Whether we like it or not, data rules our world today—you know it and your customers want it. Haven’t you noticed that some customers are more informed on what they want when they make a tire purchase? That’s because they’re collecting data—any bits of information—that will ensure they are making a good investment. One way tire dealers are grasping their hands on more and more vehicle data is through digital vehicle inspections.
While digital vehicle inspection can take on many different forms with a variety of equipment, one company that is leading the way in giving tire dealers data literally at their fingertips is Hunter Engineering. You’ve probably seen or heard of Hunter’s Quick Check inspection equipment that takes tread depth and alignment measurements in seconds. To dig into the type of data Hunter’s inspection equipment collects, new features it debuted this year and how it integrates with other equipment at the shop, we sat down with Pete Liebetreu, vice president of marketing at Hunter Engineering, during Industry Week in Las Vegas this year.
In this interview for What’s Treading with Tire Review, presented by AAPEX, Pete delves into:
- Data points Hunter equipment collects through its DVI equipment (0:45)
- Enhancements Hunter has made to its inspection equipment that debuted at industry week (2:14)
- How inspection reports can lead to shop efficiency and transparency with customers (5:05)
- How dealers can realize ROI with an investment in DVI equipment (8:43)
Madeleine Winer, Editor, Tire Review: We’ve seen a lot of new equipment and upgrades to existing equipment at your booth here, so I wanted to talk about the inspection equipment that Hunter has on display, namely Hunter’s Quick Check inspection systems. I know these inspection systems collect tons of vehicle data and allow for some selling opportunities for tire dealers. So can you give me an idea of some of those important data points that these systems collect for tire dealers?
Pete Leibetreu, vice president of marketing, Hunter Engineering: Sure. The Quick Check suite of products primarily revolves around alignment opportunities and tire opportunities. So what we’re going to read is the alignment condition of the vehicle as it pulls into your shop. So very quickly, you just drive through, there is no touching anything, no mounting any sensors and so forth. You just drive through. The equipment is going to get a picture of that alignment. We’re going to compare it to actual vehicle specifications for that vehicle. I
The tread reader—the Quick Tread Edge—is going to give you a picture of the tread depth on all four tires. Not just in points, but actually across a patch of the tire. You’re going to get an image and then a number of data points for the tread. We all know that tires have a certain tread depth that is DOT capable, or DOT legal, but also, you need to advise your customers if they’re getting near the DOT danger point. That’s the kind of information our equipment can give based on knowing exactly the vehicle [you have in your bay].
Winer: So I know there are some enhancements to the Quick Check inspection system. Can you go over some of the new things, or the enhancements rather, that you guys have at this year’s SEMA Show?
Leibetreu: Sure. So we’ve had the tread measurement and alignment angle measurement for a couple of years for passenger cars. There are some enhancements to that but what I would like to highlight first is that we went full commercial with the Quick Check Edge and the alignment inspection– our system can measure Class A trucks, too, but there’s a middle space that a lot of people, tire dealers in particular, operate in, and that is dual wheel vehicles, like a 450 pickup truck or one of these larger transit vans. So we’ve combined the hardware and have the alignment inspection from the passenger car, light trucks plus the wide tread capability. In a sense, it’s sort of a hybrid system that’s capable of handling light duty up to medium duty and really gives a tire dealer the big spectrum. The tire dealer couldn’t inspect his own rollback carrier for tread depth previous to this, as an example, if they do towing.
That’s the biggest hardware enhancement. There are also some software-based enhancements. Those have to do with the tires that are coming out on the roads. There are newer asymmetric patterns out there, and we always want the visual image we get of the tire to represent the actual tire on the vehicle. That builds authenticity and trust. You want to be able to sell a customer needed tire work, and the best way to do it is to show them their tires with their readings. So those are really the big enhancements for this year.
Winer: So, instead of showing any tire tread, is it closer to what the picture of the actual tire tread and tread depth on the customer’s actual vehicle?
Leibetreu: Right. When we scan the tread, we measure its depth and 3D model it. We want that model to match really what you look at on the rubber. So as new tire tread designs come out, we have our work cut out for us. We’ll do it. Trust us, we’ll do it.
