It's probably not what most tire dealers want to hear—that they may have to spend more money updating mounting and balancing equipment.
But if you look at the trend taking place in cars, trucks and sport-utility vehicles—where larger wheels and lower profile tires are becoming more commonplace—it points to the need to have the correct mounting/demounting and balancing equipment available to handle these products safely and effectively.
No, tire dealers aren't yet faced with having to change and install 26-inch tires and wheels like the prototype products Yokohama Tire Corp. displayed at last year's Specialty Equipment Market Association/International Tire Expo.
But 20-, 22- and even 24-inch wheels are now a reality in the aftermarket and are likely to become more common, as several stories in this issue illustrate. That's not to mention the growth in 18- and 19-inch wheels.
Unfortunately, the older mounting and balancing machines many tire dealers have in their shops often aren't designed to effectively handle these bigger products safely and correctly, and upgrading isn't always the answer, according to equipment makers.
While dealers may gripe about the prospect of having to up-grade or purchase new equipment to handle these products, the movement toward larger and more expensive tires and wheels can work in their favor, helping to boost revenue and shore up margins.
For one, these tires and wheels are expensive, with packages often exceeding $3,000. And many dealers have found customers willing to spend that and more.
So becoming an expert in this area can pay big sales dividends.
But while larger tires and wheels may look great on customers' vehicles, they also produce a harsher ride and experience more frequent vibration problems, which take time to solve, industry experts said. And if not mounted and demounted properly, the wheels can easily be damaged.
These service issues fall right into the bailiwick of the tire professional—the independent tire dealer.
To satisfy the growing numbers of vehicle owners who've spent literally thousands of dollars on tires and wheels, dealers should have the right equipment in their shops and technicians trained in its operation.
And most importantly, they should charge more for this higher-end service. Solving tire vibration and balance problems on these larger products requires more expertise than with broadline tires and wheels, so dealers should charge accordingly.
With the trend of larger passenger, light truck and sport-utility tires and wheels showing no signs of abating, savvy dealers should look to capture their share of this lucrative business.