Roadside assistance the tire professional’s new business
For many tire dealers, working away from their premises is turning into a new opportunity to build customer loyalty
Knowing a tire dealer, it might sound obvious to ask for help with a broken down car, requesting, perhaps, an intervention outside the garage. It is easy to imagine that the answer will be affirmative and, indeed, it shouldn't be too difficult for a professional to perform most operations out of the comfort of his workshop. If the work involves light vehicles, the equipment - tire changer, jack, stands and balancer - can fit in a compact van or even a spacious car.
One might wonder whether these random incidents have turned into an organised activity for some to be used as a marketing tools to promote customer loyalty.
Some manufacturers are increasingly implementing this line of service: Goodyear, for example, is expanding its Mobile Tire Installation, created in 2016 and now quite popular with customers in the US. The service focuses on tire replacement, which involves choosing tires and making an appointment, all online. A van will arrive at the appointed time and place and the staff will change and balance the tires at the same cost as a standard replacement. The French giant Michelin had also set up a similar service but stopped it a few years ago.
Well-organised tire specialists seem to be happy to provide such services. Some reports collected overseas by Modern Tire Dealer, highlight a few key points to keep in mind. One of these is undoubtedly the initial investment, estimated at $100,000 just to get started. It is also necessary to consider advanced logistics adequate skills, planning and patience. After all, an entrepreneur knows that investments generate a return not before 18-24 months.
Icahn Automotive Group has created Pep Boys Mobile Crew, trailer vans that can service tires and more. This comprehensive solution deals with the replacement, repair, permutation and balancing of tires on-the-road. The trailer has enough space to accommodate a small workshop for oil and liquid changes in general, diagnosis and replacement of shock absorbers, brakes and suspension elements. Furthermore, also belts, batteries, wiper blades, lights, air conditioning and filters can be serviced on-the-road.
Joe Flores, co-owner of Go Mobile Tires in Florida and California, gave an interesting interview. From it, we understand that an online presence is a key factor of the service. In fact, several online platforms wanted a mobile fitting service as agile and as quick as web sales.
Flores continues: "Tires can be purchased on our E-Commerce channel, however, products purchased from others can equally be fitted". Interesting is the estimate of the profitability of the service, which starts with 4/5 sets fitted per day. Go Mobile Tires was created as an installation centre for online tire stores. The founders did not think about selling tires and wheels, but they realized that these sales were profitable, especially working with fleets.
And two Italian specialists also talked to us about fleets: Casa del Pneumatico in Bologna and Satep SrL in Naples.
Meeting the customer’s needs
The founder and owner of Casa del Pneumatico told us that he created the company 50 years ago and the mobile service started 25 years ago. Today the company has three points of sale - one in Bologna and 2 in San Lazzaro di Savena - and the mobile service relies on 3 vehicles, one of which is capable of servicing medium-heavy trucks. Enzo Ravagli understood that one cannot be passive and wait for the customer; a businessman needs to understand their requirements and provide them with an effective solution. The company also works with private individuals, but in this case, before going out with a vehicle they ask for a credit card number.
On a different level is the collaboration with fleets, which often stems from a direct collaboration with tire suppliers. They deal directly with fleet managers and enter into maintenance agreements, which are often per km and include maintenance and tire replacement. Companies such as Casa del Pneumatico collaborate with tire manufacturers in providing the needed service, even at construction sites and the like.
The company vehicles are real mobile workshops with everything necessary for replacing and balancing tires. The service is organized to work 24 hours a day 7 days a week and is therefore quite demanding, however, the results are encouraging indeed and the company continues to offer it.
Agreements have been made with major European networks such as Michelin On Call, Pirelli SuperTruck and SOS 24 Europa, (just to name a few). Contracts have been signed with major leasing companies such as Arval, Europe Car, Hertz and so on and the offices are affiliated with Mastro Michelin, Key Point Pirelli and Bridgestone Partner.
Satep, a Naples-based dealer, shares a similar experience, although on a larger scale. Giampiero Tedesco, the founder's son, told us that his father came up with the idea decades ago. Being a Bandag dealer, his father, and Giampiero too, travelled to the USA to the Bandag headquarters. That is where Tedesco saw vans equipped for on-the-road service and decided to adopt the idea and bring it to Italy.
Tedesco told us that the company has 2 locations and a fleet of 11 vehicles equipped to carry out the work throughout the Campania region with a 24 hour service. All of them are equipped with impact wrenches, tire changers, jacks, safety stands and balancer. Balancing equipment is loaded on the van on an as-needed basis. They too have private customers, but the bulk of the work - and the greatest rewards - comes from the agreements signed with transport fleets.
We find a similar scheme to what we described above, with tire manufacturers making agreements with the fleets and involving Satep in field operations.
Alliances are profitable
It is interesting to note that the company was founded in 1969 as a retreading business and opened its first point of sale in 1988. Giampiero Tedesco believes that relying on services that work with fleets and networks (Satep is also part of Best Drive Continental and Driver Center Pirelli) is important for operational stability, business volumes and access to advanced training and marketing. Direct sales are necessarily sacrificed, but we are entering a scenario populated by large manufacturers in contact with increasingly important fleets. In some cases, it may be necessary to grant something in the name of customer loyalty but the exclusive pursuit of profit is a short-sighted strategy. A problem, if anything, is that of finding qualified personnel: it seems that young people are not very attracted to truck tire services.