Big O pushes into Michigan with six Detroit-area stores and more on the way

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Dearborn Heights, Mich.-based Big O Tires franchisee U.S. Auto Care LLC opened six Big O stores in the greater Detroit area last week with nine more scheduled to open by May.

U.S. Auto Care opened outlets in the following Michigan communities last week: Port Huron; Marine City; Warren; Lake Orion; Ann Arbor; and Rochester Hills.

The company will open its next store tomorrow in Waterford, Mich.

Of the remaining eight outlets that are scheduled to open, two will open within a week; three will open between April 15 and May 1; and the rest will open on or after May 1, according to U.S. Auto Care President Steve Wilson.

The first seven stores are former Penske Auto Centers locations that closed last year when the 560-plus location dealership went out of business.

"We're looking at locations outside of K-Mart" for the remaining sites, says Wilson.

K-Mart Corp. held a minority stake in Penske Auto Centers, which had been the largest independent tire dealership in North America, according to Modern Tire Dealer data.

The new Big O stores mark the Englewood, Colo.-based distribution group's first entry into the Michigan market.

"The Detroit marketplace hasn't seen anything like this since I don't know when," says Wilson.

Some of the locations U.S. Auto Care has chosen "have a long history of very loyal customers."

When opened, the Detroit-area Big O stores will employ between 175 and 180 people. "Our average store will have at least nine employees."

Outlets will sell Big O, Goodyear, Michelin and BFGoodrich brand products. Each location will stock between 1,500 and 2,000 tires.

U.S. Auto Care was established last June "with the intent of finding a franchise relationship that would make sense for this venture," says Wilson.

Big O is the fourth largest tire distribution group in North America with more than 500 franchises, according to Modern Tire Dealer statistics.

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