Tire dealers had a tough year in 2009, and those who depend largely on major commercial fleets were especially hard hit.
If conversations with a sampling of dealers are any indication, they are experiencing better days in 2010 for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it’s because construction activity is seeing an uptick — even if only on an isolated basis. In other cases, it’s because fleet operators could only wait so long to replace their tires. And in some cases, 2010 is better simply because it could scarcely have been any worse.
“Everybody I’ve talked to says things are up,” said Mike Berra, vice president of Community Tire Retreading, Maryland Heights, Mo.
Improvement, of course, is relative to where the market has been. Berra says dealers were largely blindsided by the market’s collapse in 2009.
“The original equipment market for off-road tires was down some 70% in 2009, and I think medium truck was down some 50%,” Berra said. “How do you forecast that? If you walk into a meeting with your board of directors and your executive VPs, and say, ‘I think I’m going to forecast a 50% decrease in tires,’ it’s just shocking.”
John McCarthy, president of McCarthy Tire Service, Wilkes-Barre, Pa., said his dealership is seeing an across-the-board 10% increase in sales compared to last year — for similar reasons.
“It’s come from everything,” McCarthy said. “The construction business is up a bit, and dump trucks that weren’t moving at this time last year are moving, so construction has picked up.”