Everyone in the tire industry, from tire manufacturers and distributors to independent tire dealers, knows that change is happening in the tire and automotive business as a result of new technology and evolving consumer preferences.
However, no knows for certain where the business is going nor how tire dealers should best prepare their operations to keep customers satisfied and returning.
But there may be a roadmap for retail and commercial dealers to follow that could provide insight into what to consider in preparing for ongoing change.
They might want to look to their larger-tire colleagues for guidance.
While farm and off-the-road tire dealerships don't sell and service nearly as many tires as passenger, light truck and medium truck tire dealers do each year, they regularly work with knowledgeable and discerning customers who understand and value tires.
Farmers, mining operators and construction companies are well aware of the importance tires play in their operations. They know that down time for a piece of equipment caused by a tire failure is more than just an inconvenience. It means lost revenue that compounds each day the affected piece of equipment or machinery is down.
They also appreciate how technology and tire performance data can help get the most out of the tires on their equipment, including knowing when tires should be replaced, before they suffer a failure.
Maximizing tire longevity and performance are more critical because of the high cost of these tires. Farm, mining and OTR tires can run into the tens of thousands of dollars depending on the product, so selecting proper tires, acquiring them at a reasonable price and getting the most out of them is crucial to a company's bottom line.
This makes the relationship between tire dealers and their farm, mine and construction company customers invaluable.
Tire company executives interviewed for this special issue on OTR and farm tires stressed this and provided advice that all tire dealers can use and modify when dealing with their own customers.
"The key to the future is going to be cost/hour or cost/ton — and whoever can do this most effectively will be the winner in the market," said Bruce Besancon, Yokohama Tire's vice president of OTR tires, stressing the importance of problem solving before issues occur.
"Dealers should continue elevating their service capabilities and formulating the best ways to service their end-use customers in the ways their customers require service and product support," said Shawn Rasey, Continental Tire the Americas' director of global business development and earthmover tires. He urged dealers to focus on upgrading the technology in their own operations to make their jobs easier and to improve demand forecasting.
Dealers should remain focused on helping customers improve productivity and controlling their costs, added Jake Thompson, Michelin North America's B2B mining segment operations manager.
As information on tires becomes more prevalent via the internet, new technology is introduced and the automotive world moves closer to autonomous vehicles and more ride sharing, tightening that bond with customers could well be the key to the tire dealers' future.