"We talk with (dealers) constantly about partnerships and not about transactional business. We're not the cheapest guy in town. We work hard for their business. I think the stability we have shows to them. They believe in us. They trust in us. And they should.
"We have good experience from the other side of the table, and it matters now," Clave said.
This year marks a milestone both for Dunn Tire and its wholesale sister, Exxpress Tire. Dunn Tire, with 26 retail locations in western and central New York and northern Pennsylvania, was founded 50 years ago, while Exxpress Tire began two decades later, in 1993.
Thirty years later, Exxpress Tire now accounts for about 80% of unit volumes for the company.
Simons, 12 days into his new job at the time of the founding of Exxpress Tire, said it began by delivering tires taken from the retail store inventory and transporting them in a Chevrolet S-10 pickup truck to a dozen stores in a three- to five-mile radius. It wasn't until 2005 that Exxpress picked up steam and really took off.
"We've gone from that to five, good-sized warehouses that can stock a variety of products and depth of product to service these great dealers and car dealers," Simons said, noting the wholesale arm has 130 vehicles making deliveries daily.
Exxpress Tire operates five warehouses, in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, N.Y., and Erie and Pittsburgh, Pa., with 300,000 cumulative square feet of space.
The wholesaler recently moved its operations in Syracuse to a larger facility, expanding capacity there to 62,500 square feet from 40,000 at the former facility. The greenfield project, a $5 million investment, is expandable to 120,000 square feet.
According to Simons, Exxpress owns the largest wholesale market share between Erie, Pa., and the Vermont border, "even though we're competing against these billion-dollar companies."
"The local connection, with 45 people in the sales force, inside and out, we think that's bigger than anybody else," Simons said. "That is a big investment, but it brings our sales force closer to the local customer who needs a connection to these brands, and that's their connection."
Exxpress, like most other companies, posted strong sales post-pandemic. From 2020 to 2021, wholesale/retail sales were up 13%. That number fell to 7% from 2021-2022.
Unit sales, however, declined in 2022, reflecting an industrywide trend. Simons said tire sales in New York state slid 4%, a tick more than the industry nationwide.
Simons said he believes pent-up demand in 2021 prompted consumers to buy more, helping to create the shortfall that occurred last year. In addition, he said talk of recession, cost of fuel and more people working from home have softened demand.
Still, he said, "with the prices so exaggerated, that really held sales dollars up," adding that service at Dunn Tire's locations increased, as consumers hang on to their cars.
S&P Global Mobility research shows that the average age of cars on the road ticked up to 12.2 years last year versus 12.1 in 2021.
One in four cars and trucks is at least 16 years old, the data show.