Revisiting the past, with an eye on the future

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One hundred editorials. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been editor of Modern Tire Dealer since July of 2000. With 100 editorials under my belt, I thought I’d revisit some of them, for better or worse.

Editorial #1: I painted a “What if” tale of consolidation between Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. The two remaining U.S.-based tire manufacturers were experiencing low stock prices, which sometimes leads to big changes. And Cooper’s stockholders had just narrowly voted to keep the company’s poison pill plan in place.

Since then, the stock prices are even lower, both CEOs at the time (Sam Gibara and Tom Dattilo) are gone, and that poison pill provision is no longer in effect. Both companies have sold off non-core business assets, as well.

Today, a merger doesn’t make any sense. Neither of them needs the capacity, and their brand position in the marketplace is stable.

Editorial #9: I foreshadowed the election of Hillary Clinton as our first woman president with my support for Pam Fitzgerald in April 2001. Fitzgerald was president of Gatto’s Tires & Auto Service, a six-store chain based in Melbourne, Fla. The daughter of founder Mike Gatto, she had the experience and savvy to be our nation’s leader, plus the thick skin needed to overcome gender bias.

She has since remarried, and uses her maiden name when promoting her now eight stores. She has been asked to run for various offices, but to date has turned down any offers. She says she has better things to do than to be the second woman president of the United States. (What? Clinton didn’t win? Whatever.)

Editorial #29: We first tackled the issue of tire aging as it relates to tire dealers in December 2002. “Do tires have a shelf life? Sure they do,” I wrote. However, they will last longer if properly stored, so I listed how to do just that.

Unfortunately, tire aging has become an even hotter topic in the last five years (editorials 59, 77 and 99), with consumer advocates like Sean Kane pushing for replacement six years from their date of manufacture.

As they gained more ground (Kane’s company is supported by trial lawyers), I called for a 10-year expiration date. California state bill AB 496, which requires a tire dealer to fully disclose a tire’s age to the customer before it is purchased or installed, has been “double-referred” to the Senate Business, Professions & Economic Development Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Editorial #38: Efforts to pass the Motor Vehicle Owners Right to Repair Act were proving politically intriguing in September 2003. A supporter of the proposed legislation (editorials 56 and 95), I was invited by the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association to attend a congressional meeting attended by U.S. Representative Sherrod Brown, a democrat from Ohio’s 13th district.

When asked if he would join the 58 co-sponsors, he did not show any indication that he knew anything about the bill, or which way he might lean.

The current incarnation of the Right to Repair Act, HR 2057, is up to 30 sponsors. Brown, now a senator, is not one of them, yet. Two calls to his office were well received, but my requests for his opinion on the bill seem to have been, well, tabled.

The bill, in the words of the Right to Repair Coalition, requires vehicle manufacturers “to provide the same service information and tool capabilities to independent shops that they offer to their franchised dealer network to repair and maintain late model computer controlled vehicle systems.”

Consumer Reports recently came out in support of the proposal. I urge you to do the same.

Editorial #50: I asked California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to terminate California’s low rolling resistance program in September 2004. The concern was that the California Energy Commission (CEC) would mandate low rolling resistance.

I was more adamant in editorials 68 and 69 following the completion of the CEC’s “Tires and Passenger Vehicle Fuel Economy” study in 2006. At that point, I was resigned to standards of some sort.

Three years later, there is no mandate (Whew!), only a proposed low rolling resistance rating system. We can live with that.
Editorial #93: The headline read, “Schaeffler eventually will take over Continental AG. But don’t worry” in October 2008. It was a typo. It should have been the other way around.    ■

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