RoboTire Says Machine Can Install Four Tires in 20 Minutes

Feb. 10, 2022

Imagine a fully automated machine that can grab a tire and wheel assembly from a tire changer and torque it onto a vehicle following original equipment manufacturers’ specifications - with the ability to change four tires in a total of 20 minutes. 

RoboTire, a four-year-old, Detroit, Mich.-based company, unveiled one this past November during the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show. 

Demonstrations of the RoboTire machine drew big crowds and plenty of interest from independent tire dealers, say RoboTire officials. 

The company also has drawn financial support from Discount Tire, which led a $7.5 million investment in it last October. 

MTD recently talked with RoboTire Founder and CEO Victor Darolfi, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder Will Mapes and Senior Manager of Operations Ben Wilson about the RoboTire system and their plans for it. 

MTD: What was the genesis behind the RoboTire concept? What spurred the idea? 

Darolfi: The idea first came to me when I had to get my wife’s tires changed and I sat for several hours waiting for it. My background is in robotics. As I was sitting there, I thought there had to be something better. 

MTD: What level of interest have independent tire dealers expressed in the system so far?

Wilson: We’ve been very pleased with the response from the tire dealer community. As you know, we started working with Discount Tire and right now we’re working on what a 2022 roll-out looks like for their stores. We’re also working with quite a few regional dealers located pretty much across the country about implementing RoboTire systems. We’ve hosted several dealers - ranging from large chain operators to single-store, small independent owners - for demonstrations at our headquarters in Michigan. 

MTD: What will Discount Tire’s investment in RoboTire help you accomplish? 

Darolfi: That investment allows us to build out and scale up our manufacturing facility. It also allows us to hire more people and bring out some technology that’s on our roadmap. Their investment is a nod of support. It endorses us, (which will help) us open more doors in the industry. 

MTD: Has Discount Tire installed RoboTire machines at any of its locations? 

Darolfi: We have installed our first system at (Discount Tire’s) training lab.

MTD: It seems like the RoboTire machine takes up quite a bit of space, which may force dealers to retrofit their bays. Do you see this as a potential obstacle?

Wilson: Size is something we are reevaluating constantly. The RoboTire (machine) does take up about one-and-a-half bays in a traditional floor plan. We have found creative ways to fit the system into our customers’ traditional bays. That being said, I’ve toured customer sites that have been very non-traditional. So it depends on the customer’s unique situation. A lot of our customers are using it as an opportunity to redefine floor plans and redefine processes. 

MTD: Will technicians still be involved in RoboTire’s tire installation process? 

Wilson: Definitely. We want to help elevate the role of the tire technician. We’re looking to help create efficiencies and open up career opportunities for technicians to work on something a little different. 

MTD: How are tire specs uploaded into the system? 

Mapes: Our information comes directly from the manufacturers. We update our data extremely fast. We support virtually any vehicle, from a larger-size truck like a Ford F-150 down to your very common sedans, like the Honda Accord - from the current model year back down to about 1980. 

MTD: Does RoboTire have the ability to install custom tire and wheel packages? 

Mapes: We support any combination of wheels and tires that the original equipment manufacturers support. We do have that plus-size data from the manufacturers. Our system does support that. We’re continuing to evaluate (aftermarket combinations.) 

MTD: What are your short-term and long-term goals for RoboTire? 

Darolfi: Right now, our main focus is deploying and installing our backlog of orders, while continuing to demo systems for new customers. We’re ramping up our manufacturing facility in Michigan so that we’re going to get to a place where we ship out a full system every day within the next 12 months. Long-term goals? We have new products coming out for larger-sized vehicles.

About the Author

Mike Manges | Editor

Mike Manges is Modern Tire Dealer’s editor. A 25-year tire industry veteran, he is a three-time International Automotive Media Association award winner and holds a Gold Award from the Association of Automotive Publication Editors. Mike has traveled the world in pursuit of stories that will help independent tire dealers move their businesses forward. Before rejoining MTD in September 2019, he held corporate communications positions at two Fortune 500 companies and served as MTD’s senior editor from 2000 to 2010.