KYB Americas Corp. has expanded its coverage of the growing truck, SUV and crossover market. The expansion includes growth in the twin-tube Excel-G and Strut-Plus lineups as well as additions to KYB’s monotube lines of Gas-a-Just and MonoMax.
Mud-terrain tires were among the hot products at the 2016 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, along with industry experts eager to answer all-important questions like how to sell more tires.
For example, sales people should be asking customers “What brought you here today?” But no one is asking that question according to Karl Stearns, president of KMS Marketing Solutions. Instead, they greet customers with “How can I help you?”
The often-used greeting is a flawed selling tactic. “Asking how you can help lets the customer control the conversation,” Stearns told dealers during “Improving Sales and Profits,” a Tire Industry Association-sponsored educational session held during the Global Tire Expo portion of the SEMA Show.
“If you demonstrate to customers that you are actually concerned about why they are there to do business with you instead of just taking an order from them, you are going to find your relationship with those customers will get very strong,” he said. “They will come back to you before they think of going anywhere else.”
The FUD factor
Stearns explained that everything taking place at the sales counter comes down to an interaction between two people. “You have to think about what’s going on in this whole process. Marketers call it FUD: fear, uncertainty, and doubt.”
Fear of a tire failure may have pushed the customer to a tire store. “They are uncertain your store is the best place to go. They may doubt the person they are dealing with. You have all of this going on in a person’s head while they are trying to transact business with you. Your counterperson is dealing with the same things while they interact with your customer,” said Stearns.
“You may think this is a friendly transaction. For the most part it is. But don’t ever underestimate the fact that every customer that comes through the door has all kinds of doubts about doing business with you,” he said.
The PIPA process
To help overcome customers’ doubts and uncover their real need, Stearns advises a four-step approach to sales: present, interview, propose and adjust, or PIPA.
In the “present” step, the sales person and customer get to know each other. The sales person checks the store’s records and acknowledges the customer has been there before by mentioning a previous service date and the service performed. This interaction is the first step to establishing a conversation that uncovers the customer’s real need, according to Stearns.
Stearns said the interview process takes 30 seconds to a minute. When a customer says he came to the store because he needs to replace a tire, the salesperson needs to ask what is happening with the car.
The customer may say he feels a vibration. “Now they are starting to give up all the information you need, and you find out there’s a lot you can do to help them,” said Stearns.
The customer may say he wants to make sure the car is mechanically sound before a vacation. “You may have things in your store that you could sell them for the trip. This interview process is so critical to uncover what the customer really needs.”
The third step is for the salesperson to “propose” what he or she can do for the customer. “You may have a bunch of things you want your customer to be aware of, and they may say they don’t want to spend money on that. It’s a negotiation,” said Stearns.
The negotiation leads to the fourth step, which is to “adjust” what’s been offered and reach an agreement.
“Rather than the customer coming in to buy four tires, you’ve been able to offer a lot of other suggestions that are beneficial to them. But you don’t get to that point unless you spend the majority of your time in the interview process,” said Stearns.
Market your benefits
Of course, those customers don’t magically arrive on a dealer’s doorstep. Customers have a need, whether it is new tires or auto service, and tire dealers want to fulfill that need. Too often though, dealers only promote the products they sell and the services they perform. Mike Brown, founder of The Brainzooming Group, said that’s not the best way to market a business.
“So many organizations don’t get this,” Brown told the 170 people who attended his marketing seminar. “One of the best things is to understand what your brand benefits are. What benefits do you provide to your customers? If you can get that, it helps you think about how you market, and it helps you think about new products and services.”
But a key is to know the difference between a feature and a benefit. “A feature is what we do, and a benefit is how what we do helps a customer.”
So while a typical tire dealership markets its tires and its services – the features – Brown said they miss out on selling the benefits, such as the safety offered by a new set of tires, or the peace of mind that comes from a thoroughly inspected vehicle, or the convenience of knowing repairs are done while the customer hops in a shuttle and returns to work.
