In the not so distant past the arch nemesis of small independent tire dealerships was the so-called "big box" store segment—including retailers such as Sears, Costco and Wal-Mart. Today, after the most recent recession that throttled the auto industry and shrank the car makers' franchise networks, auto dealerships are looking for every opportunity to recapture lost sales.
That means taking a bigger bite out of the tire and auto maintenance aftermarket. The heyday of tire dealerships' sitting back and welcoming former customers of closed car dealerships is likely at an end. Meanwhile, those surviving car dealerships are making bold attempts to win back their customers and attract new ones who aren't necessarily in the market for new vehicles. As the vehicle population on the road ages, those potential customers are looking for deals.
Enter Dealer Tire L.L.C., which supplies tires to new car dealerships. The Cleveland-based company has launched an online tire-buying service called "Right- -Turn.com" that directs customers to nearby car dealerships. The service's proprietary "TireCoach" feature provides an all-in-one price and schedules appointments with customers' local factory-certified installers.
Turn on the radio or TV and Ford Motor Co. has filled the airwaves with ads for its franchised Quick Lane Tire & Auto stand-alone outlets, usually located near a car dealership. And hundreds of Chrysler Group L.L.C. dealerships are integrating the Mopar Express Lane, a preventive maintenance program that features quick oil changes and tires as part of a quick-check procedure.
Car dealerships have thrown down the gauntlet and tire dealerships have no choice but to meet the challenge. They can no longer sit back and enjoy the spoils of a recession that forced numerous car dealerships to close their doors, prompting consumers to seek out the aftermarket to spend their money on replacement tires, maintenance work and repairs to nurse their aging vehicles.
Car dealerships are after those same consumer dollars and are taking aggressive marketing steps to attract customers. Tire dealers need to create and employ equally aggressive tactics to maintain their customer base and lure in new customers through advertising, social media—and the hometown, personal service on which independent tire dealerships have built their reputation.
Complacency is not an option.