From a strict marketing standpoint, East Ford's ``free tires for life'' promotion might seem to make sense.
It was a cute marketing ploy that caught people's attention and generated some serious service business for the Jackson, Miss., auto dealership.
It also was designed to help close some new car deals.
But probably to no reader's surprise, the promotion turned out to be more expensive than the auto dealership originally planned, causing General Manager Jack Bethany to suspend it in order to take time to evaluate the costs.
While it was unlikely the ``free tires for life'' concept would have become a phenomenon at new car dealerships nationwide, many independent tire dealers likely breathed a sigh of relief that another ill-conceived tire promotion appears to have bitten the dust.
But there's another reason why tire dealers should be glad this promotion has deflated.
Such a publicity effort denigrates the value of the tire.
The fact is, East Ford used tires as a gimmick to draw customers into the dealership for repeat service business such as oil changes.
That's worth repeating. The auto dealership used the concept of ``free tires for life'' to generate new and repeat service business-not to sell tires.
This is not to put down East Ford for trying a novel idea to boost sales. But it illustrates very clearly how many people, even in the automotive service industry, value tires. And the conclusion that can be drawn from this is: not very much.
Despite all the negative media coverage tires have received over the past two years, their role in vehicle handling and safety still is not appreciated by many motorists.
But why should they? Advertising and promotions like East Ford's don't talk about the quality and technology that goes into a tire. Instead, tires more often are sold based on price, as if all of them were the same.
If people in the tire industry, including independent tire dealers and other tire retailers, continue to sell and advertise tires as a commodity, why shouldn't consumers regard them as such?
In a way it's like the tire industry has an inferiority complex, despite the fact that modern pneumatic tires may be one of the most technologically advanced products available today.
Tire dealers, who talk to millions of tire customers every day, are in a powerful position to begin to change these perceptions.
But first dealers and their employees must come to grips with how they value tires and not be afraid to advertise and sell them-and for what they're worth rather than merely following what the competition dictates.
This won't be easy, we realize. But only then will consumers begin getting the message that tires truly are remarkable products and well worth their hard-earned dollars.