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It's show time!: TIA plays the perfect host by introducing plans for retail training and certified store programs

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It's show time!: TIA plays the perfect host by introducing plans for retail training and certified store programs

The hotel sign, in big letters, proudly displayed an event only Las Vegas could host: "Play tic tac toe with a live chicken!" Fortunately, the chicken wasn't the only game in town.

The International Tire Expo (ITE), a show within the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show, was held in the new South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center. It accounted for almost one quarter of the SEMA show's two million square feet of space, with a record 1,568 exhibitors.

"More than many years in the past, we tried to focus (the ITE) as a tire show, with all the tire industry companies in one place," says Tire Industry Association (TIA) Executive Vice President Ross Kogel.

The 2002 ITE represented the 82nd consecutive year members of TIA or its previous incarnations hosted a convention and trade show. The first was held in Chicago, Ill., in 1921.

In 2003, TIA will host three major events:

* OTR Tire Conference, Feb. 20-22, in Phoenix, Ariz.

* World Tire Expo, March 26-29, in Louisville, Ky.

* International Tire Expo, Nov. 4-7, in Las Vegas, Nev.

Although "buzz" was down -- remember last year's blockbuster merger announcement between the Tire Association of North America and International Tire & Rubber Association? -- a lot of news and information still circulated on the trade show floor.

TIA details strategic plan

TIA officials detailed the association's goals for the coming years at the ITE. "We need to elevate and enhance the standards and image of our industry," said President-elect Larry Morgan, former chairman and CEO of Morgan Tire & Auto Inc.

TIA's mission is "to provide exceptional products and services benefiting both the public and the industry." To that end, it will concentrate on the following initiatives:

Training. "One of the long-term goals of the (TIA) Training and Education Committee is to develop a curriculum which will support each and every job description in our members' businesses, large and small," said Bob Malerba, committee chairman and president of Malerba's Silver City Tire Co. Inc. in Meriden, Conn. "Another is to continue to supply information and materials to assist our members with the ongoing efforts to educate the motoring public concerning tire safety."

TIA recently completed the first of two passenger and light truck tire training programs. The "Basic ATS" (for Automotive Tire Service) program will cover proper procedures for lifting vehicles, mounting/demounting, inflation, tire balancing, nail hole repairs and wheel installation.

Basic ATS will be available in three formats: "leader-led;" self-study; and Internet-based, according to Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of education and technical services. "Any service manager, owner, supervisor or foreman can teach the (leader-led) class."

The format includes instruction manuals, a teacher's guide and student workbooks. The self-study version comes in both VCR and DVD formats. Basic ATS is slated to roll out this March at the World Tire Expo in Louisville, Ky.

There is no timetable for the more advanced, certified ATS program. Malerba said if possible, program details would be announced at the ITE next year.

Member services. TIA will establish "best practice" standards for industry businesses and will implement a "Certified Store" program for outlets that undergo specified training and certification. The program will start with retail stores but will expand to cover commercial dealerships, retread shops and recycling businesses, said Kogel.

TIA certification will "demonstrate on-going compliance with a published set of best practices," including operational processes and policies in service, management and sales. Certified stores will display TIA's trust-mark, or industry seal of approval, which "will create some differentiation" and help build the TIA brand name.

Certification will require an unspecified monetary investment from participating businesses, according to Disney, TIA's immediate past president and vice president of Disney Tire & Rubber Co. in Louisville, Ky. TIA will solicit input from all industry professionals, including independent tire dealers, in establishing best practice standards.

In addition, TIA "will put forth an all-out effort to increase membership," said Morgan. "We need membership to help fund some of the things we do. We've asked (tire manufacturer) CEOs to let us have presentation time at all of their dealer meetings."

Public relations. TIA is organizing an industry-wide effort "to increase the public's appreciation of the safety, performance and value of tires" that will span several years, said Disney. "We need to speak to the public at large."

"If we can effectively communicate who we are and what we stand for we can broaden our support base," said Disney.

TIA's public relations efforts "will go beyond the scope of (our) organizational structure." Association officials will ask tiremakers to help with the campaign.

TIA also will continue to support other campaigns like the Rubber Manufacturers Association's "Be Smart, Play Your Part" program and National Tire Safety Week.

Government relations. TIA will "monitor and act on all government issues related to all sectors of the industry," including retread, repair and scrap tire issues, according to TIA President Tom Raben, president of Raben Tire Co. in Evansville, Ind. "Our interest is to make our voice as loud and as in unison as we can.... We want the involvement of everyone who makes a living in this industry."

TIA also has vowed to keep its committee structure. "The plan is to keep these committees together for quite some time" to ensure continuity, according to Morgan. Working more intimately with state, regional and provincial tire associations will be another priority.

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