There is no greater distinction than being recognized by one’s peers, and to that end, I am honored that I have been elected as the next president of the Tire Industry Association.
Our association has embraced the concept that we all do business in a global village and has elected me both as the first Canadian and as the first international president of this association. This is truly a progressive and international organization, dedicated to the needs of dealers, suppliers, retreaders and recyclers around the globe, as we strive to meet the challenges of our industry.
First, some background. I was born in Montreal and raised in Toronto, where I attended York University and Toronto Teacher’s College. Following graduation, I taught elementary school for the Toronto (Scarborough) Board of Education.
My tire career started in 1955 when I joined Superior Tire, working part time after school as a tire buster, floor sweeper and counterperson. Eventually, I was offered a partnership and full-time position as vice president and worked as a retreader, truck tire service man, counterperson and wholesale distributor, before finally becoming an owner/operator.
As president and CEO of Superior Tire & Auto, which now has eight locations and continues to grow, I have enjoyed and endured many cycles of our evolving industry. We will soon be celebrating our 65th year in business, making Superior Tire one of the oldest independent tire dealerships in Canada. It also remains a family business; my youngest son, Jason, operates a large performance tire and wheel segment.
I had been the president of the Ontario Tire Dealers Association, and I received the honor of being inducted into its Hall of Fame. Shortly afterwards, I was elected president of the Tire Dealers Association of Canada, the Canadian equivalent to TIA. Superior Tire & Auto also received a number of business excellence, civic environment and distinction awards.
I was also elected a commissioner and director of the Markham Hydro Electric Commission, Ontario’s third-largest electrical utility, and eventually became chairman. And, I have been active in many civic and local business organizations, including serving on the board of the NTDRA.
None of that would have been possible without my excellent staff, all of whom have made the company an outstanding retail chain. They have grown with training and with a desire to be the best in the industry. They are determined to exceed not only our customers’ expectations but their own targets of excellence. Their support and initiatives have allowed me to pursue their interests through association work and thereby strengthen our retail position within our community.
TIA represents all segments of the tire industry, striving to do so in conjunction and in partnership with local regional associations. As with our Superior Tire team, TIA is determined to exceed our members’ expectations and our own excellence targets.
TIA has been recognized for years as the leader in technician training and certification. With our new Automotive Tire Service (ATS) program in place, which complements the very successful Commercial Tire Service (CTS) program, we are well on our way to becoming the industry’s authority on tire service training.
The association, also, is developing an OTR training program slated for 2006 release. Our Tire Conditions Manual, developed with the assistance of many tire manufacturers, has been an outstanding success. And, our Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) program, released at last year’s SEMA Show, has led the field in training technicians on how to avoid costly mistakes with this new technology. Many of these programs have been or are in the process of being translated into Spanish and French.
TIA has trained more than 26,000 technicians with various certified training programs. These are valuable tools that help us keep our shops updated, our technicians ready for new technologies and our customers confident in our ability to service their vehicles quickly, safely and correctly, while reducing the liability of participating dealers.
Another key service our Web site at tireindustry.org gives all our worldwide members an opportunity to network, find global links and search global markets, opportunities and resources. It is also becoming TIA’s worldwide classroom, serving as an Internet-based training and certification site.
In 2004, TIA formed the Global Council to address the needs and issues of international dealers. Members from more than 65 countries were united under the TIA banner, enabling them to remain competitive and connected in the global marketplace. This initiative now provides a network of more than 5,000 TIA members with an important international forum to exchange ideas with tire businesses around the world.
In 2005, I announced the launch of the TIA Ambassador program. Under it, TIA global members volunteer as TIA Ambassadors, hosting international tire dealer visitors, showing them their stores, discussing their markets and sharing how they do business.
The association’s broad international membership, enhanced by the creation of the TIA Global Council, gives it the opportunity to promote international trade and business, friendship and professionalism through a framework that allows members to share their business experiences and market emphasis with colleagues from other regions.
As incoming president, I have declared this the Year of the International Tire Dealer, both because of my new role as the first international president, and because of TIA’s diverse role in our industry. I feel this will help to increase awareness of the common interests, legislative concerns and relevant issues of all tire dealers worldwide, based on TIA’s international standing and its representation of so many segments of the industry.
Additionally, this will increase dealers’ involvement with TIA training programs, networking and international issues that affect all tire dealers on a global basis.
There are a number of important legislative issues that TIA must address with a strenuous voice, and I intend to follow up on them throughout my term. The passage of the Vehicle Owners’ Right To Repair Act must be supported to ensure that independent auto repair facilities, many of which are tire dealers, will have affordable access to information needed from the car manufacturers to service all vehicles on behalf of consumers everywhere.
Attracting new members from our global and regional communities, while developing benefits that complement those offered by regional associations, is essential for TIA’s growth. Our Membership Services Committee and Membership Recruitment Committee, along with the Global Council, will continue to do a superb job in this area.
TIA has also established a program called TIRES (Tire Initiative for Research, Education and Safety). With the approval of the industry, a small fee, which would be passed along to the consumer, would be charged on new and replacement tires sold and used on highway vehicles. This fee would finance consumer education campaigns, industry personnel education programs and research and development. A percentage of the funds would also go to provincial and state associations to support their efforts in these areas, as well.
This year will see TIA continue to follow its Strategic Plan, which is being modified to adapt to the new tire industry environment and allow for variations in business trends or regulations when necessary. This will be undertaken by our Strategic Planning and Bylaws Committee, which will also evaluate any necessary TIA bylaw changes.
Our Government Affairs Committee will continue to try to make sense of government regulations and effectively voice your concerns, while the State Association Executive Council will work on ways to harmonize regional and national goals and benefits.
The work of all the committees will progress as they have in the past. The committees, in turn, are supported by a team of staff professionals, directed by Dr. Roy Littlefield. These teams will make my term enjoyable and productive, but, most importantly, they will bring greater value and a regional and global voice to the membership.
We have three major TIA-sponsored conferences approaching: the Performance Tires & Wheels section of the SEMA Show in Las Vegas; our Off-the-Road Tire Conference in San Diego in February 2007; and the Commercial Tire, Retread & Recycling Conference, being held in conjunction with TMC in Tampa, Fla., also in February 2007. These have been extremely well attended in the past, and I look forward to even greater numbers of participants who will see and learn about the latest in their segments of the industry.
The Challenge Ahead
Our industry is in the midst of a huge change, and it will continue to change. There is consolidation, new ownerships, manufacturers aligning themselves with key dealers, the Right to Repair Act, government regulations, more SKUs and sizes, new faces and a change in consumer buying motives.
Tire sales and shipments have been in a temporary slump through mid-year, but drivers continue to drive and vehicles now live longer, which means that sales growth will return. Operating for your benefit, the Tire Industry Association will help make sense of it all and continue to protect your interests.
I am looking forward to working with our members, our new board and the TIA committees to promote the value of membership in our association. Above all, I will work toward a better industry for us all. My peers have placed their confidence in me; I look forward to proving I have earned that trust.