A Breakdown in ‘Fast-fit’ Efficiency
In Europe the daily ritual of motorists calling in at their local (or preferred) tire retail dealers, affectionately known over here as ‘”fast-fits,” to have a worn or damaged tire replaced has never been more evident.
Thankfully for your business and fast-fits across the pond, people are needing to buy tires every day. I am reliably informed that because business is booming in most parts of Europe, there has been a recent overall increase in the number of tire retail depots ranging from the fast-fit equities to the single one-man businesses in more remote regions.
So on the face of it everything seems fine in the world of European fast-fits! Wrong!
Strangely enough, this recent increase in tire sales business has subconsciously kick-started a growing problem in the market that has led to a good portion of motorists needing to visit their tire dealer twice in order to get new tires fitted once.
A recent survey by UK-based statistics specialist EPYX has revealed that only 40% of drivers visiting fast-fit centers in Europe actually have their tires changed on their first visit. Sixty percent are being forced to return a second time.
Having looked into the reasons behind this amazing situation, whereby a motorist has a less than equal chance of having new tires fitted instantly, it appears the problem revolves around a question of just how many sizes and patterns can be stocked at one time in a tire outlet due to the increasing amount of choice from constant new labels in the market.
It seems it would be nearly impossible for a fast-fit center to carry all the stock needed to cover even the majority of the current car parc, such is the diversity of sizes and patterns currently on offer in the European tire business. It must be pointed out that this disturbing situation is not an indication of any decrease in efficiency on the part of fast-fits, but more of a reflection of the huge range of tires available for fitment to modern cars.
In fact, there are more sizes available than ever before, plus premium tire brands also offer bespoke (unique) tire patterns specifically developed for prestige high-powered saloons such as Porsche, BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar. This, therefore, is leading to a potentially unacceptable situation that is seen as annoying and unprofessional by customers.
On further investigation, I have discovered that this scenario has, in fact, helped the profile of one type of tire sales outlet — the franchised vehicle dealership — which traditionally in Europe is not considered to be a source for new tire sales as they only stock tires to fit their own particular marque.
However, a new trend is developing whereby motorists are beginning to favor a visit to their nearest (chosen model) car dealership for their tires, a situation that aspiring dealerships have not been slow to recognize and capitalize on. If these outlets were to consider broadening their tire stocks and provide a more varied selection, then they may well challenge and damage the appeal of fast-fits in Europe in the future.
It must also be stated that fleet tire customers are particularly disturbed by this apparent fall in service levels and although only rumors at the time of writing this column, I hear there are plans to form e-commerce services to assist fleet purchases in due course.
I get the impression that most tire manufacturers are not concerned or reacting to this development as for them it is business as usual with so many sales opportunities available to them.
Looking at the current situation overall, I have to say the fast-fit crisis appears greater in the UK than Europe, but unless a solution is found it is only a matter of time before the rest of Europe witnesses the ongoing effectiveness of what must be considered a worrying aspect for the fast-fit tire service. ■
John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 20 years. In 2004 he launched his own consulting company, Sapphire Media Services, which caters to business media clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.
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