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Federpneus: laying down the rules for a new course

Specialist tire retailers: Revamping the industry

E-commerce, new distribution channels, cutting edge technologies and the global economic crisis are changing the automotive world and the sector’s aftermarket. Federpneus (National Association of Tyre Specialists) points the way forward, so that new challenges can become real opportunities

Nicoletta Morizio

In the increasingly fierce battle for market shares, professionalism is the retailer’s main weapon.  Gabriele Lazzarini, from the Technical commission of Federpneus, is absolutely certain about it: "To withstand an ever-growing competition, diversified, fierce, but not always prepared, we need to invest in professionalism and quickly upgrade our companies. In so doing, the quality and specialization of our work will be immediately apparent and perceptible to the consumers as well as the entire supply chain, making it a distinctive feature and giving our members an important competitive edge”.

Federpneus, through the renewed commitment of its Technical Commission, moves to give concrete answers to some of the most topical issues for all its members. The Technical Committee is promoting initiatives aimed at qualifying the entire category.                                                                                                                           

Specialist repairs

"Tire repair is an activity that cannot be improvised, rather, it requires specific expertise", explains Gabriele Lazzarini. Such know-how not only enhances the role of the dealer, but contributes to the development of the entire sector, furthermore, it allows the consumer to save on the purchase of a replacement tire and, ultimately, gives a hand to the environment, delaying tire disposal procedures. "All tire manufacturers agree on the need for such operations to be carried out by qualified and well-trained professionals, as stated also in the European ETRTO standards, "says Lazzarini.

“Some tires are simply more technologically advanced than others, such as run-flats, seal inside and Pirelli’s PNCS, which are commonly, but incorrectly, thought to be impossible to repair. The fact is that they can, in many cases, be repaired, it’s just that the technical procedures involved are often unknown. This is just one example of why the figure of the specialist retailer and repairer is so important nowadays”.

In order to best tackle the issue, Federpneus planned for its members a training course in the field of tire repair, with the stated purpose of promoting, through learning experience, the value of specialization and technical competence, making it a distinctive element, essential in a sector as competitive as never before.


Greater choice, lower competence

In recent years, the offer in terms of tire services has greatly increased. Currently, around 6,000 companies marketing tires are registered with the Chamber of Commerce. Of these, over a third are associated with Federpneus. But then there are some other 34,000 retail outlets throughout Italy. The tire marketing world has, in just a few years, grown tremendously, and the introduction of laws on compulsory use of winter tires during certain periods of the year has certainly played an important role in this escalation. As Lazzarini further explains, what looked as an opportunity for specialized retailers has turned into a boomerang, since the huge demand created encouraged the entry of new market participants . To provide an idea of the exponential growth of the sector, here are some data issued by Bridgestone: between 2010 and 2015, the sale of tire changing machines in Italy has increased by 22.3%, increasing the number of companies that have them from 15,031 to 18,379. Among them are not only tire dealers, but also independent garages (gone from  34.8% in 2010 to 49.2% in 2015),  approved garages (from 61.2% to 77.7%) and car dealers (from 79.7% to a staggering 92.1%).


Revamping the category

This explosive growth of the sector, however - warns Gabriele Lazzarini- is not necessarily accompanied by an adequate expertise in tire repair procedures. That is why, Federpneus’ Technical Commission had to take some important steps in retraining the category, one of these was the creation of a Federpneus protocol. This identifies the key requisites of a qualified tire retailer, one that will receive a special Federpneus hallmark , "We believe that both the protocol and consequent certification are important actions, especially at this time, because they enhance the role of the tire dealer in the supply chain and re-qualify the entire category", says Lazzarini. "The next step is to communicate to the entire automotive world the ‘Federpneus concept’ and with it identify the characteristics and the value of a professional tire dealer. We are faced with an epoch-making revolution, and to grasp the opportunities coming our way we have to break the deadlock in which our companies are at this moment".


Opportunities and threats in a changing scenario

The great changes that are affecting the entire automotive world cannot certainly be denied, changes that have very few precedents: from the global crisis that has overwhelmed the sector, to the amazing level of technology applied to some of the latest products, passing through changes in the manner and in the purchasing perceptions created by the explosion of the Internet and online commerce, all the way to the multiplication and diversification of sales channels. The tire industry could not avoid been touched and changed by these events. "The revolution has been underway for some time now in our industry and it goes in all directions, involving different aspects of our business, from the way we sell tires to the type of services that we offer”, continues Lazzarini. The competitive scenario has changed in such a short time, and now specialist retailers must learn how to move and survive in it. Internet has brought with it new opportunities, as well as a few ‘headaches’ to traditional tire specialists, who are now faced with new and increasingly numerous competitors in a geographically broader context, very competitive and sometimes very confused as far as regulatory requirements are concerned. Online trading has, rather unfortunately, amplified negative phenomena such as VAT evasion and failure to pay the eco-tax for the disposal of end-of-life tires (ELTs). In addition to the damage caused to both the Treasury and the environment, these forms of unfair competition have undeniably affected the industry from an economic point of view as well as its image.


Winning back the market

To regain the lost ground, according to Gabriele Lazzarini, the tire specialist must now be distinguished by   "competence and know-how", focusing on professionalism, expertise, specialization, reliability and honesty. We must do more in terms of service, but with the same professionalism that has always been recognized. True, we need to diversify our business, but the level of performance must remain very high. The market is changing, indeed, and partly it already has, and we must learn to ride the wave, if we don’t want to be overwhelmed".

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