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Is TPMS a Headache or Opportunity?

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d see the value in the work performed.

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Rohlwing: Customers don’t understand and dealers need to explain. We should position the light being on as a good thing. It’s a signal that tells the driver that something is wrong and it needs to get serviced. Take the positive role and tell them how it works and how it can save them money.

What have the associations done in helping the industry and tire dealers deal with TPMS?
Rohlwing: We’ve been on the cutting edge with training. Our original ATS Certification Program has been updated to include TPMS. Available in the second quarter, the workshop picks up where the old program left off. It’s hands-on training that allows the dealer to take the extra step to get certified by an independent association. Addi­tionally, TIA has produced a laminated TPMS Relearn Chart, which gives technicians everything they need to know about working on TPMS. By make and model, it provides relearn steps, sensor part numbers, rebuild kit part numbers and torque specs. It’s laminated and faster than printing out the data from a computer.

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Cutchins: For the most part, it’s been good. They’ve provided the education to the dealer and the training necessary to educate the consumers. The Virginia Automotive Association also has provided training.

Huff: They have done a fairly good job on the dealer side, but there needs to be much more consumer awareness. We’ve sent a person from each of our six stores to TIA’s ATS/TPMS-certified trainer program; that person, in turn, works with the employees at the individual stores. It’s a costly investment and one that we need to stay abreast of industry changes. We love the new TIA Relearn Chart; it’s worth its weight in gold. It saves us time and makes it easier. It’s to the point and works on all vehicles.

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What are you doing at your individual dealerships with TPMS?
Drumheller: We have developed a standard procedure for our six stores. We tell the customers up front when they have TPMS on their vehicle, and when selling tires we add an extra charge for rebuild kits. They appreciate the education and the “why” they need to have the service done. We have a wall chart to refer to that helps with the explanation, and have a mindset with our people to sell TPMS:
First and foremost, you must believe that rebuilding the sensors is as important as replacing rubber valve stems. You’ll encounter problems, but it’s important to stay committed because there is a learning curve. You must stock the TPMS kits and have a local source for sensors and additional kits. Make sure you have all the tools to do the job right, including the “inch-pound” torque wrench. And if you haven’t gotten a reset tool, do so.

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Cutchins: We offer a full service for TPMS but unfortunately, we are not being compensated for it. We have not been charging for the relearn and may be missing the boat. We offer and stock the rebuild kits, but it’s not something that we push on a consistent basis. The issue is going to uneducated TPMS consumers and explaining an up-charge of $6 to $8 per tire. When adding the tire protection plan and nitrogen to the ticket, they think you’re piling on. In a smaller market with a down economy, that can be a tough sell.

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McCoy: It all starts at the front counter. We’ve educated our salespeople and work to educate our customers. We charge for the rebuild kits and the system relearn. When compared to what the car dealerships charge, we can do it for a lot less. We stock the rebuild kits and have a procedure in place to check the vehicle up-front for TPMS to help avoid problems.

Huff: We take the time up-front to try and educate the consumer at the counter. We have a Schrader display on the counter to help, and most people don’t have a problem. All vehicles are checked prior to driving into the shop to see if the TPMS light is on, and we don’t let it leave if the light is still on. We are not charging for rebuild kits yet. We’re working on evaluating the inventory needs, which can be substantial when stocking six stores.

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Schlossberg: I feel dealers need to embrace this sooner than later. TPMS is here to stay and I think there is a revenue opportunity. Here are our three steps: Believe that TPMS is here to stay and you’re providing the customer with a valuable service; get training – both the technicians and salespeople; and get the right tools. It’s an investment, but one that we have to make if we’re going to be in the tire and service business.

Additionally, test the sensors before and after the vehicle is worked on. Dealers get blamed if the light is on, whether it was our fault or a faulty sensor when it came in.

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Is TPMS a headache or a profit opportunity?
Drumheller: Headache, but the more you do it the easier it gets and the problems become fewer and farther between. As you learn, it gets better and moves to the profit side of the scale.

Cutchins: Headache.

Huff: Headache, but we have to make it a profit opportunity. It’s not going away.

McCoy: No headache, just a solid profit opportunity.

Ten years after the Ford/Firestone fiasco, there continues to be confusion. The overriding issue is still low air pressure. We would like to think that consumers learned something after the recall and all the press associated with it, but the reality is that nothing has really changed: most drivers don’t check the air pressure in their tires. This was confirmed when RMA conducted a survey of more than 6,300 vehicles in conjunction with National Tire Safety Week in 2010, and found that only 17% of vehicles had four properly inflated tires

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From my perspective, I think the answer can be found in education. We need to make sure that our staffs have all been through one of the numerous training courses available – and that when new information is made available, they remain current.

The industry has changed. As Jay Huff stated, “The general service tech is usually the lowest paid in the shop; with each car that comes in, that person is responsible for $1,500-plus in tires and wheels and another $400 worth of sensors. The caliber of the person needs to be better than what it used to be. They have to be better trained.”

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We can’t afford to send a problem to the car dealers. “What does that tell the customer if the tire experts can’t solve a problem with a TPMS light and we have to refer it to a car dealer? It says that we’re not professional and it will be tough to keep them as customers in the future,” said Drumheller.

Education…I know it’s a lot harder than just a single word, but as tire dealers, we need to make the effort to ensure our sales staff, our technicians and our customers are more informed. The resources are available, and if we take the initiative as dealers, the profit opportunities will present themselves – directly through TPMS service, and through positioning ourselves as true professionals.

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TPMS is here to stay. Many dealers I have spoken with still see it as a headache, but with greater focus we can make TPMS a profit opportunity.

I’ve maintained for years that, “We didn’t build the vehicle and we didn’t break it, but we are in the position of having to service or repair it.”We also did not write the regulation that mandated TPMS, but if we’re going to thrive in this business, we need to embrace it.

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