The Tire Industry Association, hoping to improve the industry's image with consumers and boost the professionalism of the retail trade, has devised a four-pronged strategic plan that includes the creation of a certified store accreditation program and the coining of an industry slogan.
The certified store concept will involve dealerships complying with a set of ``best practice'' guidelines developed by an industry-wide task force, coordinated by TIA, and involving ongoing training and certification.
Announced Nov. 4 at the International Tire Expo in Las Vegas, TIA's strategic plan covers a multitude of new initiatives grouped under four primary categories: government relations, public relations, member services and education and training.
The strategic plan grew out of the need to provide TIA-which has existed only five months since it was born from the merger of the Tire Association of North America and the International Tire & Rubber Association in July-a clear direction. The plan is the culmination of months of intensive work by the 12-member strategic planning committee, and will be the foundation upon which TIA launches a renewed membership drive.
``We want TIA to become an independent voice to represent the industry,'' said Larry Morgan of Morgan Tire & Auto/Tires Plus and co-chairman of the planning committee at a press conference held to announce the strategic plan. ``We need to elevate and enhance the standards and image of our industry.''
The plan is based on several assumptions, ranging from ``the tire industry is in a tremendous state of change'' to ``the TREAD Act is recognized as an opportunity to develop `standardization' in our industry,'' said TIA President Tom Raben.
``Our survival depends on our ability to effectively add value to the industry,'' is one of the fundamental tenets of the plan, he said.
Before setting forth on any of the concrete goals, the committee developed a vision statement: ``TIA will lead cooperative efforts to enhance the value and professionalism of the industry''-and a mission statement: ``To provide exceptional products and services benefiting both the public and the industry.'' All strategic goals pursued in the coming years will reflect back on these ideals.
The certified store concept, which falls under member services, will involve the creation of a trust mark-along the lines of the Underwriters Laboratories Inc.'s UL symbol-which accredited stores would display and promote, supported by an industry wide campaign to establish the mark's importance with consumers.
Becoming a certified store would indicate a dealership has taken measured steps to limit liability through the implementation of best practices and has trained and certified its employees to the highest standards, TIA said. Hoped-for results would include lower insurance rates, less exposure to lawsuits and less government intervention.
In general, TIA said, the use of a trust mark creates differentiation from the competition, helping dealers fight the ``commodity image'' and enhance the public's perception of the industry's products and services.
Once retail best practices guidelines have been established, TIA will look into creating similar programs for commercial, retreading and recycling businesses.
Also under member services, TIA will act as a clearinghouse for insurance concerns. Dealers will be able to call in and get advice from an insurance professional about dealing with their insurance company.
Activities in the government and public relations areas already are well advanced, but TIA said the planning committee sees the need for greater activity in a number of areas. Those include: increasing member participation in government affairs and support of the TIA Political Action Committee; becoming better known to legislators and government leaders; and enhancing cooperation with other tire and automotive service industry associations.
Overlapping with several initiatives, TIA will organize a multi-year, industry wide public relations effort designed to increase the ``public's appreciation of the safety, performance and value of tires.'' Such a campaign would complement existing efforts, such as the Rubber Manufacturers Association's ``Be Tire Smart'' campaign.
On the regulatory front, TIA already has organized a summit of automotive aftermarket trade associations for Feb. 25-26 in Washington to discuss issues of mutual concern and areas of possible cooperation with members of Congress.
One aspect of TIA's strategic plan that still needs considerable attention: funding. Enacting the various initiatives will require measurable investment in both time and money, the planning committee members agreed, and this underscores one of the plan's goals-increase membership.
Members of the strategic planning committee were: Mr. Morgan; Mark Whaley, Iowa Mold Tooling Co. (co-chairman); John Adams, Big O Tires Inc.; Barbara Briggs, Briggs and Sons Tire; Jimmy Crews, Tire Treads Inc.; Wayne Croswell, ASA Tire Systems; Peggy Fisher, Fleet Tire Consulting; Tommy Harris, Harris Tire Co. Inc.; Brett Matschke, Richlonn's Tire & Service Centers; Larry Sehman, Sehman Tire Service Inc.; Terry Westhafer, Central Tire Corp.; and Stu Zurcher, Zurcher Tire.