AKRON — Throughout the pandemic-dominated past dozen months, marketing and franchising groups continued to expand, both in terms of members and services offered.
The designation early on in the pandemic of automotive service establishments as essential services was a boon to both the individual businesses and to the marketing/franchising groups supporting them, according to representatives of those groups in their responses to Tire Business' survey.
In this special look at the marketing groups/franchising scene, Tire Business presents details on 57 programs in North America — 41 in the U.S. and 16 in Canada — run by 49 domestic tire makers, tire importers, tire wholesalers, franchisors and business collectives/buying groups.
Of these, a dozen are true franchising programs with their own consumer-facing market identity while most are considered associate or affiliate programs designed to help dealer members with collective buying and related business issues.
Some highlights of the sector's business developments over the past year include:
Tire Discounters, the Cincinnati-based dealership with 140-plus locations throughout a six-state territory, is branching into franchising to help it broaden its footprint beyond the states in which it operates now.
American Tire Distributors' Tire Pros marketing group added more than 60 points of sale to its U.S. network in 2020 and jumped into the motorsports arena this year with a deal to sponsor JR Motorsports for six races in the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series.
Tire Pros has been the primary sponsor on JR Motorsports' No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro, driven by up-and-coming drivers Josh Berry and Sam Mayer, at four races so far this year.
JR Motorsports is owned by NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Tire Pros President Greg Bell called the partnership with JR Motorsports an "incredible opportunity to reach new customers and elevate the Tire Pros brand and presence … across the country."
While running the Tire Pros livery on his No. 8 Chevy Camaro, Mr. Berry has led races and scored a pair of Top 5 finishes, delivering a boatload of publicity for Tire Pros in the process. Mr. Berry has followed up with a series of personal appearances at Tire Pros locations.
Tire Pros' growth in 2020 was spread out over 24 states, including 10 new points of sale in California, six in Ohio and five each in Georgia and Utah.
The openings boosted the Tire Pros network to 613 locations in 45 states.
Tire Pros President Greg Bell said "dynamic shifts in the preferred form of travel and new pressures for the trucking industry" helped create opportunities for Tire Pros franchisees to prosper as well as opportunities to expand the Tire Pros network.
Express Oil Change/Tire Engineers a Mavis Tire Supply company — expanded its network to 300 branded outlets.