NTDA, THE ENGLISH VOICE OF THE TYRE DISTRIBUTORS
Interview with Stefan Hay
From tyre labeling, to worn tyres, from TPMS to market behavior: Pneurama interviews the director of the tyre distributors association from across the channel
Pneurama met Stefan Hay that on January 2014 officially assumed the leadership of the National Tyre Distributors Association, the British counterpart of our Federpneus. From 85 years, the association represents and promotes the interests of independent tyre and fast fit retailers, bringing together under the logo of the "kneeling man" over 200 members ranging from major national groups, with hundreds of depots, to the smallest local family run business.
Mr. Hay, about one year ago you were appointed as the new NTDA Director, succeeding Richard Edy who retired after 25 years in the position. Would you briefly introduce yourself to our Italian readers and tell us how this first year has been so far as leader of the association?
I have a long background in professional trade associations. My previous roles include Head of Membership Development at the Electrical Contractors’ Association (ECA) and also Head of its specialist groups including the Fire and Security Association (FSA), Vice Chairman of the National Home Improvement Council, Board Director of the Confederation of European Security Services, Deputy Chief Executive of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and Managing Director of its training subsidiary, the Security Industry Training Organisation (SITO).
Prior to that, I worked in operational security and was also an officer in the Merchant Navy.
My first year at the NTDA has been extremely busy, but also very rewarding. Membership is growing, we have become extremely active on social media, which has significantly raised the profile of the NTDA and we are involved in several key lobbying activities around illegal, non-compliant and unsafe part-worn tyres, minimum tread depth, tyre ageing on PSVs and responsible disposal of old tyres.
How is the tyre market divided between independent tyre retailers and tyre company-owned stores (franchisee) in the UK?
There are still thousands of independent tyre retailers in the UK, most of them would be considered micro-businesses. We also have the large, multi depot retailers such as KwikFit competing alongside manufacturer owned and franchised retailers, but we are also seeing the growth of ‘click and fit ’online tyre purchasing. It is a highly competitive marketplace and each retailer has its own approach to service and product provision that will appeal to certain customer groups. It is difficult to quantify exact market share, but clearly because of the infrastructure and economy of scale the larger companies benefit from, they do currently enjoy a dominant marketplace position.
Tyre distributors in Italy are facing customers that are often only interested in the price of tyres and care little about label information. Do NTDA members report a different behaviour in the UK?
We are fortunate in the UK, that our regulator for EU Tyre Labelling, the National Measurement Office, is consistently monitoring marketplace behaviour. In 2014, 60 retailers were contacted; 40 of which had not been previously contacted. The results were that within nine months, awareness of the label appears to have increased, but the statutory requirement of providing information to consumers has slightly decreased. We believe, this can be directly attributed to the fact that most customers, as in Italy, are purchasing solely on price considerations and are not overly interested in the label. However, many of our members have, more recently, reported that their customers seem to know more about labelling and the benefits thereof, but still buy on price.
The UK government’s Department for Transport recently consulted the market on the enforcement of tyre labelling legislation in the UK. Can you tell us what the outcome was and if the NTDA is satisfied with it?
Although the NTDA welcomed the publication of the long-awaited report, which was overdue, the official NTDA position is, that members remain concerned that the Department for Transport opted for a criminal sanctions only approach. We are concerned that there could only be a few criminal prosecutions to set the scene and then things will die a death, whereas civil sanctions would allow for more prolonged policing of the regulations. However, we do believe that the National Measurement Office wants to work in partnership with the tyre industry in the UK to get it right and implement a balanced and trusted approach.
A recent survey carried out by the Italian Road Traffic Police as part of the so-called “Safe Holidays” initiative promoted by the Italian associations Assogomma and Federpneus, showed that in the province of Taranto in Apulia, a region well-known for its sunshine and seaside resorts, between May 16th and June 15th this year, over 28% of vehicles were still circulating with winter tyres. This gives rise to the suspicion that some of those tyres were actually part worn tyres, a sadly well-known phenomenon that has considerably increased lately. We know the issue is also a thorny one in the UK: what is the NTDA doing to contrast this escalating problem?
We believe, there are currently around 4.5 million part worn tyres being sold in the UK every year. Therefore the NTDA remains completely committed to effectively combatting the presence of illegal, non-compliant and unsafe part worns on UK roads and to that end we set aside a ‘fighting fund’ and our members have also contributed to a voluntary levy to support a national campaign.
We are not looking to eradicate part worns overnight and it is important to note that the UK Government is on record as stating that part worn tyres are important in terms of the management of waste which is highlighting that recycling is a positive action and some part worns are safe to use and need to be out there in the market place.
However, our big concern is that new part-worn tyre dealerships are opening up at a rapid pace in the UK with an even more disturbing move away from the traditional type of retailer to a more secondary 'additional service' such as garage and supermarket car-park hand car washes where they also offer to fit 'new' tyres. This is an alarming situation that is happening on a daily basis. We are not trying to alienate part worn dealers, far from it, we would welcome them in to membership providing they can demonstrate that they are operating in 100% compliance with the regulations.
To give you an idea of the scale of the problem we are facing, a recent incident reported to me by an NTDA member in Birmingham, England when inspecting tyres to be replaced, due to a steering problem identified by the motorist, indicated that two tyres on the rear axle were found to be winter part worn tyres plus one tyre on the front was around 16 years old, the fourth was the wrong size for the vehicle and had been stretched across the rim. All four tyres were in a very bad condition, including internal de-lamination problems and all totally illegal. This is the sort of situation that the NTDA is trying to eradicate from unregulated side-line operations.
According to recent figures released by UK consumer body TyreSafe, 986 UK motorists were killed or injured in 2013 in accidents caused by illegal, defective or under-inflated tyres and these sort of figures remain common place on a yearly basis and are no surprise when you learn of the complete horror stories about part worns.
TyreSafe has recently released the combined results of a full national study, co-ordinated together with the NTDA, in conjunction with various Trading Standards offices and local councils, which shows that more than a third, (34 %), of the 817 part worn tyres bought in mystery shopper exercises across the country during the last year, contained faults or damage which meant that they should not have been offered for sale. Furthermore, a remarkable 97 per cent had not been marked by retailers as ‘part-worn’ as is required by law.
Understandably with such levels of investigation activity, the initial fighting fund mentioned earlier was soon spent and so the NTDA members levy was necessary to raise further funds in order to widen the scope of the campaign. Recognising the tangible benefits, the members are supporting this campaign with growing enthusiasm and the NTDA is now urging manufacturers and other industry professionals to do so also.
Another issue the Italian Tyre Distributors Association (Federpneus) has been dealing with recently is the Tyre Pressure Monitoring System that, from November 1st, 2014, has become compulsory throughout Europe for all the newly registered cars. What did NTDA do to prepare its members for the new EU Regulation?
The NTDA was very proactive in raising awareness. We had members presenting at Brityrex 2012 and 2014, we have had TPMS experts speak at regional events and have produced fact sheets and articles on this topic, which have been published in the trade media and our own UK Tyre Industry Directory. We believe that we need to continue to educate the marketplace on the business opportunities that TPMS offers.
Are there any other matters or specific issues the NTDA is currently addressing?
There are so many factors affecting the tyre industry at the moment, that I am in danger of repeating myself, but the NTDA is taking the initiative to ensure we educate our members and the wider industry on key business topics and to that end, we will be holding a National Tyre Industry Conference on 1st October 2015 in Birmingham, which will be an ideal platform for networking and information sharing.