TRAINING AND LEGAL COMPLIANCE TO REVIVE RETAILERS
After spending months in analyzing increasingly alarming figures, Federpneus takes action on behalf of the entire sector seeking, on the one hand, ways to contrast those gray market areas that are consistently eroding retailers’ sales volumes while, on the other hand, revamping the role played by the dealers, that must represent an important point of reference for the consumer
These are difficult times indeed for tire specialists. The cause must be found in the increasing numbers of repair workshops, car dealers and even petrol station owners who, aiming to regain some of the profit margins lost during the past few years, have entered the tire business, often without the necessary qualifications. Additionally, online dealers are taking large chunks of the market with bargain prices, sometimes a lot lower than the going market rates, so much so that doubts about VAT and ELT contribution evasion are quite justified. A phenomenon that has a domino effect throughout the supply chain, to the point of saturating the ELT collection system leaving many complying operators with their yards full of old tires that keep on stockpiling day after day. And if that wasn’t enough, what about the client who comes for a tire replacement showing the price found on a website and pretending the same economic treatment. The only certainty in a rather murky scenario is that the future calls for changes, and the sector’s specialists will have to rely on newer and better services to retain competitiveness, without overlooking the quality of such services with dedicated investments on training, qualifications and timely upgrades. Otherwise your average tire dealer will see his role downplayed to the role of a mere fitter of products (very likely of suspect quality) that users (such as motorists or even transport fleets) have purchased online, forsaking the added value represented by an expert guidance that, in terms of choosing the right product, only a qualified dealer can – and must -guarantee. These are the final conclusions reached by Federpneus – National Association of Tyre Specialists – whose aim has become to protect the category it represents by acting in a number of different directions, working at an Institutional level in order to favour fair and equal market conditions as well as trying to revamp the role played by the dealer. 2016 was a rather intense year for the Association that, faced with the above mentioned scenario, decided to re-establish its Technical Commission and embarked on a series of activities aimed at strengthening the competitiveness of the association’s members, promoting the expertise and know-how of the specialized tire retailer as well as stimulating technical advancements among all its members.
Federpneus Professional Training kicked off by a tire repair course
Thus, Federpneus’ Professional Training was born, designed to offer its members a dedicated professional training activity specifically aimed at the category. Finalized last September under the impulse of the Technical Commission, the project started with a professional tire repair course created to give the Association’s members adequate tools to innovate their activities and set themselves apart from the many and different types of operators that have recently invaded the market. Tire repair, in fact, represents a particularly relevant technical area in the sector, given the high attention that end users place on cost containment, and also - unfortunately – in view of recent news reports about accidents occurring during tire repair services inadequately performed. The cooperation of Rema Tip Top (one of the association’s members) proved essential for the creation of a tire repair course, by overseeing all classroom training, and providing all the technical equipment for the practical part of the course held in a workshop located in Federpneus’ premises. Gustavo De Mari, Rema Tip Top technical manager and Gabriele Lazzarini, from the Technical Commission, one of the promoters of the initiative, were the instructors. "Repairing a tire is an activity that should not be improvised, but requires specific skills, "emphasizes Gabriele Lazzarini. Such specialization not only enhances the role of tire dealers, but also contributes to the development of the whole sector, allows the consumer to save on the purchase of a replacement tire and, ultimately, gives a hand to the environment, putting off ELT management". All tire manufacturers agree that such operations should be carried out by qualified and specially trained specialists, and what is more, this is in agreement with the E.T.R.T.O. European Legislation", says Lazzarini. "There are types of tires with a higher technological content, such as runflats, Seal Inside and Pncs, which are commonly, but incorrectly, thought of as being repairable. In fact in many cases these can be repaired, but only if the proper procedures are known and applied. This is just one example of how important a specialized retailer and repairer has become nowadays”. The theoretical part of the course revolved around fundamental aspects of chemistry, the rubber and its compounds, and the curing process. The practical part, instead, allowed the participants to touch, firsthand, all the practical operations such as tire inspection, correct damage analysis, assessment of repair limits and techniques.
The appreciation expressed by the participating companies encouraged the Technical Commission to continue on this path, and further opportunities for training are currently being planned, for the benefit of other companies that are part of Federpneus as participating members, to address other important issues such as the scheduled maintenance of retail store equipment, specific details of products such as run-flat and self-sealing tires, truck tires repair techniques, as well as aspects related to wheel nut tightening on various types of vehicles.
The association’s blog (blog.federpneus.it) is another significant project, created to offer all members a space in which to discuss, exchange ideas and thoughts, but also to keep informed on the new trends in the industry, regulations and talk about technical problems that may occur in everyday activities. An important tool for Federpneus, one that will promote ideas and proposals to the legislators, and help the sector to "close ranks" in view of the changing times ahead. Furthermore, the association is also working in order to re-establish a list of minimum equipment, the absence of which has greatly downgraded the category in the recent past, and is therefore preparing a preliminary draft to be presented in the coming months.
Laws to protect the market. And the environment
Institutional relations are next on the list. The association is currently participating in in-depth discussions with the Ministry of the Environment, in which problems associated with the disposal of ELTs are being addressed, hoping for a rapid solution to the emergency dictated by the delay in ELT collection, a phenomenon that touches so many member companies, damaging their daily activities and exposing them to the risk of unjust sanctions. During these meetings with other associations held at the Ministry of Environment, Federpneus proposed a split payment solution to address the problem of illegal online sales. The "split payment" mechanism, introduced by the 2015 Stability Law (Law no. 190/2014), is currently being applied in case of goods and/or services supplies to the Public Administration by private companies. This system obliges Public Administrators to make the VAT payment, shown in the invoice, directly to the Treasury rather than to the private enterprise, thus splitting the payment due to the private company from the corresponding tax. Besides the unfair advantage that tires sold online are enjoying, due to the non-application of VAT and ELT contributions, and the consequent damage to the treasury, what needs to be emphasized is that irregular tire sales are primarily responsible for generating high ELT flows, far in excess of the collection targets set by the authorized associations and for their management, flows that create high levels of criticality for both the waste disposal system and the environment. According to Federpneus, the application of the split payment system also to online trading could effectively curb VAT evasion and ELT contributions by online sales operators. It would be simple enough if the state compelled online trading agencies to introduce an online payment system that can automatically divide the amount due to the trader (taxable income), the state (VAT) and to the consortium chosen to manage ELTs (ELT environmental contribution). This would not harm in any way all those operating in full compliance with the Law and transparency, shining a light over the online tire trading business, which is still to be considered a gray area in the industry, with benefits for the entire supply chain as well as the market.
Considering the protection of the market, environment and Law abiding operators as Paramount, Federpneus went further and signed, last June, a "Pact for legality", a memorandum of understanding which was also signed by Legambiente, Ecopneus, AIRP - Italian Tyre Retreaders Association, and Confartigianato Imprese, in order to reverse the trend and stimulate legal compliance, curbing the piles of ELTs produced each year by non-regulated channels. Guido Schiavon, President of Federpneus, stressed, upon signing the contract, that "the fight against illegality is a cornerstone of our Association. Unless the rules are clear and fair for everyone, business and industrial growth simply cannot be expected". With this agreement, Federpneus became a member of a permanent board in favour of legality formed by several of the association’s members, a cooperation that will soon give birth to a series of practical projects to contrast illegal phenomena related to sales and ELT management.