Follow Your Gut Instinct: Advice From Our Tire Dealer of the Year

Joy Kopcha
Posted on October 27, 2016
Putting the right tires on the right vehicle is like dressing up in a tuxedo, says Barbara, left, with his store manager, Denny Reiser. “You can dress up in a tuxedo and wear black tennis shoes and still look OK, but try to go out on the dance floor. You’re not going to be able to do it.”
Putting the right tires on the right vehicle is like dressing up in a tuxedo, says Barbara, left, with his store manager, Denny Reiser. “You can dress up in a tuxedo and wear black tennis shoes and still look OK, but try to go out on the dance floor. You’re not going to be able to do it.”

When a customer walks in convinced his car doesn’t need synthetic motor oil when you think it does, and argues with you at every suggestion, do you take the time to educate him and explain your recommendation? Do you turn down the job? Or do you take his money, use traditional oil, and hope for the best?

It’s a gut check. And there may be dozens of moments like that every week in a tire dealership.

I didn’t ask Alpio Barbara, our 2016 Tire Dealer of the Year, to give me his philosophy on business, but I didn’t have to. After spending two-and-a-half days with him and his team at Redwood General Tire Service Co., it was clear. “I’ll sell a product if I believe in it,” he says.

That means he sells road hazard warranties, and says it’s one of the big benefits of his membership in the Tire Pros network. “It keeps bringing the customer back.” If the customer is far from home, one phone call to a toll-free number connects the customer to another independent dealer who will take care of the problem. That’s not an add-on charge that pads the bill. That’s customer service.

In many instances, it’s the flip side of Barbara’s rule that guides the process. He doesn’t fill tires with nitrogen. “I think nitrogen works well on airplanes. I think nitrogen works well in NASCAR. I’m not so sure we need nitrogen on our everyday cars that we drive.” He’s had colleagues ask, “What’s wrong with you? You can get $6 a tire and make $24 for your bottom line.” But he holds firm. “I’m not going to do it because it’s a profit center for me because I don’t believe in it.”

Quick oil change service? Tested it and abandoned it because he didn’t like putting cars back on the road with worn brakes because the customer only wanted an oil change. “There’s a time and a purpose for a quick change and dedicated bays,” Barbara says, but that’s not the kind of business he wants to operate. Redwood General Tire conducts a 72-point inspection on every vehicle. His technicians replace burned-out taillights and tell the customer after the fact.

He doesn’t believe in advertisements with tiny print. “You can’t do a $9.95 oil change. You can’t do a smog test for $29.95 when you’re paying your technician $30,” Barbara says. “If you’re going to do a smog test the proper way, it takes a good 35 minutes. How can you make any money on that? We’re not a church.

“I don’t want to put pressure on my salesman, ‘OK the price is $9.95, but by the time the customer leaves I want you to get $85 out of them.’ That’s not ethical. That’s not right.”

Barbara sees plenty of people following a different path, tire dealers and tire manufacturers included. “Our trouble is people in our own industry; they’ll do anything to make a sale. They’ll put any brand of tire on to make a sale, and they’ll put any brake on to make a sale.”

He doesn’t lead his team to selling a certain brand of tire. He and Store Manager Denny Reiser talk constantly about how every transaction needs to be a win, win, win. “You should be free to do what is right,” Reiser says. “There is a way the customer can win, the salesman can win, and the store can make money and win.”

Sometimes, they are small wins, like the customer who didn’t want the synthetic oil. Barbara’s salesman convinced him otherwise. And the customer paid the ticket without complaint.

If you have comments or questions, email Senior Editor Joy Kopcha at

Please see Alpio Barbara's store here:

One Man. One Superstore: Alpio Barbara's Employees Call Him a Commanding, Charismatic Leader. We Call Him Our 2016 Tire Dealer of the Year

Related Topics: 2016 Tire Dealer of the Year, Alpio Barbara, Joy Kopcha, MTD Tire Dealer of the Year

Joy Kopcha Senior Editor & Digital Projects Editor
Comments ( 0 )
More Stories
Yokohama will meet with tire dealers across the country during the 2018 ride and drive training program.

Yokohama Takes Dealer Training on the Road

Yokohama Tire Corp. is once again taking its dealer training program on the road. The 2018 experiential Ride and Drive Dealer Training Program kicks off with a multi-city tour May 22 in Anaheim, Calif.

The new Monroe ads will run in a broad range of automotive service industry publications and reach thousands of additional industry professionals.

Tenneco Ad Campaign Touts Advantages of Monroe Products

Tenneco Inc. has launched an extensive print and digital advertising campaign called “If It Doesn’t Say Monroe” which highlights the quality, performance and value benefits of the Monroe brand of ride control products.


Servicing the Next Generation of Cars and Customers

A couple of years ago, one of the consumer magazines compared the cars of 1991 to the cars of 2016 and listed the top 15 automotive milestones over that 25-year period. Hybrid technology, stability control and GPS satellite navigation were the top three in order and amazingly enough, tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) was number nine. The list was a mix of mechanical and driver-related innovations that made cars better, safer, efficient and more convenient.

Continental has released a VDO rubber snap-in TPMS sensor for late-model Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles.

New VDO TPMS Sensor Fits Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep

Continental has expanded its OE-replacement TPMS sensor program with a new VDO rubber snap-in TPMS sensor specifically designed for late model applications on Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep vehicles, including the Jeep Grand Cherokee.


TBC Grows With NTB and Tire Kingdom Brands

Since the start of 2018 TBC Corp. has opened eight new NTB Tire and Service Centers and Tire Kingdom stores. The company plans to open another 20 locations by April 1, 2019.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from MTD delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the tire industry and don't miss a thing!