Three years ago Goodyear's Just Tires retail chain began offering just another option to customers in Chicago: an on-the-go tire installation program.
Tire Valet, a program in which a tire tech comes to a customer's home to install and balance new tires in less than 30 minutes, has caught the attention of Wheels Inc., a corporate vehicle fleet leasing company. The Des Plaines, Ill.-based firm is partnering with Just Tires to provide Tire Valet service to Wheels' clients in the Chicago area beginning June 6.
``Until now, the convenient Tire Valet service has been available only to retail consumers,'' said Vince Sommer, Wheels' director of vendor management, in a prepared statement. ``We are proud to be leading the fleet management industry with this new offering as part of our maintenance assistance program. And, we are happy to be partnering with Just Tires to provide this service to our clients' Chicago-area drivers.''
A Goodyear spokesman said Wheels is Just Tires' first fleet customer and its largest customer as the retail chain had never offered the service to corporations prior to this deal. Wheels initiated the deal for Tire Valet, as the firm already contracts with Goodyear company-owned stores and independent dealers nationally for maintenance, Mr. Sommer said.
About 4,000 to 5,000 providers participate in Wheels' auto service program, he said.
``We just kind of stumbled onto Tire Valet with Just Tires,'' Mr. Sommer said. ``We thought it would be another convenience for our drivers while they have some down time-to have some tires replaced and serviced.''
Tire Valet is a premium service, but Mr. Sommer said the additional charge is nominal compared with the driver convenience and time savings. He said he couldn't provide an estimate for how many vehicles would be serviced by Tire Valet.
Chicago is the only market where Just Tires offers Tire Valet, the spokesman said, even though Good-year operates Just Tires stores in Baltimore, Washington, Los Angeles, San Jose and Sacramento, Calif.; and Raleigh and Durham, N.C. He said Goodyear has no plans to expand Tire Valet into those markets or seek further corporate fleet accounts in Chicago.
``We don't have anything else in the works, nothing else to announce,'' the spokesman said, in regards to recruiting more fleet business. ``Could we go in that direction? I guess we'll see how this works, this first foray into the fleet area.''
Wheels provides a full range of specialized services to help corporations manage their vehicle fleets. It employs 550, manages more than 240,000 vehicles and its holding company, Frank Consolidated Enterprises, posts nearly $2 billion in annual sales.
Just Tires was not the first retailer to offer the Tire Valet service. In 1999, Cleveland-based Conrad's Total Car Care and Tire Centers-a Goodyear dealership-worked with Goodyear to test the Tire Valet service and then offered it for a couple years before dropping it, according to General Manager Dominic Umek.
Unlike Just Tires, Conrad's is a full service repair dealership and found that Tire Valet didn't pay off because companies with fleets expected the service at wholesale prices, Mr. Umek said. Conrad's instead decided to invest in programs that would drive service business to its outlets, he added.