AKRON (Sept. 14, 2007) — The Rubber Manufacturers Association's (RMA) release of a Tire Information Service Bulletin warning of the dangers of used tires has rankled some tire dealers who sell them.
The May bulletin included 17 conditions in which the RMA recommended that used tires not be purchased, sold or installed, and one of those conditions—applicable to punctures, whether repairable or not—has pushed some dealers' buttons.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA) is weighing in on the issue and has told the RMA it wants to meet and discuss concerns about the service bulletin, according to Dick Gust, a TIA board member and president of Lakin Environmental Industries, a division of Lakin General Corp.
“Clearly, we repair tires all the time in our industry and not to acknowledge the repair of a tire as being a credible practice, I think, is something we really take issue with,” Mr. Gust said, adding that TIA hopes the two trade groups can cooperate to “clean up” the bulletin and make it more palatable for both dealers and manufacturers.
No date has been set for a meeting between the associations, but an RMA spokesman confirmed it is on the agenda.
The California Tire Dealers Association—North (CTDA—N) has expressed by far the most vocal opposition to the RMA's recommendation for tire punctures.
The trade group sent a letter expressing its concerns to the RMA, CTDA—N President Tom Hanlon said. The RMA responded to the dealer group and made it aware of an upcoming meeting with TIA on the issue.
Of the RMA bulletin's 17 points for removal of a used tire from service, Mr. Hanlon said the CTDA—N disagrees with the following:
* Any punctures or other penetrations, whether repaired or not; and
* Any other condition which would be cause for permanent removal from service.
“If the consumer cannot purchase a used tire that has been repaired responsibly and in accordance with the guidelines, then a flat tire should never be repaired under any circumstance,” he told Tire Business.
Additionally, if used car dealers had to dismount all tires on used vehicles, inspect them and substitute with a new tire because of previous patches, he said an economic backlash would result.
Mr. Gust said the tire repair point is the most glaring issue TIA has with the RMA's used tire bulletin and that tire manufacturers are not objective about used tires.
“I think clearly new tire manufacturers want to sell new tires, and the sale of a used tire they perceive is taking away from that,” Mr. Gust said. “So there's some incentive for them not to encourage the used tire sale.”
Ed Cohn, executive director of the California Tire Dealers Association—South, echoed Mr. Gust's sentiments, though he said he hasn't heard complaints about the RMA bulletin from his members.
“The rubber companies like Bridgestone with their (service) bulletins, they want you to sell Bridgestone tires,” Mr. Cohn said. “They don't want (dealers) selling used tires, because…the money goes into the manager's pocket. It doesn't get recorded.
“For the independent tire dealer, used tires are sometimes a fact of keeping him in business and not keeping him in business,” he added.
After the RMA issued its bulletin, Bridgestone/Firestone decided to stop selling used tires at its 2,200 retail stores and said it will focus on new tire sales.
Mr. Hanlon, a former owner of Hayward, Calif.-based Mission Tire Service, where he now serves as a consultant, said the second statement pertaining to any other condition being cause for removal from service “can be interpreted in any way you want, and honestly I have no clue what is being talked about.”
Some CTDA—N members disagree with the RMA's service bulletin, including Carol Dellabalma, president of Arcata, Calif.-based T.P. Tire Service Inc., who sent her own letter of protest to the RMA.
“To say you can't repair a tire, that's ludicrous,” Ms. Dellabalma told Tire Business. “There should not be any problem with repairing a tire that is repairable to industry standards. If there were, how could anybody be on the road?”
Ms. Dellabalma, a 54-year veteran of the tire industry, said she hasn't heard back from the RMA yet, but she felt this was an issue worth sounding off on. “I've seen a lot of things come and go, so it takes a lot to get me steamed up about something, and this one did,” she said.
T.P. Tire serves a rural area in northern California with a variety of tires, from passenger and light truck to medium truck and off-the-road. Ms. Dellabalma noted that her customers are in a lower income bracket than those who live in the cities and may live 40 to 50 miles away from the next service center.
“I have (customers) here who are retired, some of them have health problems, and they only use their car to go to the doctor and the grocery store, so to speak,” she said.
“They come in and they want one tire because they've ruined one or maybe the wear is abnormal or they need it replaced. It's better to put a used tire in that position than a new one because of the handling of the vehicle.”
The Tire Industry Association also is exploring the possibility of establishing a used tire training program. Read that story here.