At times, the recent Goodyear national dealer meeting in Orlando resembled a gathering of tire dealers from Missouri, the ``Show me'' state.
When asked for their reaction to the strategic plan put forth by the new Goodyear North American Tire (NAT) executive team, independent dealers from across the U.S. and Canada were nearly unanimous in wanting to see proof.
``They're saying all the right things,'' said Mark Carpenter of Jerry's Tire & Auto in Lake Odessa, Mich., echoing the sentiments of many dealers asked for their opinion. ``But I want to see them act on them. They need to get back to the basics.''
``I was impressed by his (NAT President Jon Rich) approach, and the four-point plan of action he spelled out,'' said John Casey of Albert Tire Co. of Pennsauken, N.J. ``It seems the Goodyear employees are all lined up behind him, too.
``And like most dealers,'' he added, ``I like Jack (Winterton)'s connection to Kelly-Springfield.'' Mr. Winterton is director dealer sales/consumer tires.
``I thought it was symbolic that they took down the podium,'' said Charles Creighton, president of Colony Tire Corp. in Edenton, N.C., ``and let the execs talk freely. We're always being encouraged in our business to get out from behind the counter and stand next to the customer,...to make the customer feel more at ease. They did the same thing to us here.
``I want and need Goodyear to succeed,'' Mr. Creighton said, ``but they need to address some basic business practices to make doing business with them a bit easier.''
Jerry Borodkin of Fairfield Tire & Auto Center in Fairfield, Conn., called Mr. Rich a ``breath of fresh air'' for his straightforward ap-proach to the meeting and his ability to communicate with dealers, but Mr. Borodkin cautioned that the new management team ``needs to follow through on their promises to cut out the layers of bureaucracy.''
Walter Dial, owner of Appalachian Tire in Charleston, W.Va., agreed the new executives ``said the right things, but it's all just talk unless they execute.''
Mr. Dial said he thinks Goodyear's ``unraveling'' started with its decision years ago to sell the Goodyear brand through Sears, Roebuck and Co., and he hopes the current management team understands that and addresses those issues.
Jay Huff Jr. of Brooks-Huff Tire Co. in Hunt Valley, Md., said he thought the messages the executive team delivered ``were on target to lift the spirit of the dealer back up. We especially liked the references to team concept and team players.''
Mr. Huff, who along with several other Baltimore area dealers recently voiced their displeasure with some of Goodyear's distribution policies in their area, said the new executive team was addressing some of their concerns, ``although we still haven't resolved them totally.''