I’m usually the type of dealer that sits back and watches as events happen in our industry. That doesn’t mean I don’t care, it’s just that as an independent dealer I don’t really know how or what I can do to change things.
That was until today, when I read the New York Times article that President Obama announced that the United States would levy tariffs of up to 35% on tires from China. I had to read it twice to make sure that my eyes weren’t deceiving me. When I realized they weren’t, I started getting more upset by the minute.
I’m not going to take this letter in a political direction. Although I don’t agree with the president’s decision and feel that the real losers in all of this are the consumers, I feel that I need to voice my disgust about the lack of representation that the tire industry has on Capitol Hill.
The United Steelworkers clearly won this battle, and the tire industry and the consumers clearly lost. It’s not the first time that the tire industry has come out on the losing end. From my perspective, we lost about eight years ago when the Ford Explorer had problems with Firestone tires and we experienced the biggest recall in tire history. That was followed by the introduction of TPMS by the federal government, which may be a good thing in keeping consumers informed about their tire pressure, but it costs them and the tire dealers more money when problems happen and replacement is necessary. More recently, tire dealers are fighting for Right to Repair legislation so we can get all of the information we need about vehicles that come into our facilities, and we are dealing with consumer concerns about tire aging. Where does it all end?
I watch as other industries seem to get things done in Washington and am asking how we can get the same representation. I thought that the Tire Industry Association had a lobbying effort. If so, where the heck have they been the last 60 days? It seems to me that TIA had no opinion on the entire Chinese tire issue until it was too late. The association didn’t even come out against the tariffs until the day before the president issued his ruling. What was TIA doing? I know we are not going to win every battle, but are we even in the fight?
This is a huge issue for the small independent dealers. Pricing is already escalating, and will continue to do so. My fear is that price increases will not just be on the Chinese-built products, but that other manufacturers will increase prices as well to keep the pricing position for their lines. The end effect will be that the consumer will be paying more for tires, which couldn’t come at a worse time as we are all struggling to recover from the economic slump the country is in.
I don’t want to point the finger at any one individual for not doing their job because I don’t know who, if anyone, is involved in Washington.
We recently worked with the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association on the tire aging issue in California, and collectively the dealers and the RMA were able to push the state legislature to drop the proposed law. RMA the tire manufacturers came to us dealers to help defeat that bill. It felt good to win, and I know that other independents in California feel like I do. But where was TIA in all of this? It was the RMA that led the charge here. We’re tired of getting pushed around, but we don’t know how to make our voices heard.
Is there an association out there that will support the independent tire dealer, or should we somehow work to start our own association that will have a strong voice in Washington and with the state legislatures? By taking on members from all over the tire industry, it seems like TIA is trying to serve too many masters. We all know that when you try to be all things to all people, no one gets properly served.
Maybe I’ve sat back and watched for too long, and if so I’ve made the decision that I need to step up and help change things going forward. I’m actively involved with a great group of dealers across the country, and know that I can gather support to make things happen. Now is the time to pull together, and what we need is someone to help lead the charge and help us have our voices heard both nationally and on a state level.
Redwood General Tire
Redwood City, Calif.