Federpneus: a new future plan for tire dealers sorely needed
The Association’s activities in support of the sector’s specialists will carry on throughout 2017, and will include professional training programs, in-depth technical analysis and new important partnerships within the supply chain. The greatest challenges though, will come from the future of the automotive industry, speeding towards unchartered territories.
Innovation, performance, safety and expertise have always been core themes at Federpneus, the National Association of Tire Specialists; themes that are becoming increasingly important for the sector as a whole, due, in part, to the industry’s relentless drive towards ground braking technologies, that are profoundly changing both vehicles – increasingly equipped with active safety systems, hi-tech sensors and connectivity systems – and the aftermarket supply and service networks, where the greater digitalization is changing and redefining the roles of the specialists and the way they comunicate with the average motorist. Meanwhile, it is now a matter of fact that an increasing number of non-specialized operators have started to supply tire services as well: considering that only 6,594 companies officially belonging to the national tire dealer network (registered under “Vehicle Tires repair and replacement” as of 2016), warnings from ELT collection and management consortia speak of almost 40,000 ELT generation points, a picture that clearly portrays the current situation. Given the future developments in the automotive industry and forecasts developed by industry experts, wheel and tire services will remain central in the car repair business, because even though the future of mobility looks increasingly electric, with a number of movable parts traditionally found in combustion engines desappearing, the entire wheel unit will retain its importance, therefore tire and braking system replacements will still be paramount; however, owing to this renewed importance, it will be absolutely necessary to restore dignity to the role of the tire dealer. Thus, Federpneus continues in its commitment towards restoring a pivotal role to Law 122/1992, to enhance the expertise of the specialist dealer, especially in view of the fact that tires remain a basic element for road safety , and as such should be handled only by a specialized operator.
Yet another important issue for the Association revolves around legal compliance, as it is just not possible to compete against anyone that avoids taxes and environmental fees or bends the rules; for this reason the “Cambio Pulito” program, of which Federpneus is a partner, is a particularly important iniziative, one that allows all the industry’s stakeholders to send anonymous reports about illegal practices found or witnessed throughout the supply chain, and particularly appreciated by the Association as a tool to promote a fair growth in the interest of the entire sector.
Not to mention the importance of professional training and technical upgrading throughout the trade, considered by Federpneus as the only bastion against the loss of adequate margins due to strategies based on undercutting the competition. In the wake of such initiatives, 2017 opened with a second series of courses held under the “Formazione Professionale Federpneus” banner, with a special focus on Run-flat tires which, on the 20th and 21st of February saw the participation of 30 dealers keen in deepening all the technical aspects. As in the first edition, Rema Tip Top, a member company, has been involved in theoretical training as well as providing all the technical equipment for the practical side of the courses in a workshop set up at the company’s headquarters. Another step was taken by the Federpneus Technical Commission back in the spring: on March 29, an important meeting with two important companies such as Stahlwille and Alcoa was held, providing associates and expert teams from Federpneus members, an interesting overview over the correct tightening torques on different types of wheels and the use of alloy wheels on lorries and buses.
Several projects are being planned for the future, the most important of which includes a partnership with the "National Centre for Salesian Works and Professional Upgrading" – CNOSFAP – currently engaged side by side with Federpneus’ Technical Commission in creating three learning centres aimed at training Salesian teachers, where Federpneus will be responsible of all the technical equipment: a partnership of the utmost importance for the future, which, once finalized, will see the Association as the most important reference point for technical training in the tire industry, with significant implications also for young students in professional schools. Meanwhile, the on-going professional training efforts will focus, in the near future, on industrial and transport tires, a particularly strategic segment in terms of assistance and service, and one that really needs a specific dedicated training program, given the numerous cases of accidents that have placed the road transport sector under the spot light in recent months. Added to this, a rather interesting cooperation is also emerging with a publishing house called EGAF, which is about to produce a technical and regulatory manual for vehicle tires, towards which Federpneus will contribute with its expertise as well as a preface: it will be an important volume to be consulted not only by professional operators but also by law enforcement agencies and the institutions, becoming a true reference point for the whole industry.
But, perhaps, the most important challenge for the Association, with its Technical Commission in the forefront is yet to come: in addition to improved and on-going training programs, consolidating and expanding the network of associates and partners, the greatest need is to recognize, visualize and prepare a new future for the dealers. Mobility transformations are taking place too fast not to be dealt with through a system-oriented and far-sighted perspective: what future awaits independent retailers? Far too often, in recent times, tire dealers have been alarmed by the competition - usually legal, but illicit at times - from online operators, a phenomenon that, in addition to taking market shares away from specialized dealers, runs the risk of downplaying their role to that of mere fitters. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg: it is necessary to question how new and hi-tech self-connected vehicles and the advent of the industry 4.0 in the workshop will change their activities and business model. A number of operators have recently started integrating their offer with several other services, from small repair and maintenance services to pre-inspection overhauls, from sanitizing interior to routine maintenance. Much food for thought indeed, but the absolute priority still lies on free access to vehicle data by independent operators: and here is where a fair and decisive answer must be found, besides investments in innovation, if one is to remain competitive and avoid the risk of being cut off from the market. On these crucial issues, Federpneus’ Technical Commission promises to put on its thinking cap and organize a series of meetings with its members as soon as possible.