Spencer Carruthers, owner of Kenwood Tire Co., wanted to show his customers why tire maintenance is important, but he needed a way to draw a crowd to his dealership and get them to pay attention.
So Mr. Carruthers called Michelin North America Inc., the sole supplier of tires for the NASA Space Shuttle, and asked if he could borrow a tire used on a space shuttle.
Michelin complied and since July Kenwood Tire has displayed a tire that was used on the main landing gear of the space shuttle Discovery in a 1995 mission.
That mission included the first female shuttle pilot and the first approach and fly-around by a shuttle with the Russian space station Mir.
The promotion has worked well, drawing at least 50 people who came to the firm's West Bridgewater store the first day Mr. Carruthers had the shuttle tire available to see and photograph.
``We're always looking for ways to generate some excitement about tires,'' he said. ``With all the negative perceptions people have about our industry, especially after last year, it's time to remind them of what marvels of modern engineering their tires really are.''
In conjunction with the promotion, Mr. Carruthers and his employees have distributed tire safety brochures from the Rubber Manufacturers Association and spoken on the need to check tire pressure.
``A lot of people stopped by to look at the Michelin space shuttle tire,'' Mr. Carruthers said. ``They see where it actually landed and read all about it. Then it's an easy thing to say, `How are your tires?'''
The dealership is not offering any special tire sales in conjunction with the space shuttle tire display but is providing free tire pressure checks. Mr. Carruthers emphasized that the promotion is designed to attract new customers to his two stores by raising awareness of tire safety.
``Our message was that this (space shuttle tire) carries nitrogen in it to keep the air pressure stable, and nitrogen doesn't leak through the tire like regular air does. It doesn't lose a pound a month. But your tires do,'' he said.
The Michelin space shuttle tire-which is slightly larger than a truck tire but can carry three times the load of a Boeing 747 hitting the pavement at 300 mph-will be on display at Kenwood Tire until Aug. 23.
The tire was showcased for two weeks at the West Bridgewater outlet and now is on display at the Norton, Mass., store, Mr. Carruthers said, adding that Michelin is in no hurry for him to return it.
``They're not really pressuring me to give it back either, which is nice,'' he said. ``They're happy that somebody can make use of it.''
Kenwood Tire, founded by Mr. Carruthers' father-in-law, Ken Wood, employs 11 and is a member of the Michelin Alliance program, deriving 85 percent of its tire brands from Michelin Americas Small Tires.