Racing sometimes makes for strange bedfellows.
The unpredictable winds that help shape motorsports have thrust Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford Motor Co. into a partnership as the premier sponsors of the 2003 Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) season. And that's only a year removed from their high-profile public sparring match over blame for the plague of Ford Explorer rollovers that came to a head with the Firestone tire recall of 2000.
When Federal Express Corp., CART's series sponsor since 1998, opted not to renew its contract after the 2002 season, tire supplier BFS stepped into the breach in November and became the series' ``presenting sponsor.'' Not long after, Ford signed on to become the exclusive supplier of engines to CART's competitors for the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
Thus, for at least the next two years, the CART series will be known as ``Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.'' Both companies will take active roles to promote the series featuring single-seat, open-wheel formula cars racing on ovals, street courses and road circuits in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia.
BFS's decision a year ago to name the tires used in CART's series Bridgestone Potenza no doubt took some of the edge off the situation. Previously the company used the Firestone Firehawk name.
Part of Ford's deal calls for Ford cars to be the official pace cars for all CART events and Ford trucks to be used by the series safety crews. Will they be running on Bridgestone tires?
This 'n that
Rolling ads-Heard a report on a local radio station that at least one small town in southern Ohio was considering allowing its police cruisers to display advertisements on them. Might we suggest a natural: Dunkin Donuts.
* * *
TIA, too-Many loyal TB readers are likely members of TIA, better known as the Tire Industry Association. But subscribing to that popular acronym also could mean you belong to the Travel Industry Association.
Or worse yet, you could be involved in our beloved federal government's ``Total Information Awareness'' program. For the unfamiliar, that TIA is the Pentagon's recently proposed techno-surveillance system, headed by retired Admiral John Poindexter of Iran-Contra scandal fame.
According to a commentator on the ABC News Web site, TIA-in its efforts to thwart terrorism-will use supercomputers and data-mining techniques to keep records on U.S. citizens' credit-card purchases, plane flights, e-mails, Web sites, housing, and a variety of other pieces of info in the hope of detecting suspicious patterns of activity. That could mean stuff like buying chemicals, renting crop-dusting planes, subscribing to radical newsletters, etc.
Does selling retreaded tires qualify as subversive action?
* * *
New Year's resolution-Speaking of retreads, we received a press release from the Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB) noting that pushing retreaded tires for public sector fleets would be a good resolution for dealers to adopt in 2003, which, by the way, TRIB has designated ``The Year of the Retread.''
We're presuming the group means tires, and not politicians, old baseball players and still-travelling Golden Oldies musicians like the Rolling Stones.
* * *
Time for tires?-We stumbled upon an extensive list on the Internet of things that have been sold in vending machines. Conspicuously absent from the more than 100 items were tires.
On the other hand, some of the more interesting stuff has included: underwear; emu jerky; dried squid; worms; leeches; pantyhose; frogs; vegetables; eye pillows; sacks of rice; cell phones; condoms designed to match your blood type; french fries (fried while you wait); sushi (yuck, how fresh is this stuff?); hunting permits; holy water; Bibles; rocks; air; and, yes, even marijuana (sounds like a police sting operation to us).
There's got to be some innovative, entrepreneurial-type dealer out there willing to make a killing by setting up a tire vending machine. Keeping in mind the way tire prices have been, you stick in a buck, out pops a radial.
* * *
Small business-A recent classified ad in Automotive News was seeking a ``Mini Field Manager.''
At first we thought it might be asking for a very small sales and marketing guy or gal, aka the ``Mini Me'' character (at right) of Austin Powers movies. Rather, it was to handle a 10-dealer territory for the BMW Group, maker of the hot new Mini Cooper.
In the Jan. 6 issue of Tire Business, we ran a column on how tire dealers should learn to understand those workers described as belonging to ``Generation X.'' Now American Honda Motor Co. has offered car dealership sales people some advice on catering to Generation Y customers.
An edict handed down from Honda sales training managers recommends dealers avoid the hard sell and do more listening when Gen-Yers-those in the under-25 crowd-show some interest in the company's new Element sport wagon, designed by a young team to appeal to young buyers. They said to drop the ``hey, dude'' greeting (as in, ``Hey, dude, you're getting a Dell).
Instead, Honda offered the following do's and don't's which, we might add, can be appropriate for a tire dealer trying to hawk a set of tires (though you may want to omit the part about pushing Honda quality and substitute the tire maker's name instead):
* Know the product.
* Be professional.
* Ask questions.
* Talk up Honda quality.
* Give shoppers space.
* Try to relate to culture.
* Get in the way.
* Ask, ``Where's your Dad?''
* Call them ``dude.''
And when all else fails, tire dealers, you can always mention that the tires you're pushing probably cost less than the pair of tennis shoes your Gen-Yer customer is wearing.
All pumped up about air
The mayor of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, (near Akron) has threatened to block a proposal approved by city council that would require any new gas station-or one that gets remodeled-to offer free air to motorists. (Well, they gotta breathe, don't they?)
``I believe it is unconscionable for a business that makes a healthy profit from cigarettes and beer to oppose free air,'' Councilman John Schmidt was quoted in the Akron Beacon Journal. Almost 20 years ago, according to the newspaper, the city adopted a law requiring businesses that sell gas to provide air for tires. But some have begun to charge 25 to 50 cents to use their air pumps.
Roger Dreyer, president of the Ohio Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, told the newspaper the measure, if adopted, would likely be the first in the state requiring air be available for free.
But Mayor Don Robart called the proposal ``goofy'' and, pragmatist that he is, said gas station owners will probably just recoup the cost by bumping up the price of gas or smokes or beer. ``There's no such thing as a free lunch,'' he said.
Hey, maybe they should put in pay toilets, too, though we doubt that would get the rest rooms cleaned more often than once a year-whether they need it or not.