Lobbying efforts take center stage

Jan. 25, 2013

No legislation in recent memory better illustrates the importance of an industry association than the Motor Vehicle Owners’ Right to Repair Act in Massachusetts. The bill passed earlier this year after a 10-year battle that began on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Both the Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association (AAIA) and Tire Industry Association (TIA) supported the state legislation, which gives consumers, tire dealers and independent repairers “total access” to original equipment manufacturer tools and repair information. Their lobbying efforts helped bring proponents and opponents together.

“We’ve used the legislative agreement in Massachusetts as a template for the national agreement,” said AAIA CEO and President Kathleen Schmatz in an exclusive interview during the recent 2012 Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo in Las Vegas. She is very optimistic about it eventually passing.

“It’s hard to get traction on any issue,” she said. “The idea to go to the states with (Right to Repair legislation) was absolutely the right idea because it then became a consumer issue.

“I want to thank the tire dealers in Massachusetts for their help. There were high-profile tire dealers and executives who, when push came to shove, were always there. They spent their hard-earned money to buy ads supporting Right to Repair, went door-to-door... they were tireless and fabulous. Without their help, we would not have passed the bill.”

The AAIA has five full-time people in government affairs. “We just added two: an international trade specialist and a highway traffic safety specialist,” said Schmatz. “There are a zillion trade issues that we’re involved in right now.”

At the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas last November, TIA commended three state associations for their “grassroots” efforts in supporting TIA’s lobbying efforts in 2012. The associations (and the issues they targeted) were: the New England Tire and Service Association (“Right to Repair”), New York Tire Dealers Association (tire repair) and Chesapeake Automotive Business Association (tire aging).

“We’ve never been so visible on government affairs,” said Roy Littlefield, TIA’s executive vice president. “We want to shape the things that affect our tire industry,” added Randy Groh, TIA’s president.


Never-ending summer

Apollo Vredestein B.V. showcased two new summer tires. Both tires were created in cooperation with Italdesign Giugiaro SpA.

The first tire is the Vredestein Ultrac Vorti, an ultra-high performance tire. The sporty, distinctive tread offers optimum grip, handling and braking on both dry and wet surfaces, according to the company. The Y-rated tire is designed for advanced sports cars.

The second tire is the Vredestein Sportrac 5, the successor of the company’s Sportrac 3 (the company has chosen not to use the name Sportrac 4 in order to prevent confusion with Vredestein’s all-season tires). The Sportrac 5 is a quiet and comfortable summer tire that offers stability and sportiness plus handling on both wet and dry surfaces. Sportrac 5 sizes can be fitted on cars in the “upper medium range.”

Nexen and the baker’s dozen

Nexen Tire America Inc. may have set a record with 13 new tires showcased at the Global Tire Expo. One, the Roadian ATX RA8, is the first tire designed at the Nexen Tech Center in Richfield, Ohio.

The all-terrain SUV tire’s tread pattern features biting edges for off-road and snow traction. It also has road noise dampening and water evacuation characteristics.

“Aggressive off-shoulder detail and a premium wide profile separate the (tire) from other competitive offerings,” says John Aben, senior vice president of sales and marketing.

Two sizes, P265/70R17 and LT245/75R16, will be available the first quarter of this year. An additional 28 P-metric and LT sizes up to P275/55R20 XL will be available in the third quarter.

The other tires on display included the new Roadian HTX RH5, an SUV that will be available in 14 P-metric sizes in the second quarter; and the N’Fera SU1, and ultra-high performance summer tire. The SU1 will be available in 48 Y- and W-rated sizes, ranging from 225/55R16 to 275/30R20 XL, by the fourth quarter.

Nexen’s marketing strategy involves more than just new tires in 2013, according to Aben.

“We are actively promoting our brand through the social media network. We have contests/giveaways each month for our dedicated fans.”

It fits anywhere

Rema Tip Top/North America Inc. introduced the 6000-CTS Max-Well Commercial Tire Spreader at its booth. It is manufactured in the United States by Kex Tire Repair, and is designed for commercial garages and volume usage of 20 tires per day.

