Winter tyres: Who needs them?

  07 December 2010

No surprise that this week’s Arctic weather conditions have sparked off a major debate about the pros and cons of so-called winter tyres.

A claim by Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, that winter tyres are ‘not appropriate’ for UK road conditions sparked fury from lobbying group, Tyresafe. They described Mr Hammond’s remarks as showing “a complete lack of understanding” of the added safety benefits of winter tyres. But then, they are in the business of selling tyres.

So too are many franchised auto retailers – or, at least, they should be. Too often, though, tyre sales are lamented as one of the great lost opportunities of franchised aftersales. We’ve given it all away to the fast-fits and we’re struggling to win it back.

Winter tyre programmes are one way to achieve that. Not only do you get to sell a second set of tyres and wheels but you also get to see the customer at least twice a year – and you can monitor tyre wear (Health Check, anybody?) for when replacement becomes due. Again, no surprise then that most of premium brand franchises do now have programmes in place and BMW, for one, has sold out.

By a happy coincidence I spent one day this week in the company of some of the UK’s biggest fleet operators and I was surprised by their lack of enthusiasm for winter tyres. After all, these people not only manage roughly half the new cars bought in the UK every year, they are also legally responsible for the safety and well being of some serious high mileage drivers.

Arguments against ranged from cost, to lack of storage facilities, to simple logistical issues such as dealing with punctures. But the real killer argument seemed to be the most obvious one: you can have all the grip in the world but, if the person in front of you is stuck, you ain’t going nowhere!

The fleet managers felt there were many more things their companies would want to spend money on, such as video conferencing or more flexible working practices, before they bought everybody a second set of tyres.

But that doesn’t stop this being a retail opportunity. While your sales team are sitting around in the showroom idly waiting for a random customer to drop in, why not get them on the phone selling winter safety checks? This weather isn’t going to go away – and customers will certainly want to be ready for the next big freeze.

Have a great week, both in and out of the showroom. If you have a story for us, or want to get something off your chest, email rupert@auto-retail.com

Rupert Saunders

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