Can tyres inflate your business

Changes in tyre technology presents opportunities for all

Published:  27 May, 2014

By Neil Pattemore

Elsewhere in this issue, you may see the latest product news on tyre changers and wheel balancers but for many vehicle owners, they see tyres as just a costly necessary evil. Tyres wear out but also get punctured and more recently, damaged due to the dire state of the nation's roads.

There is also a wide perception that the specialist tyre and exhaust centres (which should probably now be renamed only tyre centres) are the 'go to' specialist if a puncture occurs or a tyre needs replacing. Additionally, but with limited success, some tyres are sold online, with or without fitting included once delivered.

Tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) are already on all new type-approved vehicles and are mandatory for all new vehicles registered from November 2014. Of course, drivers realise that they need tyres to allow the vehicle to be driven but rarely check them for the correct pressure, remaining tread depth or if they have been damaged. If this has been caused by hitting a pothole, there is every chance the suspension has also been damaged or the alignment knocked out of adjustment.

This opens up a number of opportunities to not only replace worn out tyres, or repair the effects of poor road conditions but also to offer a 'winter roads check' that visually inspects the condition of the suspension components, together with the condition and suitability of the tyres. I would suggest that this is offered as a 'free of charge' service, as it will lead to creating both better customer loyalty as well as additional business for replacement components, tyres and alignment checks.

MOT testing is another basis for offering replacement tyres, especially if they are a failure at the time of test (easier to supply replacement tyres than for the driver to take the car elsewhere to have them fitted) but can also become part of your CRM system to contact the customer in the future (time vs distance calculation) when the tyres are likely to need replacement.

Longer term, the mandatory fitting of TPMS will mean that drivers will be more aware of tyre pressures being correct but will still need tyres replaced. There is also an opportunity to include TPMS in the vehicle check at servicing and to educate the car owner that the tyres are being monitored and when an issue occurs you are able to provide a solution.

So, clearly there are increasing opportunities for tyre changing, wheel balancing and wheel alignment but what should you consider? This depends on your business and your premises. Think about the various points mentioned above and if some of these could help develop your business, then analyse how they could be applied. If it looks like a good opportunity, then you would need to consider several additional key points:

Who your tyre supplier should be (competitive prices, stock availability, delivery delay, payment terms, stocking plans, stock cleanse agreement etc.)

This leads into the choice of equipment. I would always recommend working with a member of the Garage Equipment Association (the GEA) who work to an agreed code of practice and should provide professional advice, a choice of equipment and service support. I would always consider value for money to be just above the lowest price.

There have recently been some great innovations - a good example is the lever-less system which operates without the need for the classical lever, used to lever the tyre away from the wheel and which could often damage the rim in the process - more of a problem with the increasing number of alloy wheels fitted as standard equipment and also run-flat tyres on Mini and BMW vehicles.

The lever-less system has since been adopted by some of the leading names in the industry and is recognised as being by far the best solution for BMW applications, which have earned a reputation for being the toughest rim and tyre combinations you can find. This method is claimed to reduce wear and tear on vital components when compared to a manual lever, as well as de-skilling the operator to just having to press a button.

In 2010, lever-less units represented around 5% of tyre changer sales, in 2014 it is expected it to be more like 55%. Leading tyre and wheel equipment suppliers will often provide on-site demonstrations, ensuring that anybody wary of this new style of operation can literally try before they buy.

To help with the investment requirements, you could also consider finance packages, especially while interest rates remain low. These will not only spread the payments, typically over five years but you can invest in a very high specification tyre changer and balancer package for as little as £25 per week - meaning just one sale of a relatively budget tyre will pay for the equipment.

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