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Modern Tire Dealer recently sat down with Tire Industry Association (TIA) Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield and new TIA President Dan Beach to discuss several issues that are important to tire dealers.

MTD: Do you prefer government regulation over a hands-off policy when it comes to the tire industry?

Littlefield: In general, the answer would be no, but in some cases it would make sense potentially. For example, the Department of Transportation has established guidelines on retreads for airline tires, which is a positive thing.

Look what happened with TPMS. The government came out with a standard that we didn’t think made a lot of sense and we sued them. (TIA lost that suit.) But it would have been better for everybody involved if the department had worked with us going into it. So while we think we’re better off without standards, if the government is going to develop them, we’d at least like to be involved to help make sure they are reasonable standards we can live with.

The government’s going to come out with a consumer awareness program (about tire fuel efficiency), as required by last year’s energy bill. We would like to be involved in that program. That’s a government program we could see the industry and the government working together on. And we could also see something like that blowing up if it got into the wrong hands.

MTD: Where do you stand on the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act?

Littlefield: We would like government to help out to make sure the information and the tools are available and affordable to everybody in the aftermarket. That’s a situation where we simply will not get access to that at a reasonable price, at a reasonable rate without some government involvement.

MTD: Following the presidential election, we have a Democratic president and a Democratic majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. How will this potentially affect tire dealers?

Beach: Time will tell. I think there’s a lot of apprehension among small business owners, who feel that higher taxes and excessive regulations will follow that party into office. On the other hand, we have to function regardless of what happens. Realism takes precedence, so it’s just hard to say.

Littlefield: Historically, from an administrative viewpoint, you work with the cards you’re dealt. Typically with a Democrat-controlled Congress or a Democratic administration, small businesses can sometimes make out better in issues than big business. But we have great concerns about taxes. If the capital gains tax goes up, that’s going to be an issue. The environmental issues also are huge. You’re probably going to have higher CAFÉ standards. You’re probably going to have a reduction of emissions with the Democratic administration, and that’s always going to have an impact. Also, President-elect Obama is against association health plans.

If you raise the taxes on small business and you have any kind of a health insurance mandate without something to back it up, you’re going to really put a very big hurt on a lot of small businesses. However it plays out, we will fight for the issues that we feel we have a chance of addressing.

Beach: When you get the same political party in control of both Congress and the executive branch, it’s much easier for them to promote certain issues for which they stand. When you have one party in charge of one branch and another party in charge of the other branch , fewer of the laws get passed, and, in my view, fewer laws are sometimes a good thing.    ■

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