As we head into a new year, there’s definitely some skepticism about what the tire industry—and the economy as a whole—has in store. I mean, we’re still recovering from the pandemic, and this year is slated to be the first “normal year” in a while. With that, though, comes both challenges and opportunities for independent tire dealers across North America. Yet, tire dealers tell us that one thing is for sure: the tire business will remain resilient.
To discuss the challenges and opportunities this business brings, we asked our 2022 Top Shop Winner and Finalists: What is one thing that scares you and one thing that excites you about the tire industry?
This is the second part of a three-part series of interviews with our 2022 Top Shops that we recorded last year during our Top Shop Event in Nashville, Tennessee last summer. Listen to what today’s top tire dealers had to say about the state of the industry as you prepare for the year ahead.
- President & CEO Aaron Telle, Telle Tire & Auto Center, 2022 Top Shop Winner (1:39)
- President Rich Elliot and Vice President Scott Monteith, Best-One of Indy, 2022 Top Shop Finalist (3:19)
- President Don Foshay, Jr., Don Foshay’s Discount Tire & Alignment, 2022 Top Shop Finalist (6:33)
Maddie Winer, host of What’s Treading: First, let’s hear from our 2022 Top Shop Winner, Telle Tire & Auto Centers headquartered near St. Louis, Missouri. Aaron Telle, fourth-generation president and CEO, says new technology is the thing he’s excited to tackle at his soon-to-be 20-location tire business.
Aaron Telle, Telle Tire: Something that excites me, I would say just the technology advancements of what’s taking place and the car industry as a whole right now. And you know, could use that as a fear factor or as an exciting factor. And I look at it as a great opportunity that there’s gonna be new doors that are gonna be open in our industry that we’re not even aware of yet, that we as independent tire dealers are going to be able to take advantage of and that will ultimately work for us and make us better at what we do. So we’re really excited about how fast this industry is changing from a technology standpoint and we look forward to being along for the ride.
And I think the unknown and the fear factor of, you know, look out at our industry and the great technicians that have been doing this for many years and where they’re at from an age standpoint. And the writings on the wall of, I just take tire for instance. And our top-level technicians and where they’re at age-wise of how much runway they have. And then the bench that’s coming up of how do we fulfill fill those openings And it starts with us and the investments we have to make. But that’s definitely a challenge that sometimes when my head hits the pillow, my head starts spinning about what’s going to happen or how are we going to maneuver around this.
MW: Now, let’s travel north to Best-One of Indy with 15 locations across the greater Indianapolis area. President Rich Elliott and Vice President Scott Monteith cite the business’s longevity as something to be proud of and excited about. Here’s Scott:
Scott Monteith, Best-One of Indy: Well, I think it’s exciting. First of all, I was born of the business, so now I’m here years later and I’m still in the business. And I still see an exciting future ahead for our organization as well as our industry. But it does come with challenges. I think electric vehicles are going to be a challenge for the retail industry in the future. And I think it’s something that we have to address as a group. And so that’s the one thing that scares me a little bit.
MW: Both Scott and Rich agreed that finding talent is a scary reality looming over the industry. Yet Rich says the fact that the industry is a necessity will keep it moving forward.
Rich Elliot, Best-One of Indy: That’s the scary part for us is finding the talent that wants to do this kind of work. And look, so many of us have been around for a little while, just been around for a minute or so. And so we grew up in the hard work mentality. No matter how many hours it takes, just get it done. And that’s just not the way things are today with the younger generation and some of it’s hard to adapt to for us. But we’re doing a better job of embracing that and being more flexible, but still on your feet all day, you’re lifting tires, you’re doing a whole lot heavier hard work, and there’s no air conditioning in the shop. So it’s not throwing boxes in a warehouse kind of thing. And then I think the other thing that’s challenging or scary, I think is our ability to generate the gross profit necessary to continue to pay our people well. So inflation concerns are huge right now, and everyone wants to make more money and it doesn’t grow on trees. So we have to make ways to increase our gross profits so we can cover our increasing expenses and have money left over to pair people more.
An opportunity… This may sound like a boring answer to that, but we have a vital business, a necessary business, even during COVID, we were open every day. We came to work every day. Even though there weren’t as many people driving, there was still a need for our services, especially on the commercial side, because those trucks were rolling. So that excites me that we have a business and we’re in an industry that is vital and necessary and a huge part of our economy. So it gives me hope that it’s going to be sustainable into the future, even through the ups and downs.
MW: Now, let’s head to the east coast to see what the owner of Don Foshay’s Discount Tire & Alignment, with 5 locations in Maine, has to say. You guessed it: the owner is Don Foshay, Jr., and he agrees that the evolution of technology in the industry is exciting. Yet he sees the Right to Repair fight in Maine as a scary hurdle the industry has overcome.
Don Foshay, Jr., Don Foshay’s Discount Tire & Alignment: The thing that excites me is some of the things that we’ve been here talking with Coats about…just a centralized process of a customer driving their vehicle into a bay and having the technology to read that vehicle and get that information to the customer. Those things have been improving in leaps and bounds. And just to get more consistency of service in the stores. So I think technological advances are really exciting.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have car manufacturers that are very well-capitalized that really don’t want the independents having access to [a vehicle’s] information. That’s going to be a big battle here over the next two, three years. So obviously none of us are too excited about that. Right to Repair is in its infancy in Maine right now. But we’ve had some other things in the Maine state legislature where they tried to do away with a yearly vehicle inspection. They chose us to go up. We’ve got a store manager that has a great relationship with some of the state inspection folks. He went up and talked about the dangers of that. We will be more than willing to do the exact same thing for Right to Repair once it gets dialed up in May.