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ITDG's ‘Band of Brothers’ continues on fast growth track

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ITDG's ‘Band of Brothers’ continues on fast growth track

The group that calls itself the “Band of Brothers” has been on a fast track of growth since its inception 20 years ago. The Independent Tire Dealers Group LLC (ITDG) celebrated its anniversary in Cancun last month.

ITDG was founded by a handful of Southern California tire dealers in 1994 with an idea to combine purchases for greater buying power. The group now has a presence in 37 states with more than 500 locations. It is targeting $200 million in purchases for 2014.

“It all started when four or five of us met with Mike Levitt, who had this idea of creating a dealer buying group,” said Don Digby, owner of Ramona Tire & Service Centers. “My interest at the time was the same primary objective that our members have today — to protect the independents from the large chains by providing them with buying power and exclusive lines they could take to market.”

The other founding members of ITDG were Globe Tire & Automotive, Victoria Tire & Wheel, All Star Tire, Ram Tire Co., The Tire Man, Grand Prix Performance Tires and Bob Lee Tires.

During the celebration, some of the early members joked they would have been happy with $5 million in total purchases, but now are confident that the group will continue to grow.

“No way, no way ever did I think we’d reach this level,” joked Richard Howard, owner of Bruce’s Tire Inc., a six-store chain based in the San Francisco area. “I never thought we’d take the group back East, but we added Mike Cox and it grew.”

Lionel Pires, owner of Tulare Firestone Inc., said, “I was very skeptical when approached by ITDG a number of years ago, so I waited a year.” Pires now says, “We are very recognized by suppliers who know we are a strong group and will buy a lot of product.”

“I’m looking for us to continue to grow so my son in college can own the business and become a third generation tire dealer,” says Robert Huebert, owner of Lee’s Service Inc.

“We have become the pre-eminent buying group in the country,” says Chris Wyborny, chairman of ITDG and vice president of Ramona Tire, a 17-store chain based in Hemet, Calif. He believes the growth over the next few years is limitless due to the flexibility that the group’s programs provide its members.

“We can fit with any manufacturer’s program that is out there for tire dealers. I believe that it will be more and more necessary for something like ITDG for independent tire dealers to survive,” Wyborny said. “It’s exciting (to be chairman) to see how the group has matured in the quality of dealers and their commitment to the group.”

Wyborny is looking ahead to continued expansion of ITDG “because there are still states without members.”

Michael Cox, CEO and president of ITDG, was hired to run the group 11 years ago, and the increases in buying programs have grown tremendously since that time. ITDG has buying arrangements with 13 tire suppliers as well as sources for wheels, lubricants, automotive parts and shop equipment.

A major addition to the ITDG program was the 2004 launch of a captive insurance company that offers workers’ compensation coverage for members. This program was followed by the launch in 2008 of a leasing company to offer members flexible equipment financing.

In 2011, ITDG signed a partnership with point S Development, a leading European group of independent tire and auto service dealers with 3,000 points of sale. The two groups continue to explore areas of mutual benefit.

ITDG does not have warehousing and distribution, but rather works with suppliers to ship smaller quantity orders to their dealer members, particularly those who do not buy container load quantities.

During the last eight years, the group has had an average shareholder return of 4.31%. ITDG set records for new members, shareholders, member purchases and volume bonus and dividend payments in 2013.  

In March, ITDG extended Cox’s contract through Dec. 31, 2018.    ■

To read the entire June 2014 issue of Modern Tire Dealer, see our digital version by clicking here.

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