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Published on March 30, 2009

Bring on more stimulus packages



AKRON (March 30, 2009) — Kudos to the software companies that are stepping up to help independent tire dealerships—including some that are no doubt struggling during this continuing recession.

As the news tracks the U.S. government's attempts at stimulating the economy by providing funds to banks, auto makers and, yes, even insurance giant American International Group Inc. (AIG), three companies so far have decided to offer their own versions of “stimulus packages” for the tire industry.

Computer technology services firm ASA Tire Systems Inc. was the first to offer dealers a jump start for their individual economies. Another information technology (IT) company, Signal Extraprise Corp., soon followed with its own version of a stimulus plan. Each is giving away up to $1 million worth of its IT products to help struggling tire dealers upgrade their computer systems and Web sites.

The money is offered not in the form of loans, but rather in grants—so dealers are not required to pay them back.

Hard to pass up a deal like that.

Meanwhile, software firm Tire Company Solutions is giving away its Tire Power 7.0 software suite to 25 tire dealerships that can show an economic need.

The premise behind all these giveaways is that up-to-date technology will help dealerships improve their customer service and, in turn, profitability. With some likely putting IT upgrades on hold until the economy improves, this is welcome news.

Of course, a skeptic could easily describe these deals as self-serving since they come in the form of the companies' own proprietary products instead of cash. And sure, the companies' gestures may have the benefit of bringing in new customers.

OK, but so what?

Let's view these firms' expenditures as helping create a long-term positive image among all in the tire industry. It also could set an example for other corporations to pull together in these tough times.

Kevin Miko, Signal's COO, said its stimulus program “shows the type of spirit that Americans have always been able to invoke to get through and overcome difficulties.” He also encouraged other IT firms in the tire industry to respond in like manner to help tire dealers.

These offers also invoke the inherent character of dealers, who historically always have pulled together to help others in need, be they within their communities or their fellow dealers.

As the saying goes, when times are tough you usually know who your friends are. We encourage other tire industry-related firms to look for ways to help tire dealers—an integral part of the distribution channel. The positive image and loyalty this would generate could last long after this recession is a distant memory.


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