Why You Should Support Your Local Tire Dealer Association
A newsletter from the New England Tire & Service Association (NETSA) recently crossed my desk. (Yes, we still receive paper communications here at MTD, which I like!)
As I was flipping through it, I started thinking about state and regional tire dealer associations, how important they are to our industry, why they’re a great value for tire dealers and why these groups - and the people who run them - deserve support.
The number of state and regional tire dealer associations certainly is not growing. When I joined MTD in November 1997, there were 45 associations in the United States. Fast forward to today and there are only 23 state tire dealer associations.
Some have folded into other associations. Others quietly went by the wayside due to lack of interest. It would be hard to argue that tire dealers, in general, are better off because of this.
However, those groups that have remained active are more vibrant - and have more to offer their members - than ever before. For instance, the Ohio Tire & Automotive Association (OTAA) recently teamed up with DRIV Inc., a division of Tenneco Inc., to bring a state-of-the-art, mobile training center to the locations of association members who request it.
Beyond training and other perks, legislative representation is one of the most significant benefits of association membership. Marc Connerly, executive director of the California Tire Dealers Association (CTDA), one of the country’s largest groups, says “we have a paid lobbyist” who fights for the benefit of members in Sacramento, the state’s capitol.
“Trying to do that on your own in California would be futile,” he explains. “And we have made an effort to provide our members with advocacy at the local level. Our members are always welcome to call us if they have an issue with their local zoning department or fire department.”
Connerly says he can “point to multiple pieces of legislation where we influenced the outcome,” including the defeat of a proposal that would hike tire recycling fees.
Some regional tire dealerships “are big enough to take care of themselves and they have enough people on staff that they can represent their interests without a problem,” says Tony DeSimone, executive director of NETSA. “But if you’re a smaller dealer, who’s speaking up for you when your state’s legislature meets?”
A couple of years ago, NETSA helped secure passage of a bill that lets tire dealers in Massachusetts access telemetrically transmitted vehicle diagnostic and repair data — information that original equipment car manufacturers would prefer to lock down.
Like NETSA, the CTDA and other associations, the Virginia Automotive Association (VAA) also has racked up important legislative wins for its members. The VAA’s government work incorporates “a wide range” of efforts, says Steve Akridge, the group’s executive director.
These include “monitoring bills introduced during the state’s general assembly session, directly lobbying bills that could impact the industry in a positive or negative way, working directly with state agencies” and influencing the outcome of rulemaking that could potentially harm tire dealerships within the state.
“Owning a dealership today is not cheap,” says Akridge. “Think of how much money you’ve invested in your business. Then think of how one bad bill in your state’s general assembly could have a big financial impact on your business.
“Why would you not support the local state association that is watching your back and working to protect your interests?”
I echo that sentiment. If you live in a state or region that still has an active tire dealer association - and the July 2022 issue of MTD contains a comprehensive list of the groups that are left - I urge you to get involved.
“Dealers cannot assume their state associations will be around forever,” says Akridge. “Who’s going to fight for the industry when issues come up? Who’s going to lobby against bad bills and support good ones?
“The cost to join most state associations is very inexpensive. In Virginia, it’s less than a dollar a day.”
That’s less than the cost of a cup of coffee in most places.
State and regional tire dealer associations provide a remarkable return on investment. You owe it to yourself — and the future of the business that you’ve worked so hard to build — to at least explore what your nearest association offers.