Here’s another way Brown suggests thinking about it: What bad things would happen to your customers, or your prospects, if your business didn’t exist? What would they miss?
Brown posed those questions to Zulma Flores and Oscar Davila. Davila owns Montrose Tire & Wheel in Houston, Texas, and Flores, his girlfriend, volunteered to take the hot seat on stage in Brown’s classroom. The independent tire dealer was the focus of each of Brown’s examples.
Montrose Tire & Wheel sells and installs tires and wheels, and also repairs wheels. (The business doesn’t perform auto service.) It serves customers who live within a couple miles of the dealership.
So what would the customers of Montrose Tire & Wheel miss if the dealership disappeared? The answer is more than “tires.” Customers wouldn’t have mobility. They wouldn’t be able to express their personalities through their tire and wheel choices. They’d miss out on the high speeds, the thrills, and the excitement the business delivers through wheels and tires.
Flores wondered if the question is limited to products, or would it also extend to the service the business provides. “It absolutely extends to the service experience,” Brown said. “When I talk about brand, am I just talking about somebody’s logo or color? No. It’s also the experience that you give. It’s the product. It’s the service that you do. It’s your people and how they carry that out. It’s all those pieces together.”
Creating these lists of benefits also helps focus on the competition, Brown said. If your list reveals answers that don’t differentiate from the competition, there’s a problem. At the same time, it’s a way to zero in on emerging competitors.
“A lot of the time if you’re thinking about competitors, you’re always thinking about someone who looks like you. But the competitor who messes up your industry or disrupts your business never looks like you. They look like somebody else,” Brown said. “So you can look at, ‘who else can supply these same benefits?’”
Stearns’ and Brown’s presentations were two of many educational sessions available to dealers during the 2016 SEMA Show.
On the trade show floor in the Las Vegas Convention Center, dealers were immersed in thousands of products displayed in more than 2,300 exhibit booths. Here are some of the products that caught the attention of tire dealers, as well as Modern Tire Dealer’s editors.
Kenda Vezda UHP A/S
Kenda USA’s first entry in the ultra-high performance all-season segment is the Vezda UHP A/S.
The tire’s special silica compound combines summer levels of wet and dry performance. “It also is capable of driving in light snow conditions,” said Dan Shavers, Kenda’s chief engineer, tire engineering development.
The tire is available in 43 W- and Y-rated sizes: four 16-inch, 14 17-inch, 12 18-inch, seven 19-inch, and six 20-inch. It was developed at the company’s Kenda American Technical Center in Green, Ohio.
Duraturn Travia M/T
The Duraturn consumer tire lines are almost complete with the recent introduction of the Travia M/T. It is available in nine Q-rated sizes ranging from LT245/75R16 to 35x12.50R20LT. Four sizes feature raised outline white letters. The Travia Winter for SUVs and CUVs is in development. It will be available in 15 to 16 sizes in time for the 2017-2018 winter season.
“We’re not trying to sign multiple dealers in every market,” he said. “We work with the dealers so they can enjoy some exclusivity.”
ASA partners with Bolt On
ASA Automotive Systems LLC wanted its TireMaster point-of-sale software to be mobile-ready, and it found just the partner to accomplish that goal: Bolt On Technology LLC.
“Sales reps will now be able to assist customers throughout the shop, in the parking lot, or in the field,” and will have the ability to look up inventory, check pricing, create estimates, and locate customer history from Android-enabled tablets, according to Dave Vogel, vice president and general manager meridian of ASA Automotive Systems.
Using Mobile Manager Pro, dealers will be able to take photos of needed repairs for digital inspections and send the results directly to customers via text message.
The tread pattern of its new Ridge Grappler is a hybrid, according to Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc.
“It has the off-road capabilities of a mud-terrain, but the all-terrain characteristics of high mileage, low noise, and a more comfortable ride,” said David Myers, regional sales manager.The tire is available in 30 Q-rated sizes ranging from LT265/70R17 to 37x12.50R22LT.
That includes a number of new flotation sizes, added Stephen Leu, assistant manager, digital brand publishing.
