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Milestones and memories

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Milestones and memories

What may be the longest-lasting handshake agreement in the publishing industry has come to a close. The “almost” 40-year run of the Ludwig Report is over.

Saul Ludwig, who has unquestionably been the best tire industry analyst for 45 years, wants to move on to the next chapter of his life. That chapter only includes working 16 hours a week for Northcoast Research, helping mentor the younger analysts. Saul says at that level of involvement, he can’t maintain the high quality of the Ludwig Report for us.

I can’t thank Saul enough for the years of support, service and friendship he has provided me and others at MTD. I wish him nothing but happiness and health as he moves forward with his next adventure.

Our relationship with Saul actually began with an article he wrote in the January 1973 issue.

MTD’s editor said of Saul at the time, “During the past year, our editors have frequently crossed paths with Mr. Ludwig who was obviously studying the industry in great depth, traveling many miles and talking to persons in all segments of the tire replacement market – including dealers themselves. Because of this, MTD was pleased to invite Mr. Ludwig to author the following article.”

He not only wrote a great article, but teamed up with the magazine in putting together a National Advisory Council and developed “The Marketplace,” the go-to barometer about the health of the tire industry that soon became known as the Ludwig Report.

Saul plans to exercise more diligently, take educational courses — something easy such as constitutional law — travel, play golf and enjoy his six grandchildren. And, of course, he intends to repay his wife of 51 years, Linda, for standing by and supporting him throughout his career.

My memories of Saul go back to the early 1980s when I had the pleasure of interviewing him for our January issue. He was methodical and so articulate about the industry and each company’s position within it. I don’t recall a single time when I could stump him with a question.

My all-time favorite memory of Saul was at a large tire company’s annual dealer meeting. The official presentations had just finished and Saul sought out the CEO for a quick conversation. I just happened to be within earshot of the greeting,

“Hi (CEO’s first name), I enjoyed your speech, but you’ve been saying the same thing for two years and nothing has changed at your company. Why? “ The CEO looked around and all of his lieutenants had vanished — it was just Saul and him. Saul continued to ask fair, but very tough, question after question for about five minutes. The onslaught was over when one of the CEO’s handlers found an unsuspecting dealer to do a meet-and-greet with the CEO to end the interview.

With that, Saul looked around, saw me off to the side and came over to talk. I asked him if he was always that relentless with CEOs. He smiled and said something that I’ve never forgotten. “Nobody else in this entire room can talk to him like I just did. If any of his people questioned any of his decisions, they’d be gone. The dealers can’t do it, and neither can his suppliers. So, that leaves me and other analysts to hold him accountable. That’s part of my job.”

Saul has held all of us in the industry accountable for 45 years, and we’re all the better for it.     ■

(To see Saul's last Ludwig Report, click here.)

20 years of MTD’s Tire Dealer of the Year

This marks the 20th year that we have had the honor and privilege of selecting one of the best tire dealers in North America for our Tire Dealer of the Year award. Bob Sullivan is joining a highly distinguished group of individuals who absolutely epitomize everything that is great about our industry. You can read more about this by clicking here.

Our Tire Dealer of the Year award, the most prestigious honor a dealer can obtain, speaks volumes not just about the dealer, but about the industry’s suppliers and vendors who have contributed so much to the success of the award. It is through their advertising support that we have been able to contribute close to $150,000 to local charities since the program’s inception.

It’s humbling and very emotional to watch hardened tire dealers tear-up when a check in their honor is presented to a charity that means so much to them. It’s also a time when you fully understand what’s important in life.

Thank you to all the wonderful suppliers who have participated in this, and past years’, Tire Dealer of the Year programs.

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