Another auto maker has taken steps to enhance its dealers' tire businesses as a method of enhancing profits and cementing customer loyalty.
DaimlerChrysler Motors Co. L.L.C. is rolling out its Mopar T.I.R.E. Works program nationwide to all Chrysler Group dealers in the U.S. on a regional basis. So far more than 1,600 of some 4,300 U.S. dealers are participating, including approximately 600 who have signed up for the program's ``Plus'' enhanced option, which requires participating dealers to stock tires.
``It's not our goal to turn our dealers into tire dealers,'' said a spokesman for Mopar, which is DaimlerChrysler's parts, accessories and service division. ``The whole focus of T.I.R.E. Works is to give dealers the necessary tools to sell tires to their service customers.''
DaimlerChrysler launched the T.I.R.E. (Tire Installment and Repair Excellence) Works program in April 2003, after testing some of its features with dealers in the months previous. The Basic program, offered to all dealers, includes a toll-free number giving them direct access to a T.I.R.E. Works Dealer Response Team for dealer support in tire shipments and service. A contractor performs this duty for Mopar, the spokesman said.
The Basic option also offers dealers merchandising and training materials on tires, as well as a new invoicing process that keeps track of multiple tire brands, allows dealers to offer competitive pricing and contains new filtering processes to ensure accurate billing, the company said.
The Plus option, the Mopar spokesman stressed, is for larger-volume dealers ``who are serious about the tire business. They've got the room to stock the tires, and they're gearing up to offer tires to the majority of their service customers.''
Benefits of the Plus option, according to Mopar promotional material, include a single supply point, tire delivery, stock rotation, dedicated dealer support and Web-based processes.
The big difference between the Basic and Plus options, the spokesman said, is in their separate methods of supplying tires to dealers.
``In the Basic option, dealers still receive tires through their usual supply points,'' he said. ``Tire distributors, the Goodyear store down the street-that's how Chrysler dealers have traditionally gotten their tires.'' The toll-free support number and the more refined invoicing system are what make the old supply system more efficient, he added.
Dealers who sign on for the Plus option, however, get all their tires through an organization called Dealer Tire L.L.C., a Cleveland-based firm whose sole business is to supply auto dealerships with tires. The company administers tire supply programs for Mercedes, BMW and Toyota as well as for DaimlerChrysler, the Mopar spokesman said. (Dealer Tire is operated by Scott and Dean Mueller, former owners of Mueller Tire and Brake Inc., a Cleveland tire dealership purchased in early 2002 by TBC Corp.'s Tire Kingdom Inc. subsidiary.)
The T.I.R.E. Works distribution system has nothing to do with DaimlerChrysler's original equipment supply contracts, the spokesman said.
DaimlerChrysler began its rollout of the T.I.R.E. Works program in the Southwest, and Huffines Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge in Lewisville, Texas, just north of Dallas, was one of the first Chrysler Group dealerships to sign on to the Plus option.
``It's been working great for us,'' said Joe McBeth, parts and service director for Huffines Dodge. ``We used to sell eight tires a month, but now we sell a hundred or more. It's a good boost for us, another dollar we can put in the bank.''
Huffines Dodge received daily deliveries of tires before it joined the Plus program, Mr. McBeth said, but now tire orders take two hours or less. ``They used to take three or four hours,'' he said. ``Try explaining that to a customer waiting in the service lounge. We didn't stock any tires back then, either.''
DaimlerChrysler completed Phase I of the T.I.R.E. Works rollout, covering large cities and other major markets, the week of Sept. 8 with meetings in Milwaukee and Chicago, the Mopar spokesman said.
Phase II, covering secondary markets, may take another year to complete, he added.