Delinte S8 Desert Storm II
The Delinte S8 Desert Storm II is Sentury Tire Americas’ new powerline. The performance SUV tire will be available in 84 sizes ranging from 235/45ZR18 to 275/20R30 at the beginning of the year, said Max Wee, director of sales.
The big blocks on the outside enhance steering and handling performance on wet roads. The blocks on the inside are designed for wet and winter roads.
Sentury Tire Americas backs the tire with a 40,000-mile limited tread wear warranty. It is made at the Qingdao Sentury Tire Co. Ltd. plant in Thailand.
Tire conveyor is telescopic
Martins Industries says its new telescopic tire conveyor is the optimal solution for loading and unloading containers and trucks with the same conveyor. The conveyor’s wheels allow it to be easily moved and adjusted.
The height of the conveyor can be adjusted to allow tires to be kept at hip level, as directed by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). The company also had a new automatic wheel washer, the MWW-660, which features compressed air for high-pressure cleaning, two washing cycles, and rotating nozzles for deep-cleaning.
New app for TPMS
Huf North America Automotive’s new IntelliSens app with HC1000 enables technicians to use a mobile device, instead of a diagnostic tool, to diagnose and configure tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) sensors.
Hennessy displays latest machines
Hennessy Industries Inc. had nine tire changers and wheel balancers on display, including six new models. The newest model featured was the Coats 1600-3D Direct Drive wheel balancer. The 1600 model’s features are designed to deliver a performance balance using Coats’ exclusive Direct Drive system, which combines the motor and spindle into a single assembly that always stays calibrated to zero.
Bartec has new tools
Bartec USA LLC’s booth featured three new products. The Tech200Pro is a diagnostic tool that incorporates TPMS sensor testing and activation, tread depth measurement, and manual tire pressure checks. The Tech200Pro has full TPMS sensor capability. The company says tread depth measuring is very accurate and can measure tread up to 22 millimeters, or almost 7/8 inches.
New package for wheel weights
Wegmann automotive USA Inc., the parent company to the Perfect Equipment and Hofmann Power Weight brands, introduced a Pop-N-Lock modular box design for its Hofmann Power Weight Premium Zinc line. Gregory Parker, marketing manager, says the new pop and lock system allows technicians to get to the wheel weights faster, and the tray allows the product to be poured out for easier access.
New brand of wheel weights
Plombco Inc. says its new StickPro kits contain everything a shop needs to remove old adhesive wheel weights and attach new ones. The kit contains StickPro brand wheel cleaner and adhesive wheel weights, along with removal pliers, scrapers, buffing discs, and a buffer.
Tri-Ace has new MT line
Tri-Ace Wheel & Tire Corp.’s new Pioneer MT line will be available in 18-, 20-, 22- and 24-inch rim sizes in the first half of 2017. In addition, the company displayed a Dakur MT tire in a size it says is new to the market, 40 x15.50R28. Tri-Ace says it plans to bring a new lineup of Dakur MT tires to the market in 2017. The company also announced new sizes for the Mark Ma and Black Bear M/T lines (35x12.50R24LT, 36x15R24LT, LT375/40R24, LT375/30R26, 38x15.50R26LT), Black Bear All-Terrain II line (LT265/70R17, LT305/55R20), and Tri-Ace Carrera UHP line (405/25R24, 405/25R26).
New impact wrench can be tuned
The new 3/8-inch W5132 impact wrench from Ingersoll Rand plc can be tuned for specific joints, according to Josh Johnson, engineering manager.
Techs select the proper torque via a dial on the tool. The tool’s compact size (6.5 inches tall), and task light provide increased access and visibility.
Rotary Lift offers adapters
Rotary Lift’s Trio Arms are now standard on the company’s 12,000-pound capacity SmartLift in-ground lifts. The company says its patented three-stage arms allow greater extension and retraction capability so technicians can reach the manufacturer’s recommended pickup points under a vehicle. The company has added adapters for unibody vehicles and light trucks.
