An Ohio-based Caterpillar Inc. heavy equipment and power systems dealer has teamed up with Mr. Tire of Columbus L.L.C. and Findlay, Ohio-based Sparks Commercial Tire Inc. to sell and service Caterpillar-branded skid-steer tires in 64 Ohio counties.
The deals, signed in late April, were created to help Holt Cat deliver better service to its customers, according to Mike Myers, Holt Cat's marketing manager. He said the dealership's service department is better equipped for repairing large bulldozers and wheel loaders for quarry applications, but not for the smaller, skid-steer applications used in construction.
``We're just not tooled or have the vehicles and the expertise to service those customers as well somebody's who's already in that business,'' Mr. Myers said. As a result, the dealership has looked to area tire dealerships to help service skid-steer customers, which typically go through an average of 21/2 sets of tires per year and need repair work more often than equipment, he said.
Sparks Commercial Tire and Mr. Tire are the only tire dealerships involved in the partnership, which Mr. Myers said would be effective for an indefinite amount of time and is limited to the skid-steer business. The two tire dealerships have expertise in the landscaping and construction markets.
He said Holt Cat is the second Caterpillar dealership in North America to join forces with local tire dealers-a dealership in Canada also has given local tire dealers the opportunity to sell and service skid-steer tires.
``I think you'll see it as a growing trend, the fact that Cat dealers aren't as well experienced in serving the smaller equipment customers' tire needs as we thought we were,'' Mr. Myers explained. ``And so, we'll still be able to provide the inventory and those kinds of things to the tire dealers, but the tire dealers will have to interface with the customer because of their expertise and their ability to serve.
``It's kind of a lesson learned for us,'' he added. ``We certainly want to sell any Cat product that comes down the pipeline, but some things are going to be better served by people who do them better than we do. We're willing to partner with whomever's better at it.''
Caterpillar dealers sell Cat-brand tires made by Titan International Inc. for skid-steers, telescopic handlers and backhoes.
Mr. Tire is responsible for serving Columbus, Mansfield, Marion, Delaware and Lancaster, Ohio, while Sparks will serve the Toledo, Lima/Findlay, Dayton and Cincinnati areas, according to Gary Steele, product support sales manager for Holt Cat.
Sparks, which also sells Goodyear brand skid-steer tires, operates five locations in western Ohio-two of which are retail and commercial, and three that service the mining, construction, steel and agricultural markets, said owner Terry Sparks.
He said he thinks Holt Cat's program will be good for his dealership in the long run even though he said the partnership was too new to be able to gauge how much more business his company would receive.
During the past month, Mr. Tire sold a set of four Cat tires and wheels and now has all the literature, inventory and customer lists from Holt Cat to get started, said owner Clyde Hampton.
The dealership operates one location in Columbus but has nine trucks that service the Cincinnati, Dayton and Findlay areas as well. Mr. Tire also sells Titan brand skid-steer tires.
Mr. Hampton said the deal will be a boon to his dealership when Holt Cat's customers come to his dealership not only for skid-steer tires but also passenger and truck tires for their vehicles. ``(The deal) is a new inroad for total overall business,'' he said.
Though on the surface it would appear that Holt Cat is forfeiting some skid-steer sales to the tire dealerships, Mr. Myers said tires aren't a large part of Holt Cat's business, and it doesn't want to alienate customers who will need to buy machines in two years by providing inadequate service.
``It would appear so, but we sell inventory to them, so we'd rather participate on that level than not participate at all. If we're not doing a good job servicing the customer in that area, then they're going to choose someone else.''