With the springboard of its 40th anniversary, Mighty Auto Parts hopes to spur a ``dramatic spike'' in market share, in part by signing on more tire dealers as franchisees, the company president told Tire Business.
Ken Voelker, president of the Norcross-based distributor of automotive service products, said his goal is to sign on another 25 franchisees to total 150 by 2005-or about one a month. Currently, 15 tire businesses own Mighty franchises, he said, and more are possible as Mighty primarily looks for business-to-business deals instead of with individuals.
Part of the draw to these businesses is their existing infrastructure and customer bases. The franchisees typically sell Mighty's products to professional installers such as quick lube shops-or DIFMs (``do it for me's'')-instead of directly to consumers.
``The consolidation in the industry has been a real driver and has required us to have franchisees who are better capitalized and better equipped to compete in the aftermarket of the 2000s instead of the '70s or '80s where Mighty grew up,'' Mr. Voelker told Tire Business.
If the company's youth was in those decades, it's getting a makeover for its adulthood.
Also as part of its 40th anniversary this year, Mighty is switching over to a new logo that should be on all trucks, letterhead and other components by mid-2004. Mr. Voelker said the company had been considering a new, consistent vehicle identity program when management decided the old logo-which had spanned the majority of the company's life-looked its age.
``It just really didn't work,'' Mr. Voelker said. ``It really looked dated, to be honest.''
Then again, he said the company didn't want to shed the brand equity built into the old logo. With about a year of work and the help of two outside design firms, Mighty developed a new logo meant to look more modern while still holding onto some of the most important features of the old logo-namely, the colors and the dominance of the M, T and Y.
Mr. Voelker said the three letters had been dominant in the beginning as part of the company's longtime catch phrase, ``Manufacturer to you.''
``You can still tell it's Mighty, but it's got a lot more motion and has a more modern look,'' he said.
Apart from the new look, Mighty also is focusing on the anniversary as a time to grow the business. At a recent meeting of about 400 franchise managers and salespeople in New Orleans, he compared Mighty's anniversary to the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The firm also is considering some internal marketing campaigns around the anniversary, but no plans are final.
``Anniversaries by definition mean success and continuity along with the need to change and grow and evolve in the marketplace, that being the key to success,'' Mr. Voelker said.
To do that, Mighty is launching its Mighty VS7 line of performance chemicals.
``As people keep cars longer and better maintain them, we think these chemicals to keep systems clean...have a big opportunity,'' he said.
The products should be in the market by the third quarter.
Also, Mighty is looking at increasing its franchise presence in markets where it is not now represented, especially New Orleans and Boston, Mr. Voelker said. Still, even with the goal of 150 franchisees by 2005, Mighty isn't looking to grow by leaps and bounds.
``We've taken a long-term approach,'' he said. ``I'm not looking to grow 20 percent next year, but we have consistently grown above the industry average, and we think we have a nice niche carved out with maintenance items for the professional installer.''
Dick Erickson, president and owner of 10-outlet Sun Tire Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., said his Mighty franchise has done well since he bought it in 1995. He said the transition to the non-tire business was made somewhat easier by Sun Tire's established distribution network. The company had distributed only within its own stores up until then, but adding parts distribution to outside accounts was not difficult, he said.
The only snag was that the outside accounts had to be served by trucks sporting the Mighty name.
Mr. Erickson told Tire Business that Mighty's products are good quality, and the corporate structure lends itself well to the franchise network.
``We're very happy with the franchise,'' he said. ``It's fit into our dealership well.''