Michelin North America Inc. is expanding its Michelin Americas Small Tires buy-direct program for Ford dealers to include a number of new services to be provided by MAST-affiliated independent tire dealers.
The Greenville, S.C.-based tire maker already has a program in which its dealers deliver passenger and light truck tires to Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealerships that buy directly from MAST, in exchange for a delivery commission. The new program expands MAST dealer involvement to provide services to Ford dealers on a commission basis, according to MAST.
These services include: product and sales training; merchandise and point-of sale assistance; assistance to car dealers with tire dealer programs; tire warranty consultancy and training; and assistance in establishing correct stocking requirements, based on the needs of the individual Ford dealer.
``The car dealer channel is the fastest-growing channel in the industry,'' said Owen Schiano, MAST general business director in charge of the car dealer channel for North America, explaining the need for the new program. ``Due to our original equipment presence, our brands are among the highest-demand from the point of view of the dealership.''
Geared toward the Michelin brand-though it also includes Uniroyal and BFGoodrich-the program is ``a win-win situation'' for Ford dealers and MAST dealers alike, according to Mr. Schiano. It provides both a new, more direct supply channel for the car dealers and a new opportunity for growth and profit for tire dealers. He called MAST dealers' response to the plan ``overwhelmingly positive.''
There is no way the buy-direct program could succeed without the participation of MAST dealers, he added. ``Our contact with Ford is on the corporate level,'' he said. ``We rely on our dealers to have a direct relationship with Ford dealers because we don't have the resources to establish that kind of relationship with local dealers.''
The program is not intended for every Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealer-only those who do a particularly high volume in tires, according to Mr. Schiano and Roger Ferguson, MAST vice president of sales, merchandising and strategic planning.
A Michelin spokeswoman said dealerships had until Feb. 28 to express initial interest, but it is an ongoing program that dealers may join at any time. As of March 11, Ford Motor Co. hadn't given MAST the number of initial Ford-dealer participants in the program, she said, but open enrollment will contine.
MAST dealers around the U.S. contacted by Tire Business had varying opinions of the new program, depending mostly on their level of participation in the delivery commission plan.
Rick Mott, president of Olin Mott Tire Co. in Tampa, Fla., said he hadn't aggressively sought the Ford dealer business because it meant ``a lot of legwork for a very small profit margin.''
``They're probably using distribution centers for this business because they would have a lot wider inventory than we would,'' Mr. Mott said.
But John Ronsick, president of Autotire Car Care Centers in St. Louis, was enthusiastic about the program. ``We do deliver tires to dealers, and it's been a good business for us,'' he said. ``We've had a real good relationship with the car dealers.''
MAST has offered other auto makers the buy-direct option, Mr. Schiano said, but none has yet implemented it. There is no timetable, and each is gearing up at its own pace, he added.