How has the tire industry changed from when you started?

How Has the Tire Industry Changed from When You Started?

The Tire Review Crew recently visited the annual K&M Tire Dealer Conference and Trade Show this year in Kansas City, and while we were there, it was our goal to get a pulse on the industry by tracking down tire dealers and asking them our most burning questions.

This week, that question is: How has the tire industry changed from when you started?

Whether you are a third-generation tire dealer or started not long ago, all dealers faced changes over the past few years. Each had a unique perspective and insight on how to grow.

As part of our ongoing “What’s the Deal?” series, Tire Review will be asking tire dealers their thoughts on a variety of topics. Do you have a topic you’d like addressed? Let us know! Contact us by emailing [email protected].

Here’s a transcript of the show:

Skander Tire Service

David Sickels: So how would you say being a tire dealer is different today than it was when maybe you started in the biz? Maybe not as far back as sweeping floors, but …

Alex Skander, third-generation owner: I mean, just even in the past 10 years that I’ve really been cognizant of the trends, a lot more complexity. I mean, our building was built in ’69, so we still have writing on the wall that says this is where the 13-inch tires go, this is where the 14-inch tires go and the 15s and that was it.

And now there are, you know better than me, between passenger and light truck, like 600, 650 sizes?

Alex Skander: And I mean, the number of vehicles that require an extra load that come standard with run-flats, it’s definitely more complex than when my dad was my age. But even in the past 10 years, I’ve noticed it’s … You can’t just point to a car and say, “That takes that size tire, this is what I recommend.” You really have to look up the vehicle fitment and think about what the customer needs. Just added complexity at every corner.

Van Kleeck’s Tire

Clayton Van Kleeck: When my mom and dad started the business, and as I grew up in it, we as independent tire dealers had to have direct relationships with the manufacturers. One guy I was the Michelin dealer, somebody else was the Goodyear dealer, somebody was Firestone, etc. Now, under these relationships like we have with K&M Tire, we’re able to bring every tire to the consumer. So I’m no longer selling them what I have, I’m also selling them what would be right for them. And I don’t have to convince them that my brand is the right one. I’d like to do that, but now my brand is no longer just one manufacturer. It’s a whole bundle. So I can truly give the customer what they really want and what, therefore, they need. That’s way different than it used to be.

Madeleine Winer: Yeah. Would you say more of a wider selection to sell from as well?

Clayton Van Kleeck: Yes. It is. It’s a wider selection to sell from, and we’re no longer bound by that manufacturer so now I don’t have to say, “I don’t have that, you have to go down the street.” We can get just about anything. So whatever the customer needs. And then the other major thing is the sizes, oh my goodness. Sizes and speed ratings, it boggles the mind, but it does make us more valuable now, though. It’s a little harder to become a tire dealer now, which I like.

Ronda Auto Centers

Dan Ronda: The big difference is a lot more sizes, speed ratings … You have to be careful with different cars. They’re designed with the tires … The way they handle. So you can’t, we kind of play with those sizes and the fitments, and you can’t do that nowadays. Everything’s got to be exact. So that’s the biggest change that we’ve seen. In the older days, you could just throw on the next size up and be good and comfortable with it. You just can’t do that nowadays.

Madeleine Winer: Yeah. And how have you dealt with that? Have you had to expand your vendors?

Dan Ronda: Oh, not really. There are a couple of main vendors, K&M being one of them. They stock most of the sizes. The good thing about K&M is they have a fitment chart that automatically calculates it for you. You don’t have to figure it out on your own anymore. So that helps with the online system that they use.

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