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TIRES ON YOUR TIME

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WEST BRIDGEWATER, Mass.—Adding a mobile tire service van to his dealership operations has been a longtime dream for Spencer Carruthers, owner of Kenwood Tire & Auto Service in West Bridgewater.

He recently launched Kenwood Tire Mobile, a division of Kenwood Tire, as an added service to his customers, as well as a way to create additional business.

Mr. Carruthers told Tire Business that he believes he is operating the first mobile tire operation in his market, where he faces stiff competition from car dealerships and the Sullivan Tire & Auto Service chain.

“I really think it's the future and that's why I've done it.

“Car dealers are already kicking our a**, so to speak, at the moment because they have so much car count, they are selling tires like crazy. So I had to do something that they couldn't do and this was the only thing I could really think of that I could really draw new customers in with and take away people from other channels, too,” he said.

“My goal was to do it as part of our tire store. We have a pretty well-established tire store already, and this will be an added service for customers, rather than as an independent business.

“It's a customer convenience. We're going to chase after some fleet accounts and people who just don't have time to come to a tire store or people with limited mobility.”

The van provides installation of tires on vehicles up to a 1-ton dual-wheel light truck, balancing, tire pressure monitor service, puncture repairs, seasonal tire swaps and wheel lock removal. The mobile unit services a 10-mile radius around the West Bridgewater store, he said.

Most installations take about an hour, according to the dealership, which offers the mobile service weekdays.

“It was something I always wanted to do,” Mr. Carruthers said.

“...When I was a kid, I used to work for a company in England called Kwik--Fit, and they had a mobile tire store and ever since I've owned the (Kenwood) store, it's what I wanted to do.

“If I went to my grave without doing this, I would regret it,” he joked.

“It's one more convenience for the customer. It's about the same expense as buying an alignment machine and I already have one of those.”

Mr. Carruthers invested about $45,000 to buy a used Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van and necessary equipment and tools. The equipment was converted to run off the van's 12-volt battery.

He charges about $49 for the mobile service plus the installation fees. Customers can buy tires through the store's online Tire Buyer site and not even step foot into the dealership.

Kenwood Tire is pursuing fleet business as well by offering to service businesses' vehicles on weekends while they are idled in their parking lots.

“The biggest challenge is being able to replicate what we do in the tire store, the quality of service, on somebody's property,” Mr. Carruthers said.

To accomplish this, he has set up a training platform for the mobile unit and plans to hire graduates from a local trade school to be technicians for the service.

Mr. Carruthers said he envisions someday expanding the mobile service operation to include other small tire dealerships.

“I would like to see it benefit tire shops, not the huge places. That's my dream,” he said.

The dealership has set up a website—at http://kenwoodtiremobile.com—for the mobile operation. It boasts “Tires On Your Time,” and notes: “Forget calling around for recommendations and prices and making an appointment and waiting at the tire or repair shop for hours.

“You don't have to drop your car off at the car dealer for the day. We come to you with 50 years of tire shop service—at home, work and just about anywhere in between.”



To reach this reporter: kmccarron@crain.-com; 330-865-6127; Twitter: @kmccarr
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