Bee Line has new floor jack
The latest product from Bee Line Co. is a 14-ton capacity heavy-duty floor jack. The company says the new 7800 Auto-Lock HD floor jack can be quickly raised and easily locked at the desired height without the need to place jack stands under the frame. With a minimum height of 8 inches, the jack slides under low clearance trucks, and it rises to a maximum height of 18 inches to accommodate almost any maintenance process. Extensions can be used to reach higher frames and axles.
Bosch releases Evolve tablet
The new OTC Evolve from Bosch Automotive Service Solutions is a rugged tablet capable of diagnosing more than 25,000 vehicle systems and 58,000 vehicle ECU (engine control unit)combinations using new Bravo 3.0 software and a fast Android operating system. The company partnered with information sources such as Identifix, Google, and AllData for repair information. Original equipment wiring schematics for all vehicles are available, according to Chris Ellington, field technical support.
Capabilities include more than 11,000 actuation tests and more than 1,400 adjustment tests; a 10.4-inch optically bonded screen providing visibility in most conditions; and dual Wi-Fi architecture that provides a Wi-Fi connection to the included J2534-compliant wireless VCI with simultaneous internet connection to the shop.
Wrench features longer runtime
Features of the CP8848K 1/2-inch cordless impact wrench from Chicago Pneumatic Tool Co. include rubber bumpers and a composite and steel housing for durability.
‘No pry bars, no hammers, no liability’
Hunter Engineering Co. has packed time-saving and ease-of-use accessories into its new TCX625 Plus heavy-duty tire changer. The TCX625’s pedal-controlled inner roller saves the operator time and effort, bringing service times that are comparable to manual methods, but are much safer. A lever improves traction when mounting the outer bead. Ramps reduce operator effort.
Wheel balancer is mobile
Rav America, the U.S. distributor for Ravaglioli SpA of Italy, says the new GT2 Roadside Mobile Truck Balancer is designed for customers who do roadside tire service. The balancer works with a 110-volt wall outlet or can be configured to be completely mobile with a 12-volt battery, according to Ernie Diaz, wheel service technician. The balancer accommodates up to a 30-inch rim diameter and 52-inch wheel diameter and can be used in closed vans, trailers, or inside low-volume shops.
Armstrong Tire returns
The Armstrong brand is back with a new lineup of 10 medium truck tires for various applications. Mariam Zafar is helping relaunch the brand as marketing director, and Carl Casalbore is president and chief operating officer of Armstrong Tire Inc., a subsidiary of Zafco Trading LLC.The tires feature rhino-emblazoned sidewalls, and five of the offerings are SmartWay-verified. The Armstrong website promises passenger and light truck tire offerings are “coming soon.”
A redesigned Maxxis Razr MT
Maxxis International showcased its redesigned Razr MT as the company’s booth highlighted all the fun available in the great outdoors.
The armor sidewall helps with traction and puncture resistance.
Hankook sees opportunities in 2017
Hankook Tire America Corp. again focused its floor space at the 2016 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show on the Laufenn value brand, and for the record Shawn Denlein, senior vice president of sales, said the brand is meeting sales volume and point-of-sale goals. “Dealer and consumer feedback is great in terms of the quality of the product. The positioning of the brand is exactly where we want it to be. Our whole goal was to use Laufenn and then Hankook would move up to a premium brand, and the strategy’s definitely worked.”
During an interview with Denlein and Jae Bum Park, senior vice president of marketing, the pair provided an update on Hankook’s first U.S. plant, which Park said will open in early 2017. The first phase is expected to reach full capacity – 5.5 million tires – in October 2017. The second phase will double that capacity for the replacement and original equipment markets. There’s room for at least two more phases of construction at the 469-acre site in Clarksville, Tenn.
But Hankook does expect to be aggressive in marketing its commercial truck products in 2017. Denlein said, “We have a national account program now. It opens up a lot more opportunity for fleet business, and we’ve doubled the size of our sales force in the last two years. We’re really looking forward to next year because we have a lot of the infrastructure in place which we haven’t had before on the TBR side.”
