AKRON — Few would deny the benefits of using nitrogen to inflate tires. However the product is still not a common offering in tire service shops — which could provide a competitive advantage.
Companies that sell nitrogen-inflation equipment and tire dealerships that offer the service view nitrogen as an easy and profitable add-on service.
"It's definitely a profitable add-on, and the main reason, I would say, is it brings people back into your door," said Matt McWilliams, service solutions national account manager, aftermarket for Mahle Aftermarket Inc.
"So if you're putting nitrogen in their tires, and they come back in and they need more nitrogen,…they're going to come back to you, and at that point you have a chance to upsell them on other things," he said.
- This story appears in the July 31 print edition of Tire Business.
"One thing we do see is that people who do get nitrogen, keep nitrogen. And generally, if you don't have it, they'll go somewhere that has it," said Tom Bolgrean, president of Branick Industries Inc.
"You know, it's an inconvenience for them if you don't have it. So the customers that have nitrogen seek out locations that offer it so they can get their tires worked on or get work on the car. They know they're getting nitrogen in the tires…. It's definitely a competitive edge to have it in your location."
In the near future, aftermarket auto service shops will be seeing more vehicles with tires already filled with nitrogen as new car dealerships have been adopting nitrogen.
"We're seeing the typical customer is usually a car dealership, as well as tire resellers," said Branick's Mr. Bolgrean, whose company has been manufacturing nitrogen generators for about 15 years.
"One of the things we hear from them is, 'I've got customers coming in asking for it (nitrogen), so I got to have it.' That's just one of the things.
"Car dealerships — they provide it as an add-on to the sticker price of the car. So they'll preload new cars, as well as offer it to their service customers," he noted.
Mahle has been selling nitrogen inflation equipment for almost a decade.
"We've seen a bit of a resurgence in it lately because we have been marketing it a little bit differently," Mr. McWilliams said. "We've been going back to the dealerships and getting them to put it in all their new vehicles off the lot."
Both companies said the sales trend for nitrogen equipment has been steady.
"Over the last 24 months, it kind of went from us pushing (nitrogen equipment) to them coming and asking for it. Independent shop owners are definitely more aware of how they can make extra money within their shop," Mahle's Mr. McWilliams said.
"With new car sales being so high, the independent aftermarket guys are looking for every advantage they can get to get a return on investment."