Those were the days when Ralph Nader was best known as an auto safety crusader, not a third-party presidential candidate, and tire and auto makers were still having pitched battles with consumerists and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
When I started in Washington, Goodyear was fighting staunchly against implementation of the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System. Thirty years later, UTQGS is universally accepted—if also universally ignored—and the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) is championing the establishment of a federal tire fuel efficiency labeling standard. (Three years after NHTSA issued a final tire fuel efficiency final rule, the industry is still waiting for its labeling and consumer information provisions. The more things change, the more they stay the same.)
When Tire Business was founded, my duties for Automotive News were at an end; I was now full-time Washington reporter for RPN and Tire Business. Before Tire Business, I covered some dealer-related stories for RPN, but the emphasis was on manufacturing. Now, I was reporting on manufacturers and dealers equally, seeing both sides close-up.
It was a quick and thorough lesson, among other things, on the fact that the interests of tire manufacturers and tire retailers often diverge. But, over the years, there also have been lessons on cooperation and concerted effort between the two groups.
Early last year, for instance, the quick action of the RMA, the Tire Industry Association and the Chesapeake Automotive Business Association—in opposition to a Maryland tire aging bill — headed off what would have been disastrous for all of them. It was a good case in point for intra-organizational cooperation.
In 30 years of working for TB, I've seen a lot of things. A few were straight out of Kafka, such as during the congressional hearings in the aftermath of the Ford-Firestone recalls in 2000. It was a pathetic and scary sight to see Masatoshi Ono, president and CEO of the former Bridgestone/Firestone (now Bridgestone Americas), struggling to comprehend and answer the questions of an angry Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.