AKRON (Sept. 26, 2001)—Internet sites maintained by independent tire dealerships are becoming increasingly complex and sophisticated, judging from those accessible through Tire Business' site. Dealers can view these sites firsthand by clicking on the “industry sites” button found on the lefthand side of their screen.
The publication provides free “hot links” to sites operated by independent tire dealerships, a tour of which shows many have progressed well beyond merely displaying their dealership's name, locations and hours of business. More than a few have interactive features inviting a response from site visitors, such as indicating their address so that computer software can recommend the company's nearest outlets. Some sites even permit visitors to schedule service appointments online.
A few tire dealership sites—primarily those operated by larger retail chains—display glitzy features such as background music, animated drawings and even segments of streaming video.
Anyone visiting the site of Kansas City, Mo.-based Tire Design Inc. (www.sunflower.org/~usedtire/), is greeted with theme music from the former television show “Mission Impossible.” Those calling up the home page of Bill's Discount Tire in Waco, Texas (www.usedandnewtires.com), are met with animated cartoon figures, such as a bucking bronco and a gun-totin' hombre whose quick draw is meant to remind viewers of the firm's rapid service.
Similarly, the home page on the site of Big Brand Tire Co. (www.bigbrand.com) in Oxnard, Calif., unfolds to the sound of squealing tires—enough to make even the most casual visitor suddenly take notice. Like many other dealer Web sites visited, Big Brand's site also includes online coupons for users to print and redeem when visiting the company's retail locations.
Adams American Car Care Center of Las Cruces, N.M. (www.adamsacc.com), offers site users the ability to schedule service appointments online. Consumers type in their name, e-mail address and phone number, the year, make and model of their vehicle plus a brief description of what services are needed. Adams also asks such customers whether they will need transportation home or to work and if they're interested in using a rental car (at $20 a day) while their own vehicle is in the shop.
The company concludes this appointment scheduling process by asking: “May we contact you via e-mail with service-due reminders and other communications?”
Many customers answer yes, said General Manager Bill Adams. People like receiving reminders by e-mail, but most prefer phoning to arrange a service appointment, Mr. Adams said.
“They seem to like talking with a real person so they can describe the way their car is acting.”
Adams ACCC's site also takes advantage of the fact that Mr. Adams and his father, Floyde Adams, are known locally as “Tread” and “Retread” thanks to a weekly talk radio show they have hosted for eight years over AM station KOBE in Las Cruces.
Indianapolis-based Auto Tire Car Care Centers, meanwhile, uses its site (www.autotirecarcare.com) to inform visitors.
It offers a glossary of such tire terms as tread width, section height and aspect ratio, and customer-friendly explanations of the federal government's Uniform Tire Quality Grading system and the industry's tire speed ratings. Visitors also can pose online questions to the company or offer other comments.
Edmonton, Alberta-based Fountain Tire Ltd.(www.fountaintire.com) asks site users: “What if you never had to wait for new tires to be installed again?”
Advertising copy goes on to explain the idea behind the company's Tire Valet service, in which Fountain tire employees will bring tires to a customer's home or business and install them on the spot. The prominent headline announcing the service reads: “Have tires. Will travel.”
For shear novelty, few sites can match the offer of Jubitz Tire & Retreading of Portland, Ore. (www.jubitztire.com), which prom-ises truck tire buyers free lodging in that city's Portlander Inn.
Cash customers, with the purchase of eight drive tires, for example, receive a free two-night stay at the inn, four movie tickets and a Jubitz VIP Gold credit card.
After greeting visitors with a photo of Los Angeles Lakers' star center Shaquille O'Neal posing with his custom-wheel-equipped Bentley, the Web site of Bellflower, Calif.-based Super Buy Tires(www.superbuytires.com) can display a virtual catalog of the company's tire and custom-wheel offerings plus photos illustrating how custom wheels would look on various cars of the visitor's choice.
In a like manner, the site of Premier Bandag Inc. in Hartford City, Ind. (www.premierbandag.com), boasts what the company calls a “virtual warehouse.”
It lists the company's current inventory of casings by size, grade, price and the quantity in stock.
Merchant's Inc. of Manassas, Va., invites visitors to its site (www.merchantstire.com) to register for its online “vehicle history” service.
After filling out the company's online questionnaire and receiving an identification number for their vehicle, users can keep track of the services Merchant's has performed by date and mileage—useful information, particularly when the time comes to sell or trade it in on a newer model.
Interestingly, in the days following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., the company also found the immediacy of the Internet helpful in posting a special message expressing sympathy for the victims of the tragedy and their families and urging Web site users to give blood to help in the relief efforts.