Akron tire registration firm continues to dispute the Rubber Manufacturers Association's contention that only 10 percent of tire registration forms are returned, saying that number is outdated and inaccurate.
In data it released to Tire Business, CIMS Inc. said it estimates that 28.6 percent of all tire registration forms are properly filled out and returned, and the 10-percent figure cited by the RMA is based on a 1986 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study.
The RMA and CIMS recently have disagreed on the need for Web-based tire registrations. The RMA is urging NHTSA to change its rules that mandate paper forms only and to allow Web-based registrations, noting that no more than 10 percent of registration forms are returned to the manufacturer and many of those tend to be incomplete, inaccurate or illegible.
CIMS, however, argues since the Firestone Wilderness/ATX recall of 2000/2001, more tire retailers are aware of the federal mandate to offer their customers tire registration forms and are complying, according to Jerry Munger, CIMS marketing director. The company-which is the tire registration designee for 80 percent of tire makers and brand owners in the replacement market-also claims that adding a Web-based registration system would add paperwork for dealers and not necessarily increase the rate of tire registrations.
The current tire registration legislation, established in 1982, requires retailers to provide tire buyers with registration cards listing brand name and tire identification numbers for their newly purchased tires.
Customers are responsible for filling in the information and mailing in the forms for processing, either to tire makers or companies hired for this purpose. The information is recorded and stored should a need arise to contact tire purchasers about a recall.
According to CIMS' analysis, at the top of the registration compliance list are tire manufacturer owned or controlled stores, which have 98.7 percent of the tires they sell registered. These outlets often register tires for their customers through their point-of-sale systems.
Large independent tire chains such as Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc., Pep Boys-Manny, Moe and Jack, Discount Tire Centers Inc. and Big O Tires Inc. also show a high registration rate. Nearly 96.7 percent of the tires sold through these chains are registered, either by means of the dealership's point-of-sale system or by the dealership collecting registration forms from customers and sending them in bulk to the CIMS Tire Registration Clearinghouse, CIMS said.
Meanwhile, the company estimated that small independent dealerships supplying their customers with CIMS' All-Brand Tire Registration form had 19.4 percent of all tires sold registered by customers. Independent dealers who do not use the form fared worse, with their customers registering only 6.9 percent of the tires they had purchased. Tire customers of mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs and mail-order firms were by far the worst at registration. Only 5 percent of the tires bought by these customers were registered CIMS said.
The percentages cited by CIMS are based on current industry estimates of tire sales, Mr. Munger said. He explained that though no dealers disclose how many tires they sell, CIMS looked at total dollar sales reported by large tire dealerships in 2002 and their tire sales percentages. Using $70 as an average price for a tire, CIMS estimated the quantity of tires sold by large independent dealerships, then calculated the percentage of tire registrations it received.
Like some large independent dealerships, tire manufacturer-owned stores register tires through their POS systems, Mr. Munger said, noting that Bridgestone/Firestone is a CIMS client. Goodyear-owned stores, however, are not contracted with CIMS, so the firm estimated that Goodyear's registration rates are similar to Bridgestone/Firestone's, he explained.
Michelin North America Inc. and Pirelli Tire North America Inc. also are not clients of CIMS, which serves as a clearinghouse for most of the tire manufacturers.
Mr. Munger acknowledged that it was difficult to come up with sales calculations for small independent dealerships as well as how many tires are registered through them. CIMS estimated an average of 2.5 tires per form are registered though this distribution category.
``It's hard for us to determine how many of those (small, independent) customers we have,'' Mr. Munger told Tire Business.
Meanwhile, CIMS estimates that customers buying tires through auto dealers register half of the tires they purchase. Many auto dealers, particularly Ford dealers, enter tire registrations via their POS systems, he said.
``We do business with all of the major auto makers, and some big automobile companies are using the all-brand forms,'' he said. ``We look at the number of dealers who've ordered the forms and compare it to the total number of dealers for that particular manufacturer and say this is what we think is happening.''
CIMS released its data to Tire Business to show that tire registration rates are higher than the RMA presumed and to show that mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs and mail order outlets, which represent 25 percent of the replacement market, are doing a lousy job at tire registration when compared with independent dealers, Mr. Munger said. He added that more people are not registering tires because they either choose to ignore the law or aren't aware of it.
Mr. Munger said requiring dealers to distribute an additional form to customers for online registrations would not increase the number of tire registrations, as the RMA contends.
``You're going to get each manufacturer and brand owner that develops their own Web site to have their own form,'' he said.
``The person handling the transaction is going to have to say, `Here's a tire registration form, and oh by the way, this company has a Web site, so you can go to the Web site and register tires.'
``I don't think the RMA and manufacturers thought through how this thing is going to be implemented.''
Ann Wilson, the RMA's senior vice president of government affairs, said the RMA and its members want to improve tire registration rates and give consumers choices. That desire motivated talks between the RMA and NHTSA about adding Web-based registrations.
``We think this is a safety concern. It's obviously a federal statute, and so we're just offering a complementary system in the hopes that we will get more people to register their tires,'' she said.
Ms. Wilson said the 10-percent registration rate came from the organization's members, which she acknowledged did not calculate ``to the exact numbers.''
``We realize (the Web) is not a silver bullet, it's not going to take care of all consumers' needs and all tire dealer needs; on the other hand, if it helps just a small percentage of them, I think it's a step in the right direction,'' she said.
Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA), agreed with the RMA's position and noted that although he's encouraged to hear that tire registration numbers are up, it could always be better-especially if the industry can get more small tire dealerships to increase their tire registration rates.
He said TIA and the RMA don't want to do away with the current system but rather enhance it with the Internet option.
``It seems logical to try it, especially for younger purchasers,'' Mr. Littlefield said. ``Younger people are just much more comfortable doing things on the computer, and we might as well try to appeal to them.''