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Defining Your Future

One-of-a-Kind Coverage Delivers Opportunities for Commercial Dealers

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“We hang on to our tire dealership relationships for dear life. A lot of our fleets rely on tire dealerships for servicing more than the tire function. They need that special expertise.” – Gary Petty, president and CEO of the National Private Truck Council, in Tire Review’s Fleet & Tire supplement, June 2004.

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Those of you on the commercial tire side of our business know that the truck market it is red hot right now. Freight is on the move, and fleets couldn’t be busier. Orders for new power units will likely produce one of the finest years the truck industry will ever see. New diesel engine regs due in 2007 assure that 2006 should also be a strong year.

And if that’s not enough, here’s some insight from Kevin Knight, chairman and CEO of Knight Transportation: “Looking forward, we expect the shipping environment to remain favorable. Even with significant fuel, driver pay and other cost pressures facing our industry, we improved our margins. We’re achieving these results through a combination of expanding our fleet, significant rate increases, greater productivity from our trucks, and a never ending mission of cost control.”

Sales of replacement medium truck tires and retreaded tires are very strong, and look to remain that way for the next couple of years. For commercial tire dealers, the forecast calls for this to continue through 2006.

In short, business is damn good right now. But you cannot rest on this good fortune. Opportunities come with inside knowledge. That’s why every issue of Tire Review includes valuable insights from our commercial market editor Asa Sharp. Plus, as we do every year, this issue of Tire Review highlights the current state of the medium truck tire market.

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Over the past few years, many of you actively involved in the commercial tire market asked for our help, complaining that there was not enough real-world information to help you build sustainable, profitable relationships with fleet customers.

That’s why we launched Fleet & Tire, an annual supplement you received last June. Focused on creating mutually profitable fleet/dealer relationships, the response we received to that initial effort was tremendous. This year’s edition of Fleet & Tire, which comes out in August, will look at how dealers and fleets can value from today’s technology.

As you likely know, Tire Review has a new sister publication – Fleet Equipment. Each month, FE speaks directly to truck fleet equipment managers – the people ultimately in charge of purchasing and maintaining trucks and trailers. No doubt many of you have dealt with FE readers as they are the ones who make the calls on new and retreaded tires.

With FE in the Babcox stable, Tire Review’s one-of-a-kind access to the trucking industry will help you identify opportunities to further your fleet customer partnerships.

Speaking of relationships, a couple of months ago Asa and I spent some time with the folks from Continental Tire North America’s commercial tire team, and gave a presentation to a group of its dealers.

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As we pointed out in our presentation, it is one thing to recognize opportunities, but quite another to parlay them into a lasting business partnership. To do so means understanding the customer and understanding yourself.

Adopt the customer’s perspective: What do they want to accomplish and why? What are their motivations? How and why they operate in the manner that they do? Where can they improve, and how can you get them there?

Understand the level of partnership you want with a fleet customer. Do you simply want to be a good supplier, or do you aspire to be a preferred or the sole supplier? Or do you professionally desire the level of a true business partner? And do you have the creativity, knowledge and support to meet the obligations and challenges that come with each of those?

In today’s highly competitive market, where even the slightest miscalculation can mean thousands in lost revenue, an honest evaluation of the customer and your business is certainly in order when you choose to pursue fleet business. It is not enough to just know tires anymore.

What are the characteristics of a true business partnership?

• A true mutual interest in each other’s success.

• A clear, accepted definition of what each party’s responsibility.

• Mutual loyalty and support must be assured.

• Celebrate successes, but take time to plan for the next.

• Understand when the relationship starts and when it might have to end.

Defining your company’s future deserves attention. And you can count on Tire Review to be there to help.

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