A European perspective on a ‘hidden profit booster’ in every tire center
When we talk about the tire industry, the most common points of debate seem to hover around sales and pattern design and how different manufacturers come up with new innovative benefits to make their tires more appealing than their competitors’.
Looking for a moment at how the retail tire dealers approach their market, it would be true to say the world over that their ultimate priority is to convert every sales inquiry into a hard cash deal leading to a percentage of profit.
Over the past couple of months I have been looking at the whole concept of how European tire retailers, garage outlets and general mechanical repair businesses can boost their profit margins even further. The conclusion I have reached is that the answer lies in a piece of equipment that can usually be found tucked away somewhere in most outlets. Of course I am referring to wheel alignment machinery, which quite bluntly can be easily developed into a “hidden source” of profit from a majority of tire sales.
We all know that drivers do not come willingly to buy a new tire, which will always be considered a “stress purchase.” However, if they can leave with a vehicle that will perform more safely and economically, then I believe some would be interested in having their wheels aligned.
I have noticed that a growing number of European tire retailers and garages are offering a free wheel alignment check as part of their customer service package which in turn can lead to an additional profit margin. In fact, some retailers (who have to remain nameless) have informed me that wheel alignment has significantly boosted their daily income.
In an effort to find out what has instigated this increasing interest in wheel alignment services, I spoke with several companies in the UK and European alignment market including Supertracker, one of the elite specialists leading this innovative industry.
What I discovered is that the reason for this surging popularity in wheel alignment can be summed up in a single word — training!
Wheel alignment specialists such as Supertracker now provide a series of comprehensive training schemes to help retailers’ staff understand the theory and operational capabilities of alignment which are not only open to their own customers but to anyone interested in learning more about professional wheel alignment and the surprising profit to be made from the service.
To get a real “insider view” on wheel alignment training, I recently attended (as an observer) a special one-day training course jointly held by a wheel alignment equipment specialist and a leading independent UK-based tire retail chain. The course was intensive and explained why wheel alignment isn’t just about the equipment being used, but primarily concerns understanding the physics of the operation.
There also was a certain amount of participation by the tire fitters attending the course in order to underline the different aspects surrounding alignment including manufacturers’ data and issues to look for when inspecting a vehicle prior to carrying out a wheel alignment check. Other areas covered included over- and under-steer and checking the steering arm and camber levels. I came away from the training session with a much clearer understanding of alignment service both prior to and during a wheel alignment check.
With these highly important training events taking place on an increasing level throughout Europe, there has never been a better time for the automotive servicing market to appreciate and act upon the immense potential in offering a highly professional service in wheel alignment which in the long-term will actually extend the life of a car tire.
By offering a free wheel alignment check when fitting a tire, drivers feel they are receiving additional customer service. And it is surprising how the tracking on most vehicles becomes misaligned over a period of time, especially now with the serious conditions of Europe’s roads, which are littered with dangerous potholes — now that’s another story!
In conclusion, with profit margins on tire sales becoming increasingly tighter due to the economic situation in Europe, many retailers are now realizing the encouraging benefits to their business which can be achieved through wheel alignment. ■
John Stone has been working within the global tire industry for the past 20 years. In 2004 he launched his own company, Sapphire Media Services, as a business media consultant with clients around the globe. Stone also writes for tire and automotive-related publications in Europe, South Africa and Asia.
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