GRAND BLANC, Mich. (April 26, 2002)—Launched nearly one year ago, General Motors Corp.'s “On A Roll” program is exactly that—on a roll. Nearly 1,600 dealers are participating and an advertising campaign supporting the nationwide program has been rolled out.
But while GM Goodwrench dealers are offering tires among their wares, competing independent tire dealers aren't merely rolling over.
“That doesn't bother me in the least,” said Bud Hardel, president of Fridley Tire & Brake Service in Fridley, Minn. His store is across the street from Friendly Chevrolet, home of a GM Service Plus dealer that is headlong into the On A Roll program.
“Good competition is good for everybody,” Mr. Hardel continued. “Their business is their business. I don't pay any attention to that.”
His sales haven't diminished since Friendly Chevrolet started selling tires, he added.
In January, Automotive News, a sister publication of Tire Business, reported that Friendly Chevrolet had invested nearly $50,000 in equipment required for the On A Roll program, which is designed to keep GM car buyers coming back to their dealers for service.
The program was in response to research that said more than three-fourths of consumers have their cars serviced where tires are sold and even more buy their tires from the first person who tells them to do so. Whereas in the past a Goodwrench Service Plus dealer could tell customers they needed tires, that same dealer now has tires available.
“The goal behind this program is not about tires,” a spokeswoman for GM's Service Parts Operation (SPO) said. “It's about customer satisfaction and around-the-wheel service. It's keeping them in the dealership and not sending them down the street. It's all about total service.”
So say the ads. A print ad which ran in major national publications, including Parade, USA Weekend and American profile, features the headline: “Expert Service/Tires You Want/Now Rolled Into One,” each embossed in raised-white letters on a trio of tires.
Below the tires is copy telling consumers “the smartest place to take your GM car, truck or SUV is now also the best place to get your tires.”
The advertising campaign, launched April 1, includes broadcast and print ads, with radio spots on national network radio programs and morning and afternoon drive-time talk shows. TV advertising may be launched at some point, the spokeswoman said, but it is still in the proposal stage.
The campaign will integrate with the Web site www.Goodwrench.com and include direct-mail ads. NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick's No. 29 car will bear the On A Roll logo, the spokeswoman said.
The program is certainly growing. At the end of 2001, 1,400 Service Plus dealers were enrolled. That number leapt to 1,588 by April 19, she said. GM SPO is hoping to have 2,400 participants by year-end. There are roughly 3,500 Service Plus outlets nationwide, comprising half the number of total GM dealerships.
Such numbers create a concern for existing tire dealers. “Anytime you put additional tires in the marketplace through a supply point, it's going to create an area of concern,” said Mike O'Neill, director of operations for Buffalo, N.Y.-based Dunn Tire Corp.
Dunn Tire is caught between a bit of a rock and a hard place where the GM program is concerned. On the one hand, the company is a large retailer in the area. On the other, as a wholesaler, it supplies tires to an area car dealership.
“They do buy tires from us, so they're a customer,” Mr. O'Neill said. “Now on the other side of the coin, they're becoming a competitor.”
He said Dunn Tire combats that by telling customers they have the lowest price in the market. The GM spokeswoman said Service Plus dealers are selling tires at “competitive” prices, but said it's “up to the individual dealer” how such things as price and ancillary services like free rotation and balancing are determined.
Mr. O'Neill said Dunn Tire supplies the local GM dealer with Michelin and Goodyear brand tires. The On a Roll program ads hawk those two, along with the BFGoodrich, Uniroyal, Bridgestone, Firestone, Continental and General brands.
GM dealers must be enrolled in the GM Goodwrench Service Plus maintenance program to participate. A one-time fee of $999 is required and participants must purchase related equipment.