LAS VEGAS (Nov. 5, 2003)—American Car Care Centers Inc. has formed a partnership with the Tire Industry Association in which ACCC will pay for each of its member dealers' 1,100 stores to be members of TIA.
The partnership, a three-year commitment by ACCC, offers the marketing group's dealers access to all of TIA's programs—especially its newly developed Basic Automotive Tire Service (ATS) educational program, which ACCC said it regards highly.
“We looked at numerous options and considered developing a training program on our own,” said Len Lewin, ACCC president and COO. “We came to the conclusion that TIA offered the best overall solution.”
The first phase of TIA's ATS program was launched in September and is a 12-month subscription to a Web-based training course designed for newly hired tire technicians. The course also is available on DVD, VHS and with a 200-page workbook. TIA will roll out its 300 Level Certified ATS Program for Technicians and 400 Level Certified Program for Instructors next year.
Because Basic ATS includes a Web-based component, ACCC can track the progress of all 1,100 locations from a central administrator.
The two groups began talking about getting together at last year's International Tire Expo in Las Vegas. Bob Malerba, chairman of TIA's training and education committee and owner of Malerba's Silver City Tire Co. Inc. in Meriden, Conn., first approached ACCC about TIA's new ATS program and the benefits of TIA membership, according to Dave Crawford, ACCC director of marketing. Since then, TIA and ACCC leaders have talked continuously in the past year.
“We've been trying to figure out for awhile how the two of us could get together on several things,” Mr. Crawford said. “Once we started looking at that ATS program they have, that's basically what our dealers needed. (Our dealers) have been telling us they need a basic level training program for their tire technicians. That was the catalyst that put the whole thing together for us.”
Following the Firestone tire recall in 2000, ACCC launched an advertising campaign to raise the image of its dealers in consumers' minds, by touting the expertise of its trained technicians, Mr. Crawford said, noting that customers expect trained professionals to work on their cars. TIA's training package was attractive to ACCC not only because it saved ACCC time and money from developing its own program, but also because “it's so good,” he said.
“They've done it right. When you look through the whole package, it's special, it's well put together. It's well thought out, so why reinvent the wheel? It works,” Mr. Crawford explained.
He added that although any dealer could still purchase the training package at a premium price, it made sense to join TIA and give ACCC dealers a price break on the program, plus receive TIA's other membership benefits. TIA's legislative lobbying on behalf of the industry in particular is a benefit all tire dealers enjoy and needs to be supported, Mr. Crawford said.
“Joining TIA seemed like the right thing to do,” Mr. Crawford said. “It's what our dealers wanted and had been asking for, so it just worked for us all the way around.”
He said it was “premature” to determine if the two groups would continue the partnership after the three-year agreement, but “we hope that this relationship will be a good one and it be worthwhile for both parties.”
Roy Littlefield, TIA executive vice president, said signing ACCC is the first step in TIA's goal to expand its membership to large dealerships, marketing and buying groups, which is what the association's newly hired business development director Paul Fiore will be focusing on.
“We hope that it's the beginning of a lot of renewed enthusiasm in a growing association,” Mr. Littlefield said of the ACCC partnership.
Mr. Littlefield declined to discuss how much membership dues would cost ACCC or any details on the value of the deal. The minimum fee for an individual dealership to join is $250 (for annual sales up to $750,000), although TIA offers a $100 membership fee for branch locations, according to the association's Web site.
He estimated that fewer than 50 ACCC dealers were association members prior to the agreement between the two groups.
Regarding TIA's membership numbers following the ACCC partnership, Mr. Littlefield explained that the membership count is a “floating number” in the 4,600-4,700 range because of the fact many people are getting billed by TIA for the first time. Dealers who paid dues within six months of the merger of TIA's forerunner organizations haven't gotten billed until recently, he said.
“We have an aggressive membership campaign going on, so those numbers are climbing all the time,” Mr. Littlefield said.
ACCC dealers will keep the group's current credit card program rather than change over to TIA's, which is similar anyway, Mr. Crawford said. But other than that, ACCC dealers are free to participate in any of TIA's membership programs, though they will not be required by ACCC to do so, he said.
Mr. Littlefield said TIA definitely will encourage ACCC dealers and all members to actively participate in the association.
“All our programs will be made available to them. Whether an individual dealer joins as far as part of that alliance is up to that dealer,” he said. “We'll certainly going to be pushing all of our programs.”