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We have the resources to help you, Mr. President. Please use them

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In just 12 years, Barack Obama has gone from a politically inexperienced state senator to president of the United States. I, on the other hand, have been at Modern Tire Dealer twice that long.

That gives me enough experience to offer, without hubris, President Obama some advice about how he should treat our industry. So here it is.
Dear Mr. President,

First of all, congratulations. You took advantage of all the media at your disposal, and became our first high-tech president!

Your “Office of the President-Elect” signage, which appeared on your podium wherever you spoke prior to the inauguration, was a little over the top, mainly because there is no such office. “Podium of the President-Elect” would have been acceptable.

But now the campaign is over. Hopefully the rhetoric is over, too, because otherwise you’ll start to sound like Cousin Itt, and people will tune you out.

(At only 47, you may not be familiar with my pop culture reference. Check out “The Addams Family,” Season One, on DVD. No, it is not available in Blu-ray Disc format.)

We know you don’t take tires for granted. On the campaign trail, you told millions that proper tire inflation could save millions of gallons of oil a year. We appreciate the publicity.

However, you may have gone too far when — by executive order, no less — you allowed states to set higher CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards than the federal government mandates. Vehicle manufacturers have enough trouble building different cars and light trucks country by country; state by state simply would not be cost effective.

At the very least, they will stop selling some models in states with higher standards. This is not free enterprise, and takes choice away from the consumer.

Tire manufacturers also will be greatly affected, because guess who the car makers will rely on to help them improve vehicle gas mileage? High rolling resistance adversely affects mileage, so the vehicle manufacturers will demand tires that roll with less resistance. This will hurt tire companies that cannot meet original equipment standards, and help those that do. Once again, free enterprise and freedom of choice take a hit.

I only bring this up to show you what can happen if you make uninformed decisions. Here’s one solution moving forward: When you are asked to support a transportation issue, call the Tire Industry Association, otherwise known as TIA. Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield would be glad to work with you and Congress.

Case in point: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, by law, has to develop a consumer education program as part of fuel efficiency regulations enacted in 2007. We need to put the implementation of such a program in the hands of industry experts who are willing and able to make it successful. TIA should at least be consulted on this.

“We would like to be involved in that program,” Littlefield told me. “And we could also see something like that blowing up if it got into the wrong hands.”

As a sign of good faith, why don’t you nickname your new puppy “TIA”?  In that way, the organization will always be top of mind, and keep you from making a gross mistake. “Hmmm, I wonder if I should support this rolling resistance bill? I think I’ll call TIA!”

It’s a win-win, even if the dog acts up. Not even you, Mr. President, can stay mad at a puppy. (“Bad TIA! Bad TIA! You peed on my shoes! Oh, I’m not mad, TIA!”)

TIA is not the only industry organization at your disposal. We have plenty of state tire dealer associations, plus the Rubber Manufacturers Association, which represents the tire manufacturers.

The need for federal government intervention is not the point here. Industry standards always should be debated on a case-by-case basis.

Regardless of which way you are leaning on an issue, give our industry a call. Nobody wants unintended consequences to overshadow a well-intentioned bill.

I would be only too happy to help as well. And I have the first season of “The Addams Family” on DVD, if you are interested.


Bob Ulrich, editor, Modern Tire Dealer


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