Ed Stocker of Silver State Tire Co. in Sparks, Nev., is right. Independent tire dealers, whether they want to or not, are going to be forced into the high-performance tire business-even those operating in rural markets.
This is happening, he said, ``because of the original equipment fitments coming out of Detroit.''
So those of you who have been holding off on taking the plunge had better get prepared.
The signs already are here. Passenger tires with H-speed ratings (capable of speeds up to 130 mph) and 16-inch and larger rim diameters are replacing smaller S- and T-speed rated products on many mass-market vehicle models, including those made by Nissan, Honda and Toyota.
In effect, the H-rated tire is becoming the industry's broadline offering, with the numbers of V- and Z-rated tires in use climbing as well.
And consider the unabated growth of custom wheels. Frost & Sullivan Inc., a market research company, predicts the market for custom wheels will expand about 4.5 percent annually over the next several years, reaching $1 billion in wholesale sales by 2009.
So it's not a question of whether tire dealers should get into the performance business, it's rather when and how aggressively.
But along with this trend comes additional responsibility. Selling and servicing high-performance tires and wheels is more complicated than simply replacing same-size tires and rims that come with a vehicle.
The performance business is more technical. It requires proper equipment that won't damage expensive tires and wheels and techs who can fine-tune a tire and wheel package so that it matches the sophisticated suspension systems offered on today's vehicles.
Service personnel also must be tapped into the performance mentality so that they can talk shop with customers, instead of just trying to sell them an expensive tire and wheel package.
While performance work may seem intimidating to some, it really falls nicely into the independent tire dealers' bailiwick. That is, it's work that needs to be performed by professionals.
Customers visiting independent tire dealerships should expect to have their custom wheels hand-torqued to exact specifications instead of having to worry that they've been over-torqued by an impact wrench.
They should find tire professionals who understand load range limitations and who can explain safety and handling concerns of installing oversized tires and lift kits on vehicles.
The tire business is moving rapidly toward high performance. It's a segment where independent tire dealers should shine. Dealers not already in performance had better get started or face getting left behind.