Michelin North America Inc. has raised the stakes in the commercial end of the tire business, launching Truck Care, a program designed to solidify its and its key dealers' position with the nation's leading truck fleets.
While Truck Care's primary focus is on providing scheduled maintenance and mechanical repair services, it quite naturally exposes the fleets that choose to use the service to the Michelin name and products.
This could serve to solidify existing business relations or provide the dealers involved with opportunities to increase their tire, retread and wheel business with those fleets.
What makes this endeavor so interesting is that Michelin is attempting to address the changing nature of the trucking fleet business.
As Bruce Stock- --ton, manager of the Truck Care program, explained in announcing the program March 10 at the American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) meeting and trade show in Nashville, Tenn., trucking fleets' footprints are changing more rapidly as contracts come and go.
Having a nationwide maintenance program like Truck Care already in place allows fleets to move quickly on new opportunities without having to establish maintenance facilities of their own in new areas, he said.
This also fits well with the desire of many fleets to outsource the maintenance of their vehicles and trailers to control costs and improve performance, including data gathering.
To help fleets manage their data, the Truck Care program is using an integrated system powered by TMW Systems Inc., which will allow fleets to feed data automatically to their maintenance databases regardless of the fleet's software.
In a way, Michelin, through its Truck Care program, is doing what many automotive service-related businesses have been attempting to do for some time. That is, figuring out a way to keep the customer coming back more frequently.
This is why many auto service outletssuch as car dealerships and independent repair shopshave added tires to their mix. It gives the customer another reason to return to the dealership, while at the same time creating a new profit center.
Michelin is going all out with its new program and aims to have 100 Truck Care locations in operation throughout the U.S. by year-end.
Within two years, the tire maker aims to have 300 such locations in the U.S. and take the program to Canada as well.
Participation is not cheap. Tire dealers might have to budget as much as $100,000 per outlet to have the proper equipment and trained personnel. This includes dedicating at least one service bay and having one mobile truck for each location.
But if the program addresses a need in the market and brings in new business, the investment looks to be well worth the cost.