Goodyear is offering consumers in Atlanta the option of buying Goodyear-brand tires via the Internet from either its company-owned outlets or independent dealers.
The venture, a test program that began in March and will run through April or May, allows consumers to log on to the tire maker's Web site, www.goodyeartires.com, and place an order. The site asks for information on the tire buyer's vehicle year and model, most desired performance features and pricing considerations.
The tire buyer then enters a zip code and receives listings of the nearest Goodyear locations and their price offerings for the recommended products. It's then up to the consumer to select a retailer and visit that store for installation.
For now, Goodyear is testing the program in Atlanta to gauge consumer response and to see how well the system works before it makes any decisions to offer tires online in other markets, a company spokesman said. Twenty-five Atlanta retailers are participating and offering their own sale prices on the Web site.
``Consumer research has proven that all of us seek added convenience because of active lifestyles and workday requirements,'' said Stephanie Wernet, e-commerce director for Goodyear North American Tire. ``That means the time-worn practice of making multiple visits to tire retailers to check brands and prices has given way to more online research...and even online purchases.''
The Goodyear spokesman said the company is offering e-commerce in Atlanta because the mix of Goodyear-owned and independent retailers provide enough coverage for consumers to have an outlet close to where they live and work.
Atlanta also is considered to be one of the ``most wired'' cities in the U.S. in terms of number of residents with computers.
He noted that this is the first time Goodyear has involved independents in business-to-consumer electronic transactions.
``We wanted to set up a system where we involve our dealers and they get the sale, and they get the customer,'' he said.
Last July, Goodyear introduced a similar undertaking in Chicago with 27 of its Just Tires outlets, and customers still can visit www.justtires.com to order tires.
Goodyear has made no definite decision on whether to expand that program beyond Chicago.
The spokesman said that after Goodyear completes its pilot program in Atlanta and gets ``real-world feedback,'' the firm will decide then if it will offer online tire buying to consumers in other markets and whether to expand those offerings to include Dunlop and Kelly brands.
Goodyear has no sales target it wants to reach through the Atlanta program, he noted, and hasn't sold a significant number of tires via the Web there.
Some people still prefer to see and touch tires while shopping, he said, but for those who shop online, Goodyear wants to offer Internet options rather than have those customers buy tires elsewhere.
One Atlanta dealer who is participating in the online venture said she hopes Goodyear will take the idea nationwide. Dolores Wood, co-owner of Wood & Fullerton Inc., said her dealership has sold few tires online since Goodyear launched the program but still thinks it's a good idea.
``I like the idea very much,'' Ms. Wood said. ``I think we badly need to be online accessible.''
Ms. Wood said Goodyear needs to advertise more to consumers that tires are available online. The tire maker only has advertised the program in Atlanta in print ads, and Ms. Wood feels Goodyear will need to offer tires online throughout the country ``before we see much (sales).''
Goodyear is using technology from Comergent Technologies Inc. That company's system includes four suites of software applications that enable interactive selling and marketing, order management, partner relationship management and private marketplaces.