good idea, just look at what Discount Tire Co. in Arizona is doing. The dealership, one of the largest in North America, has teamed up with the Rubber Manufacturers Association to hold ``tire pressure day'' events in six cities and 200 stores. These involve giving away tire gauges and an RMA tire maintenance brochure.
Being successful today involves more than selling tires and service and keeping costs low. Showing customers that you care-through programs like the one offered by Discount Tire and the RMA-will go far in building long-term relationships.