Winer: Awesome. That leads me to my next question about inspection reports. I know when we did the tour of the Hunter booth here, you were saying that having the actual picture of the tread design helps with that selling portion, if you will, of that inspection report. So can you tell me how inspection reports add to shop efficiency, how those are produced, and can you give me an example of the shop efficiencies that are obtained because of those?
Leibetreu: Sure. Unfortunately, a lot of shops just operate on a, “We’re going to do the work the customer asks us to do” motto. And some shops even think that’s the right thing to do. But what customers need today is they need to be informed of the work that needs to be done. So, instead of investing time collecting data points, all the dealer must do is drive the customer’s vehicle through the Quick Check inspection system. As you drive through, you’re going to get the alignment condition and the tire condition. Both are super important for your customer. If the alignment is off, their tires that may be new are going to wear quickly. They’re not going to get a great value. For the customer, the ROI on just doing alignment is so great when a set of four tires might be $1,000 today. So, informing your customer of a needed service is important.
Same with the tread depth. If you’re telling a customer that they need tires, they just need tires. That’s what the data says. It’s just a fact. You’re not selling them something… You’re just informing them so they can make a decision today or a decision three months in the future when the first snow falls or whatever their choice might be.
For your shop efficiency, you’re not investing any time to inform a customer about an important consideration. Then there are all the soft points about that, right?. The well-known fact that the first person who offers to sell somebody tires and describes the need usually gets the need [the sale]. But you’re also describing that need for tires with an image—an image that builds trust in your organization. You’re doing the same thing with alignment. This is not me telling you based on feeling the top of your tire that you need alignment. This is a laser instrumentation that has read your alignment, compared to its specs [to OE] and is telling us [you need an alignment].
These are trust-building opportunities as well. But ultimately, it’s about making sure that every opportunity that comes through your shop can be transitioned to work, right? And that’s another portion of the inspection stuff –connectivity to our HunterNet portal.
Winer: Of course.
Liebetreu: Okay. So, with HunterNet, you can see everything. So, you can look at it as a shop manager or owner and say, I’ve got a hundred vehicles. I saw 40 opportunities [for a certain service], and I sold five. That’s not a good day, right?
Leibetreu: You want to see that you sold 30. That tells you your shop is running at maximum efficiency. So, with our Quick Check system and HunterNet system, we really feel like it helps everyone, informs customers and helps shops sell needed work while keeping everyone in good maintenance on their vehicle. If they’re [customers] are already at your shop, it’s less inconvenient for them to take care of it [whatever service they need] now.
Winer: Very true. It serves as an educational and consultative opportunity with customers, but you’re also saying shops can capitalize on the service while the customer’s there with all this data. So, Pete, with the inspection system that you guys sell, that’s a big price tag for a tire dealer, right? So I’m curious, how can a tire dealer who invests in Hunter’s inspection equipment and software realize ROI on that equipment?
Leibetreu: Right. Actually, their ROI is really amazing for inspection equipment. Typically, it’s in the three-to-four-month window, which for capital equipment is [amazing]… Most rules of thumb [say ROI should be achieved in] less than one year. It’s [Hunter equipment] a no-brainer. But most of our users can achieve their ROI in three to four months, depending on their vehicle count and their dedication to ensuring that they at least present every opportunity to use the equipment. It’s really interesting, too, because it’s actually not that difficult to do. We typically just recommend that you put a big monitor on the wall, we call it a flag board. And all you do is interact with the customer about their particular vehicle. There’s a picture shown. There are their alignment readings, there’s their tread depth, and you just present that. If you present it, your opportunities go way up.
We know alignment, it’s known within the industry as one of the most profitable services that you can perform. It’s so efficient today that alignments in 20 to 30 minutes are common. And then tires are why a tire dealer is in business, so you should be selling tires. Taking that opportunity is great.
ROI is spectacular. The only people who are challenged with it are the ones that struggle to maintain that selling opportunity, which is why we recommend putting yourself on HunterNet, getting what we call our push reports. So even if you’re a non-present owner or not present every day, you can get a notification twice a day about what your [selling] opportunities are and how many have been capitalized on. Maybe you have to make a phone call [to the shop] the first couple of weeks, but I bet you won’t after that.