Zimmerman's Automotive Adapts to Customers' Needs

March 17, 2022

Zimmerman’s Automotive has undergone a few transformations in its history, with the most recent being the addition of tires to its business plan and Tire Pros to its name.

Judy Zimmerman Walter’s father started the business in 1958 in Mechanicsburg, Pa.. In the decades since, it has grown to have three divisions — tire sales and automotive repairs, a quick lube and auto sales.

All have faced unique and incredible challenges in the last year, from supply chain disruptions and price hikes to the unstable new car market.

“We have so far been able to push through,” says Zimmerman Walter.

Like other tire dealers, she’s juggled the availability of tires and automotive parts over the past year.

Inside her quick lube business, the biggest issue has been the availability of some of the more unique oil products.

As for car sales, prices have gone up and Zimmerman Walter says that presents risks.

“You have to be careful. You have to know what your vehicle’s going to be worth. Auction prices will (move) from wholesale right into retail and keep going. We’ve had to be careful buying our vehicles.”

But Zimmerman Walter says Zimmernan’s Automotive Tire Pros has navigated the bumps in the road and has found a way to keep growing.

In 2022, the company’s 12 bays that install tires and provide automotive service are expected to contribute more than $2 million in overall sales.

With quick lube and auto sales included, total sales are projected to be $5.5 million

“We’re people who believe in looking at the big picture and looking to the future. That’s why we’re involved in a lot of things nationally.

“We need to pull resources from all kinds of places — from shops in California, Oregon and the Midwest, as well as the East Coast.”

Case in point is a lesson she’s learned from one of her membership associations — think of a person’s vehicle as “their biggest piece of personal protective equipment.”

Carpooling and public transportation pose health risks during a pandemic and the result has energized the entire automotive market.

Zimmerman’s Automotive Tire Pros has offered curbside service, texting to customers and payments by phone. The company also is marketing a disinfection service for consumers’ vehicles, using PermaSafe Protective Coatings.

Even with a willingness to adopt best practices she’s picked up elsewhere, Zimmerman Walter says nothing prepared her for what turned out to be her greatest challenge in 2021 — walking the fine line of explaining the company’s rising costs to people.

“Consumers don’t like it, but they understand it. People have been very gracious. They mention (prices), but they’re not really yelling at you. They’re just grousing. You do what you have to do to keep moving forward.”

Even the occasional grouchy customer has taught Zimmerman Walter an important lesson.

“Some people are dealing with so much stress. Talk to them. Ask them about their grandchild or kid that went back to college. It’s relationship building, which is so important in this industry.”

Fast Facts: Four things to know about Zimmerman’s Automotive Tire Pros

  • Jeff and Judy Zimmerman Walter are the owners-operators of the business. Jeff is chief operating officer and Judy is CEO and chief financial officer. Their daughter, Jacquie Walter Hower, currently works as director of operations and represents the dealership’s third generation.
  • It’s a passenger and light truck tire business. Tires represent 25% of the company’s overall sales.
  • The dealership’s main repair shop has 12 service bays. There are four more dedicated to the auto sales side of the business and a two-bay quick lube on site.
  • For years, Zimmerman’s Automotive Tire Pros sold tires almost by accident due to required state vehicle inspections. Three years ago, the dealership boosted its buying power by joining Tire Pros and adding tires to its menu.
Judy Zimmerman Walter is a second generation tire dealer, operating the business that her father started in 1958. Her daughter, Jacquie Walter Hower, left, will follow in her footsteps.
About the Author

Joy Kopcha | Managing Editor

After more than a dozen years working as a newspaper reporter in Kansas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, Joy Kopcha joined Modern Tire Dealer as senior editor in 2014. She has covered murder trials, a prison riot and more city council, county commission, and school board meetings than she cares to remember.