"I don't think that it changes that much from year to year industrywide," he said. "Nothing really happens; it's just all the shifts are inside the industry."
He references these shifts as being whether customers are going more to independents or if they are choosing companies by price or by service.
With bigger multi-store independents buying out smaller independents, the small shop is becoming a rarity.
Howard Fleischmann, owner of Phoenix-based Community Tire Pros, estimates more acquisitions by the Pep Boys, etc. of the industry will continue into 2018.
"Our industry is under attack from many directions as are many other business(es)," Mr. Fleischmann said. "We must unite to fight for our future, support each other, support our industry in any way possible and train our people."
For small independent shops still out there, Mr. Fleischmann said they can align themselves with marketing and a name, such as Tire Pros.
"Surviving the next 10 years without affiliation of some sort will be challenging," he added.
Mr. Fleischmann noted one way to tackle the challenge is to embrace social media and make tire and auto repair more convenient for clients.
"We encourage others to support local (business), let your customers know you are local and how much more of your dollar stays in your community when you spend local," he said.
"We also support rewarding your clients with points and or cash rewards for bringing us new friends and relatives to spend money with us. This has been our biggest success in marketing over the last couple of years. We use Bay-IQ for this purpose, and it is all electronic and set and go."
"As a company our units were up in 2017 over 2016 by over 20 percent," Mr. Fleischmann said. "We had projected 5 percent."
He said this was significantly more than the industry standard, which was fairly flat.
Indy Tire & Auto Service, a Best-One affiliate with nine locations in central Indiana, saw tire sales on par with 2016, but hopes the winter months will end the year strong and lead into 2018.
"We're not disappointed, but fourth quarter right now, we could use a little weather to spur some tire sales," said Scott Monteith, vice president of Indy Tire's retail division. "But we've had a great year so far."
Mr. Monteith added that Indy Tire's service business went well in 2017 and expects success in the new year.
"We think 2018 will be a very good year," he said.
"I think that you'll see both service and tire units will be up. That is our expectation."
Mr. Pollard shared a similar sentiment, saying Wilson Tire's service and sales performed better than expected in 2017, as well as wheel sales. The company also grew its wholesale business and is looking to expand the three-retail store operation.
Mr. Pollard said he expects tire sales to increase 5 percent and looks to grow market share in the upcoming year and is "very upbeat" about the company's future and growth.
"With the economy growing, a good winter season and competitors closing, we are in great shape to dominate our markets," Mr. Pollard said.
Other tire dealers did not see the desired growth in tire sales in 2017.
Michael Rizzo, president of Oahu, Hawaii-based Lex Brodie's Tire Co., said the tire company's tire unit sales were under expectations.
"Tire unit sales in 2017 are projected to be approximately 11 percent below budget and approximately 5 percent below our 2016 tire unit sales," he said.
"This is due to vendor supply issues experienced in the first half of the year, along with a general decline in tire-unit sales statewide."
Mr. Rizzo added, "Here in the Hawaiian Island chain, tire-unit sales appeared to be down for all tire dealers."
On the flipside, they are projecting an 11-percent increase over budget on the automotive repair side of the business.
Mr. Rizzo said although Lex Brodie's did not reach its 2017 tire sale projections, the company is planning for a 10-percent increase in tire unit sales over 2017.
"While I am hesitant to pinpoint a specific trend, I can say that this year was an exceptional year for us due to an increase in mechanical repairs sold," he said.
"While we are expecting tire unit sales to rebound in 2018, we are also expecting our automotive repair side to continue to grow, as consumers are tending to keep their vehicles longer."
Service continued to grow for many dealers across the U.S., which rang especially true for those in the commercial sector.
Mr. Crouse came out of retirement after selling Swanson's Tire and joined the Beck's team in December 2016 when the company decided to start selling tires.
"I thought it went pretty well for a shop that was always a mechanical shop to branch out into tires and stuff. I thought it went pretty swimmingly," he said.
Mr. Crouse said Beck's made the decision to add tire sales because it was missing out on business, particularly in the local, smaller fleet companies that have 20-40 vehicles.
"The companies that were too small to bother with national accounts, they couldn't get any of those companies. Because all of those companies, if those trucks are not moving, they are not making any money themselves," he added.
"They wanted to go to one place, get it done and move on."
Mr. Crouse said Beck's Garage intends to continue to grow its small fleet business.
Mr. Fleischmann noted that one area of his business that performed better than expected in 2017 was his commercial/fleet business.
Mr. Fleischmann expects this upward trend to continue into 2018, estimating a 10-percent increase in unit sales. He added he thinks the retail passenger/LT tire market will remain flat, but he expects the commercial/fleet business to grow.
Tires in 17- to 20-inch rim diameters are more prevalent nowadays, Mr. Crouse said, noting that mid-sized touring sedans are primarily fitted with 17- and 18-inch tires and the sportier trucks are coming on 20 inchers. The smaller 14- to 16-inch sizes are slowly fading away.
"That's what I see. The big boys, the Michelins, the Bridgestones, the Goodyears, they're not making the meat-and-potato tires from 15 years ago," Mr. Crouse said.
"They've phased all that stuff out, it's not worth their money. They kick it down to the smaller, off-shore manufacturers."
Mr. Monteith agreed the 18- to 21-inch segment is growing.
"Definitely the performance line continues to grow. The CUV line continues to grow," he added.
"We've had to adjust our inventories, and it's amazing. You used to be able to plan a year or two about your inventory, but now you have to shorten that life span to about six months and keep tweaking your inventory."
Mr. Rizzo said that for Lex Brodie's the most popular tire sizes for the past several years are 205/55R16 and 195/65R15.
"Due to the prevalence of Toyota-branded passenger vehicles on Oahu, we expect this to continue for some time, and we ensure that we always have ample stock of each," he added.
"There are other sizes that we see in the top 10 sizes year in and year out, but these are our biggest movers."
Mr. Fleischmann said specifically the sizes that were most prominent in 2017 were: 265/60R17, 245/75R17, 245/75R16, 265/70R17, 225/60R16.
Mr. Pollard noted 195/65R15, 205/55R16, 225/65R17 were three of Wilson Tire's most popular sizes. Additionally, the 235/60R18 came on strong toward season's end.
Larger-sized tires correlate to what auto manufacturers are installing on vehicles.
"The thing that seems to be the fastest evolving component to this industry is the touring sedan cars. Cars that are built with entry level speed-rated tires on them," Mr. Crouse said.
"That's the easiest way for a manufacturer to perk up a car's handling and performance characteristics is to bolt on speed-rated tires."
Overall, independent tire dealers are facing their challenges head on and looking forward to 2018.