With passenger tires, Hankook isn’t looking to disrupt its distribution channel. There are no plans for the company to sell tires online directly to consumers. “We have been focusing on our dealers. We will continue to do business with them,” Park said.
“There’s no plans to do any kind of online marketing of the brand,” Denlein said, and that applies to both Hankook- and Laufenn-branded products. “Our growth with Hankook has been with the independent dealer.” ■
2 sales teams, 2 strategies: Qingdao Sentury Tire tries something new in the U.S
Sentury Tire USA Inc., which does business as Sentury Tire Americas, is based in Miami. It sells its own Delinte, Landsail, and Sentury tire brands, plus the Pantera private brand for the Tire Alliance Groupe Ltd.
Lanny Lin, president of the parent company, says the two sales teams will not interact. Groundspeed will “expand our coverage,” and be sold to dealers “outside the customer list of Sentury Tire Americas.”
Rami Helminen, CEO of Sentury Tire North America, says Qingdao Sentury Tire has a lot of dedicated resources in the U.S. “It’s not just one team is trying to do everything. We don’t want to disrupt what has been achieved so far. We are wielding something side by side, with something new to expand.”
Although the subsidiaries have a gentleman’s agreement not to compete against each other, it’s ultimately up to the tire dealer. For example, a dealer could buy brands from both sales teams through competing wholesalers.
“It’s going to be about managing conflict,” says Michael Perkins, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Sentury Tire North America.
There won’t be any conflict when the new plant in LaGrange is at full capacity, he says. The facility will be able to produce 12 million tires annually no later than 2022, “plenty of product for everyone.”
Helminen and Perkins plan to price Groundspeed as a Tier 3 tire, but back it with a complete dealer program. They are targeting 2% market share for Groundspeed and any additional brands they add to their lineup. Sales start in January.
Making a case for Chinese truck tires in the U.S.
For the second straight year, Mary Xu, deputy chairman of the China Rubber Industry Association (CRIA), walked the floor of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show to campaign for Chinese tires in the USA.
The CRIA is much like the Rubber Manufacturers Association in the U.S. There are more than 1,400 members who represent all aspects of the rubber industry, from the providers of raw materials to the makers of rubber belts and other products. About 300 of the CRIA members are tire manufacturers, Xu said.
“The Chinese tire manufacturers did not hurt the U.S. producer,” she said.
The CRIA and its hired attorney, Max Schutzman, a New York lawyer who specializes in tariff and trade cases, point to the dissenting opinion in the ITC’s preliminary vote to continue the investigation of truck and bus tires imported from China. Two ITC members saw no indication that the U.S. tire industry was being harmed or threatened by truck and bus tires from China.
“I know the union is very powerful,” Xu said, referring to the United Steelworkers who initiated the complaint about Chinese truck tires. “It’s not just price; it’s political.”
Xu doesn’t deny Chinese manufacturers will be hurt by tariffs, but said no matter what happens, the U.S. will still rely on tire shipments from China. The U.S. doesn’t have enough truck tire production to be self-reliant.
When manufacturers shift production from China to another country to sidestep the tariffs — and many have already done so — Xu said it creates another problem. “In the long run it’s not good for the U.S. market because they have more and more competitors.”
5, make it 6 new tires: Tireco plans to be aggressive in 2017
In the past, Tireco Inc. has taken a conservative approach to marketing its Milestar, Nankang, and West Lake tires. It is time for the company to “step out of the shadows,” according to new Vice President of Sales and Marketing Andrew Hoit.The company will introduce five Milestar tires in the U.S. in 2017. “The Milestar is now our flagship brand,” says Hoit. “That’s the primary focus of our branding.” The new tires are:
■ Milestar Grantland AP SUV/RLT. The all-season tire will be available in 32 sizes ranging from 15 to 20 inches.
■ Milestar Patagonia A/T W SUV/RLT. The all-weather, all-terrain tire will be available in 11 sizes ranging from 15 to 17 inches.