“The unit requires a small footprint in any service area,” says John Salzbach, customer service manager for Rema Tip Top. It features the following:

•  hand and foot controls that can be moved for right or left hand usage;

•  the ability to lift and handle tire sizes from 15-inch consumer tires to 445/50R22.5 wide-base tires (tire lift capacity is 200 pounds at 110 psi);

•  tread rollers, which allow for 360-degree manual inspection of the internal and external tire surfaces;

•  dual pivot “beadhooks” engineered to improve spread control;

•  adjustable height beadhooks designed to accommodate variable sidewall heights of tires.

The LED light kit for the 6000-CTS not only can withstand typical load/unload vibration, but also emits minimal heat.


Greenball introduces a tire with bite

Greenball Corp. introduced its Kanati Mongrel off-road and ATV tire.

The new tire features a unique tread pattern “that makes it the perfect solution for on- and off-road use on (a) utility ATV or Side X Side,” says the company. The Mongrel is D.O.T.-approved for street use, but also provides a smooth ride on any hard-packed surface.

The eight-ply radial tire is available in five sizes: 26x10.00R12,

28x10.00R14, 30x10.00R14, 28x10.00R15 and 30x10.00R15 .

Greenball adds that the “true” sizes will be achieved from 24 to 72 hours after mounting.

The tire in all sizes have a maximum load of 600 pounds.

‘Nu’ winter tire

A regular exhibitor at the SEMA Show, Stamford Tyres International Pte Ltd., launched Nu Ice winter tires following the lifting of the embargo on Chinese tires in the U.S.

Part of the Singapore-based tire manufacturer’s “renewed comeback” in the North American market, the Nu Ice tire line was just the tip of the iceberg.  Stamford also showcased its  Cougar and Akina house brands and SSW (Stamford Sport Wheels) alloy wheels.

The Studless Nu Ice NTS-01 initially will be offered in 16 sizes ranging from 175/65R14 to 225/40R18. The studdable XT-01 version is available in 12 sizes from 175/65R14 to 235/60R18.

The response at the booth to the tire range was very encouraging, according to a Stamford spokesperson, with visitors from North America, Central America, South America and the Caribbean Islands.

“SEMA 2012 was once again a very productive show for Stamford and we now look forward to further increasing our trading presence in North America in the future on the base of the keen interest shown at the show.”

New app, new look

Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. has developed an iPad app in collaboration with Source Interlink Media. It is available on iTunes.

The app is designed to provide “easy access” to Toyo product information such as product features and benefits; size information and specifications; and training. In addition, users can view product videos and media stories that were published about the specific products they are viewing.

The app features 18 of Toyo’s most popular products. That includes the new Open Country A/T II, a light truck and SUV tire with a 65,000-mile limited tread wear warranty.

John Hagan, Toyo’s senior director of sales, said for 2013, the company plans to capitalize on the successful 2012 launches of the Open Country A/T II and the Proxes 4 Plus, an ultra-high performance all-season tire.

“In the light truck tire segment, our customers are telling us we’re right where we want to be.”

Amy Coleman, senior director of marketing, said the company is giving the brand a makeover, with accompanying POS materials, television spots produced for local markets, and a renewed focus on dealer communication and support. Toyo also is adding features and benefits to its “Driven” associate dealer program

“Our main goal is to make it easy for our customers to do business and sell our products,” she said.


Customer service: Tires at 2

The Tire Industry Association’s (TIA) “Tires at 2 — Making Customer Service Part of Your Brand” educational session outlined brand reputation and what tire dealers can do to make their brand more reputable.

“What does your brand mean?” asked Kevin Rohlwing, TIA’s senior vice president of training. “Logos inspire a feeling. You can’t control a brand, you can only guide it and influence it.”

Ways to influence it include paying attention to appearances. Image is still everything to some consumers, so good housekeeping at your business is vital for a strong brand.

Rohlwing also discussed the amenities a tire dealer can provide to customers to enhance the shop’s brand. Offering things such as wireless Internet, fresh cookies, a kid’s play area and popcorn show that you’ll go the extra mile for your customers.

Other services can include providing a shuttle for customers, work areas and massage chairs.

According to Rohlwing, there are rewards for success and consequences for failure. Owners and managers must set the example and become the primary motivators.

“People buy from people. They have to trust you.”    ■