Successfully running a tire dealership today is all about adapting to change.
It's not that the basics of selling and servicing tires and automotive service are all that different from what they have been over the years. They're not. Tires continue to wear out and vehicle components break down and need to be repaired and maintained.
But something else is at work today that is making it more difficult to be successful for the average independent tire dealer.
It's that the tire and auto service industriesand running a business in generalare getting more complicated because of new legislative rules and regulations, evolving competition and expanded ways of communicating and selling to customers through the Internet and via e-commerce.
Consider the mandate for healthcare. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all business owners have an entirely new set of rules to abide by in offering or not offering healthcare to their employees. Not only is there the potential of additional costs, but the administrative details are daunting.
No matter which side you come down on this subject, the ACA is yet another regulatory issue dealers must reckon with, and it takes time away from their No. 1 objective of selling more tires and auto services.
Then there's new competition. Tire Business reported in the Oct. 1 issue about a new website created by Dealer Tire L.L.C., the Cleveland-based national tire wholesaler for new car dealers. The company is rolling out an online tire-buying service that directs users to nearby auto dealerships.
Tire dealers should not underestimate the impact of tire sales made through new car dealers. Auto dealershipsfaced with fewer warranty repairs and better-built vehiclesare looking for additional profit centers and tires are a natural fit.
Tire dealers also must to adapt to changes taking place among tire makers. Companies like Hankook Tire Co. Ltd., Kumho Tire Co. Inc. and Nexen Tire Corp. are gaining status as original equipment suppliers while traditional tire firms, such as Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., have opened themselves up to be acquired.
At the same time, Chinese tire manufacturers, free from the bloated tire tariffs of a few years ago, are making strong moves to gain share in North America.
One only has to look at the number of Chinese tire makers exhibiting at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas to see signs of this effort.
Independent tire dealers traditionally have adapted to changes in the marketplace and there is no question they can overcome these. But with so much happening so quickly, dealers must be at their wiliest and entrepreneurial peak.
It's a new business environment and only the best will survive.