How Different Was TIA's Convention in 1979?

Bob Ulrich
Posted on October 10, 2019
Except for the color, the trade show floor at the 1979 NTDRA convention doesn't look too different than it does at the Global Tire Expo in Las Vegas, does it?
Except for the color, the trade show floor at the 1979 NTDRA convention doesn't look too different than it does at the Global Tire Expo in Las Vegas, does it?

As part of our 100th anniversary celebration this year, I have written and blogged about past events in our industry, as reported in Modern Tire Dealer. Reading about our coverage of these events has been both informative and entertaining to me; I hope you have felt the same way.

I recently ran across our stories on the 1979 National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association (NTDRA) convention and trade show, and thought I’d pass along some interesting items. On the eve of the Tire Industry Association’s 99th convention – and Halloween (I’ll explain in a moment) -- it seems particularly appropriate.

First some background. The NTDRA was first known as the National Tire Dealers’ Association and then the National Association of Independent Tire Dealers. NTDRA eventually changed its name to the Tire Association of North America (TANA). When TANA and the International Tire & Rubber Association merged, the name was changed to the Tire Industry Association, also known as TIA.

Incoming President Joe Esco and outgoing President Ed Hogan hosted the 1979 convention in Kansas City, Mo., the second and last time it was held in that city. (Heck Cleveland, Ohio, hosted the convention four times!) The keynote speaker was John Bookout, president of Shell Oil Co.

Here are the tidbits I think still resonate 40 years later.

  • Bookout said American motorists must expect higher gasoline prices. “Consumers have been getting a free ride because the government oil policies kept prices artificially low.” He also admitted the oil shutdown in Iran caught the oil companies off-guard, which led to more demand than supply.
  • On his way in, President Esco, who started the Joe Esco Tire Co. in 1959, served notice that he intends to be more than a ceremonial leader. He outlined two areas of particular concern: inflation and energy as they affect the tire industry. “My own utility bills are now 400% of what they were years back, and I’m sure other dealers face similar increased costs.”
Publisher Bernie Kovach, center, welcomes friends to the Modern Tire Dealer booth in Kansas City, Mo.
Publisher Bernie Kovach, center, welcomes friends to the Modern Tire Dealer booth in Kansas City, Mo.
  • On his way out, Immediate Past President Hogan, owner of Hogan Tire Co., said tire manufacturers were abusing national account programs and price support programs as they related to NTDRA members. He also said direct solicitation was another questionable marketing tactic that needed to be abolished. “We want you to prosper,” he told manufacturers in attendance, “because we fully realize that in the end result, as the theme of this convention depicts, we are partners for profit. If one doesn’t make it, the other will eventually suffer.”
  • At the annual NTDRA luncheon, M.G. O’Neil, president of General Tire & Rubber Co., said governmental and union interference into the running of business needed to be changed. “At best, as businessmen you are using, or can use, your collective clout – political and financial – to change things,” he told the dealers.
  • Independent tire makers should not “try to act like one of the majors, making everything for everybody,” said Harry McCreary, president of McCreary Tire & Rubber Co., at the Private Brand Group meeting. “Maybe there was a time when you could afford to do that. But boys, them days are gone forever.”
  • The Tire Dealers Political Action Committee (TIDE PAC) was formed by a group of U.S. tire dealers. It was established by independent tire dealers “concerned about the quality of their lives and the security of their businesses,” said TIDE PAC Chairman P.K. Alker, a West Virginia tire dealer and an NTDRA board member.
  • V.J. Adduci, president of the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association, took exception to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s call to “reinvent the automobile” in order to help solve the nation’s energy woes. He likened the request to asking Christopher Columbus to rediscover America. “Chances are, we would come up with just about what we have today, because what we have are pretty darn good vehicles that just happen to be meeting the tough demands of a highly competitive marketplace… vehicles more fuel efficient, less polluting, safer, more comfortable, versatile, reliable and accessible to more people than the products of any other country’s manufacturers (at) any time in world history.”
  • NTDRA adopted a resolution to continue communications with tire and auto makers to improve the tire size proliferation problem. The thousands of types and sizes of tires not only have “an adverse impact on NTDRA members’ ability to manage inventory and conduct business efficiently,” but also on “the consumer’s ability to obtain the safest replacement tires.”
  • Joseph Russo, president of Almira Tire Co. in metropolitan Cleveland, Ohio, said the retread industry needs an innovative marketing program for passenger retreads. “If there is no demand for a product, then there is no need to produce it… at any price or quality,” he said at the Retreading Specialist Breakfast.
This art appeared with our August 1979 write-up of NTDRA's party invite. I believe it was sent out with the invitation.
This art appeared with our August 1979 write-up of NTDRA's party invite. I believe it was sent out with the invitation.

Finally, “in celebration of the rites of fall and in honor of the 59th annual NTDRA convention,” the association hosted a rather, well, interesting party for attendees. I quote liberally from the invitation:

Deep beneath the streets of downtown Kansas City lies a maze of caverns fashioned from 270 million-year-old limestone. Here, in the shadows of this sunny, Midwestern town, lurk the legendary Forces of Evil.

Satan and his diabolic band were driven underground by the Armies of Goodness many thousands of years ago. The disciples of Beelzebub rise up from their subterranean hideaway periodically to wreak havoc and destruction on mankind, and to cast a blight of price cuts upon the tire industry.

The Prince of Darkness has summoned convention goers to join him and his followers in the Caverns of Diablo for a Mephistophelian blowout.

I would have liked attending that bizzare event, which the invite says – I kid you not – was not only hosted by “His Lordship,” but also his sisters, the Witches of Doom; the first lady of vice, Queen Minus-Albedo; and others, including someone from "the dark side of Pluto." Soothsayers, astrologers and Tarot card readers were on hand to “delve into guests’ pasts and to shine light on their futures.”

(in the "spirit" of full disclosure, there was no mention of Halloween in the invitation.)

Times were certainly different back then. Convention promoters could never get away with such a “creative” party today. Unless maybe it was held in Salem, Mass.

Related Topics: Almira Tire, B.O.B., convention and trade show, Ed Hogan, Harry McCreary, Hogan Tire, Joe Esco, Joe Esco Tire, Joe Russo, M.G. O'Neil, national account programs, NTDRA, Political Action Committee, TANA, TIA, Tire size proliferation

Bob Ulrich Editor
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