Tire registration has increased 48 percent in the past two years, and independent tire dealers are showing the biggest gains, according to a company that calls itself the world's largest private tire registration firm.
Of 243.8 million replacement tires sold in the U.S. in 2003, 140.6 million were sold either by company-owned stores or by independent tire dealerships that use either CIMS Inc.'s All-Brand Tire Registration Form or their own point-of-sale (POS) systems to register tires, according to Akron-based CIMS.
Of those 140.6 million, 80.5 million-57.2 percent-were registered, CIMS said in an Oct. 13 press release.
As for the 103.2 million tires sold by mass merchandisers, mail order companies, warehouse clubs and dealers that don't use the CIMS form or their POS systems for tire registration, only 8.5 million, or 8.2 percent, were registered.
Among the independent dealerships that forward CIMS forms directly to the CIMS Tire Registration Center or use their POS systems, the registration rate was 96.6 percent-nearly identical to the 97.4 percent achieved by company-owned stores, CIMS said. Total registration for 2003 was 89 million tires, or 36.5 percent, according to CIMS.
For nearly 40 years the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required registration of tires to ensure their speedy identification in the case of a recall. Since the Surface Transportation Act of 1982, tire dealers have been required only to give registration cards to customers for them to fill out and return.
CIMS provides not only an All-Brand Registration Form to independent dealers, but also a Tire Information Clearinghouse for collection of the registration data.
To come up with its latest registration figures, CIMS Marketing Director Jerry Munger used the statistical analysis provided by industry publications, including Tire Business, Mr. Munger said. He broke the analysis down into categories such as large independent dealerships (30 stores or more), smaller dealerships, company-owned stores, etc.
``I took the dollar sales figures and divided them by what I thought was a fair average retail price,'' Mr. Munger said. ``This gave me the tire sales for each dealer.'' Into these he interpolated the proprietary information CIMS has from its dealer customers to determine registration rates.
Neither the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) nor the Tire Industry Association (TIA) keeps figures on tire registration rates.
``We don't have exact figures, but we know they're very low,'' an RMA spokesman said. When the RMA petitioned NHTSA for Web-based tire registration last year, he noted, tire-manufacturing members said the rate was no more than 10 percent.
CIMS fought the RMA petition, saying it would just add another layer of paperwork on already overburdened tire dealers. Eventually the agency ruled that electronic registration could supplement, but not replace, the paper registration forms required by statute.
Becky MacDicken, TIA government affairs director, said she believed the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act was motivating tire dealers to upgrade their registration efforts.
``As I've gone around the country, I've told dealers they should really be in compliance with tire registration because that may be the next thing NHTSA looks at under the TREAD Act,'' Ms. MacDicken said.
CIMS has more than doubled its base of tire dealers in the past four years, according to the company news release. In 2000, it had 500-plus dealer customers; now, it has more than 1,200 dealer customers representing more than 15,000 retail outlets.
NHTSA officials could not be reached for comment.