LAS VEGAS-Face it...the tire business is a game of numbers: Units; sales; SKUs; margins; profits; losses. Whatever.
The game perhaps took on some new meaning recently in light of a proposed merger between the Tire Association of North America (TANA) and its brethren in the International Tire & Rubber Association. By the numbers, TANA brings about 3,600 members to the combined fold and ITRA about half that many.
As he wrapped up a year as TANA president that ended not with a theory but with a big bang, Nick Hodel trotted out some numbers of his own to illustrate the strength-and importance-of the trade he's called home for many years. During TANA's annual ``Breakfast with the President,'' Oct. 31 in the Aladdin Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Mr. Hodel bypassed the normal route the association's past presidents have taken in recapping accomplishments of the past year.
Instead, he checked off for the audience of dealers, associates and spouses a list of statistics he believes are important for the tire industry and the soon-to-be combined association.
But he prefaced that exercise by admitting that in his one-year term he ``learned more about the industry'' than ever before. Now...try these numbers on for size:
30 - A ``somewhat startling'' number, Mr. Hodel said, because it represents the approximate percentage of businesses in the tire industry that are members of any trade association. Is it troubling, he asked, that 70 percent of the industry is letting others pay for the industry's efforts in Washington, in training, and in trade shows and conferences? ``It's critical for the tire industry that this number grows.
``The newly merged association can work with state associations, members and the entire industry to encourage membership in any association,'' he said. ``Tire industry professionals should know that membership in any tire industry association is worthwhile.''
535 - This year, Mr. Hodel claimed, TANA has contacted 535 congressmen, senators and their staffs on Capitol Hill to help educate them about the interests of the tire industry. ``Tires are some of the most scientifically advanced and best-made products in today's market,'' he added, and once TANA and ITRA combine their government affairs departments, the new group will have an even stronger voice on ``The Hill.''
59.5 - That's the market share of the independent tire dealer, and an ``interesting statistic,'' he said. Dealers are doing well while in other retail fields ``many `independents' have been eliminated.'' True, independent dealer market share has slid from its all-time high of 89 percent back in 1926. But it also has worked its way back from the 1963 low of 38 percent, he said. Today's number ``reflects positive growth,'' illustrating ``independents in today's market are more competitive than ever'' and are ``obviously holding their ground.''
Although this stat focuses on the retail side, he sees a merged group helping both retail and commercial dealers grow their market shares.
340 - This is the percent growth in attendance at TANA's trade show since 1966, when the old National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association gathered for its convention in Atlanta. Today, the Specialty Equipment Market Association/ International Tire Expo, sponsored in part by TANA, is the 20th-largest association trade show in the world, he said.
11 - The number of state tire dealer associations represented at the Tire Industry Association Executives meeting held this year in Washington totaled 11. Mr. Hodel said one of TANA's goals is to continue its outreach to state associations.
0 - Until now, zippo was the number of Canadians who have served as an officer on TANA's executive committee. However, that changed this year with the induction of Toronto's Paul Hyatt as TANA's new secretary.
22 and 24 - In a recent survey of its members, TANA asked 500 dealers: ``What is the single biggest issue or problem you face when running a business?'' Their top two answers: ``Finding and retaining quality tire technicians'' was cited by 22 percent, while 24 percent said ``competing with bigger businesses.''
94 - Of those dealerships that find it tough to retain good tire techs, Mr. Hodel said a ``whopping 94 percent of them believe `finding trained, qualified employees' is very difficult for their business.'' Clearly, he noted, ``this is a serious issue for the industry,'' and is an area where he believes non-profit organizations can help.
15 - Fifteen companies sponsored TANA's latest training and certification program for off-road tires, he said.
$20.9 billion - That's the current size of the replacement tire market. One of North America's largest industries, Mr. Hodel acknowledged that ``recently it has taken some public criticism,'' alluding to the tire recalls that have made headlines over the past year or more. But ``it's up to members to spread the word that our businesses sell products of the highest quality,'' he said. ``Today, by necessity, we are ambassadors for the tire industry.
``It is our responsibility to be spokesmen and spokeswomen, to explain to the public that tires are safe and dependable products....''
The $20.9 billion per year in replacement sales not only represents millions of sales to customers, he continued, but ``millions of conversations with our customers. So the next time a customer questions safety, the next time government officials suggest a problem, I hope you'll join me in educating them about the level of excellence that this industry has delivered to customers for over a hundred years. It's up to us.''