■ Milestar Weatherguard All-Weather. The CUV touring tire will be available in 44 sizes ranging from 15 to 20 inches.
■ Milestar Streetsteel. The tire will be available in 10 sizes ranging from 14 to 15 inches with raised white letters.
■ Milestar Steelpro MS597S. The tire will be available in six two-ply, commercial and sprinter van sizes.
A sixth tire, the Nankang NS-25 All-Season UHP, also will be launched next year. It will be available in 74 sizes ranging from 16 to 24 inches.
No power? No problem! Tire’s Warehouse pulls off a dramatic relocation in Las Vegas
When the power went out at the Paris Hotel & Casino on Nov. 3, Tire’s Warehouse Inc. had to move its second annual Tire One Program Dealer Event to Bally’s Las Vegas Hotel & Casino in less than 24 hours. That included moving a 2016 Mazda MX5, the grand prize in the blackjack tournament.
It also had to find other accommodations for many of its retail customers, who were staying at the Paris and were locked out of their rooms. President Dan King (pictured), Director of Marketing Ken Hsu, and the whole marketing team helped successfully pull off the last-minute relocation — all dressed as casually as most of the more than 250 attendees.
The week in numbers
How many people were in Las Vegas for Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week? This year more than 157,962 attended the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show and the Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo (AAPEX). Here’s the breakdown from SEMA Public Relations Director Della Domingo and Auto Care Association Senior Vice President Rich White.
157,962: Total attendees at the SEMA Show and AAPEX
67,827: Buyers at both shows
2,325: SEMA Show exhibitors
2,259: AAPEX exhibitors
3,600: Registered media
1,180,000: Square footage of SEMA Show exhibit space
KYB Americas Corp. has expanded its coverage of the growing truck, SUV and crossover market. The expansion includes growth in the twin-tube Excel-G and Strut-Plus lineups as well as additions to KYB’s monotube lines of Gas-a-Just and MonoMax.
ATEQ TPMS Tools LC has a new TPMS sensor activator and reader available in North America: the VT31. It is designed to read 100% of TPMS sensors.
The annual pairing of the California Tire Dealers Association (CTDA) with Billy Eordekian is almost upon us. And tire- and wheel-related industry vendors and dealers are invited.
Rotary Lift, a Vehicle Service Group (VSG) brand, has released its newest 90 Second Know How instructional video, “Daily 4-Post Inspection.”
Over 50 Auto Value and Bumper to Bumper warehouse distributor shareholders of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance Inc. are taking part in the Alliance's annual winter meeting at the National Doral in Miami, Fla.
Lumileds LLC has launched an initiative to combat fraudulent Xenon HID lighting products.
Tenneco Inc. is rewarding customers up to $80 for purchasing select Monroe or Rancho ride control products. The Monroe holiday consumer promotion runs Dec. 1, 2017 through Jan. 31, 2018.
Cardone Industries Inc. will begin building a distribution center in Harlingen, Texas, near the company’s current core processing facilities, in January 2018. Completion is set for December 2018.
Icahn Automotive Group LLC has purchased B.S.& F. Auto Parts Inc. in New York City from Joe Ferrer.
Epicor Software Corp. will award 12 professional-grade Innova scan tools to automotive service businesses that rely on the Epicor Integrated Service Estimator (ISE) solution. The sweepstakes runs through May 31, 2018.
Chris DuPaul is the new group president of distribution for Myers Industries Inc. He replaced Alex Williamson, who left Myers "to pursue other opportunities," according to the company.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Section 609 credentials will have additional importance heading into the new year.
Bridgestone Retail Operations LLC (BSRO) has named Jonathan Fisher the 2017 BSRO ASE Master L1 Technician of the Year.
Al Gaspar, former president and CEO of the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA), died Nov. 25, 2017, at his home in Cave Creek, Ariz.
In my Modern Tire Dealer column for November I wrote about the current "confusion" in Europe when it comes to tire shows, stating that I thought the increase in exhibitions over here was looking chaotic.