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Changing of the guard

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Changing of the guard

As Randy Groh ends his year as president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and prepares to hand over the gavel to Ken Brown. Modern Tire Dealer asked him about his year in the top office.

MTD: What do you feel was your major accomplishment working with TIA?

Groh: Before becoming president, I was able to push the ‘Tire Safety Starts Here” tagline through the marketing committee. We also allocated monies for consumer education and a new Web page that would have a section dedicated to the consumer. So far, two tire safety videos targeted toward educating the consumer have been produced, with plans for one each quarter. With 70% to 80% of tire shoppers searching the Web for information before they buy tires, it is important that TIA have something that can help them.

In response to the issue of tire service life, a number of discussions took place between TIA and the manufacturers. I personally signed a letter of request that was sent to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) members as well as vehicle manufacturers. It asked them to send to TIA a copy of any policy or statements that they might have regarding tire service life as it relates to age. Our intention is to publish this on our upcoming new and improved TIA website so that both dealer/members and the consumer will have access to them.

Industry relations have improved over the last year. We came to an agreement as an industry in regards to tire repair and used tires. TIA’s relationship with the manufacturers is very strong.

MTD: Is there anything you regret not being able to accomplish?

Groh: I would have liked to have done more regarding tire service life. The industry was unable to come to an agreement on tire aging.

But I am not finished. As outgoing president, I will still be involved with the executive committee as well as other committees in TIA, and my intention is to continue to work on a dealer “best practice” as it relates to tire service life and tire age.

MTD: Were there any surprises during your year working with TIA?

Groh: I may have been in the tire business too long. Nothing seems to surprise me anymore.

MTD: Last year when we interviewed you as incoming TIA president, you said that you felt strongly that the association should focus on training and government affairs. What progress were you able to make?

Groh: We launched the Farm Tire Service (FTS) program and added the Spanish translation of the Commercial Tire Service (CTS) program to the Online University. The progress we’ve made with the On-Line University has exceeded all of our expectations and has really opened up the fleet market to the CTS program. We launched another Automotive Tire Service (ATS) Instructor Tour and have developed a network of more than 30 community and technical colleges where we can hold ATS classes in the future as needed.

The Earthmover Tire Service (ETS) program was also translated into Spanish and released during my term as TIA president. I’m very proud of what we accomplished as far as training is concerned and am confident we are poised to continue the growth and success we’ve seen over the past few years.

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Getting Roy Littlefield, TIA’s executive vice president, to head up the efforts in government affairs has been instrumental to TIA’s advocacy work. His wealth of experience on Capitol Hill has had a positive impact on the industry. TIA has lobbied successfully to:

* extend the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for recently discharged veterans,

* lower the rate and raise the threshold on the estate tax, and

* oppose the excise tax on tread rubber, passenger tires and truck tires.

TIA’s political action committee (TirePAC) has seen a revival and membership is strong.

MTD: You planned to pay close attention to the membership newsletters. What changes came about?

Groh: TIA is now publishing a quarterly TirePAC newsletter to highlight our government affairs work and a State/Provincial Executives Newsletter to improve communication between TIA and the state/provincial associations. In addition, TIA is now sending out monthly e-newsletters to our members.

MTD: You were looking to create demand for training videos for auto services. How is that going?

Groh: We’ve surveyed some of our retailer members to see what type of training they needed, and judging from their responses we are meeting the needs of the industry with our ATS and tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) training.

We’ll continue to listen to our members, and if there are any areas outside of tires in the automotive service market that require educational resources, we will explore the possibilities of expanding our training programs.

MTD: How closely does TIA work with the RMA? Can you give us some examples of how the two groups work together to get things done?

Groh: The relationship with TIA and the RMA is the closest it has ever been. We’ve worked together to fight state legislation on tire repair, tire aging and used tires. On the federal level, we’ve work together on tax bills and tort reform.

Charlie Cannon, the RMA’s president, attended the TIA board of director’s meeting in June, and this gave our board members the opportunity to interact with him and gave Charlie a chance to address the board while they were all together.

MTD: What are your duties as past president?

Groh: I will continue to serve on the executive committee, attend board meetings and be an active part of TIA.

MTD: What are you going to do with any free time you have after handing over the gavel?

Groh: I still have my job with U.S. AutoForce, and there is more than enough for me to do related to providing the best programs and service to the independent tire dealer.

MTD: Most importantly, what advice do you have for Ken Brown as he takes over the presidency?

Groh: Get started right away. With the TIA president’s term being just one year, it is imperative to get started immediately to be able to accomplish your goals.

Have fun with it. Throughout my term as president, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with so many incredible people in the industry, many of whom I may not have had the opportunity to interact with had it not been for my role with TIA.     ■

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