Michelin to sell direct to public nationally in 2017
In a move set to outrage America’s tire dealers, Michelin will sell tires direct to consumers across the U.S. by mid-2017.
Michelin North America announced Friday it had launched its online direct tire sales platform, MichelinMan.com across South-east U.S. markets with the rest of the country to follow over the next six months.
The company says the site “aims to simplify the tire-buying process so that consumers can research, select and purchase tires, as well as schedule installation with a local Michelin service partner all in one location.”
Chief operating officer Scott Clark said: “Michelin does not own any retail stores, so our close relationship with dealers is critical for the success of this program.”
“We have worked very closely with our retail partners to ensure we have an offer that promotes their business while also offering consumers the convenience of researching and buying online.”
So how does it work? When a customer places an order online they are asked to schedule an installation appointment with a local service provider. Which dealer gets the work is based on proximity. The tires are then shipped directly to the service provider for installation.
Some dealers may refuse to stock Michelin
But dealers have told Traction News that any bid by Michelin to sell its tires, including its BFGoodrich brand tires, direct to the public was “a betrayal of trust”. In August, Direct Tire owner Barry Steinberg told this publication dealer were angry they would now be competing against their own vendor.
“It’s just a very greedy, short-sighted thing for the manufacturers to do,” he said. “They are going to garner the revenue that we would normally get; they’re taking money out of our pockets. We’re the ones that have helped build their business over the last 100 years.”
At the time Steinberg said he believed the move would force dealers to lower their prices even further and damage business, or make less money by only receiving an installers’ fee. He was also concerned customers would lose out or face paying even more for tires in the long run because the free services tire dealers offer when tires are bought through them would no longer be included in the tire price.
Melvin’s Tire Pros owner Jim Melvin Jr. even went as far as to suggest that dealers may refuse to stock BFGoodrich tires and/or refuse to do the installation the company will require for tires bought online.
A trying year of trials for dealers
Friday’s announcement comes just weeks after Michelin suspended its OnSite Mobile Retail program after a year’s trial because it did not perform as well as expected in the test market of Raleigh, North Carolina. At the time a Michelin spokesman told Traction News the company would “continue to evaluate future possibilities, as the test revealed a number of interesting options.”
“While we are disappointed that unit volumes did not meet expectations, we’re pleased with the enthusiastic response we received from consumers who want a concierge approach to purchasing tires,” the company said.
Michelin has been running trials of direct tire sales this past year, including a BFGoodrich tires.
Michelin says tire dealers who sign on to the online sales program will be able to provide service for consumers who purchase either BFGoodrich or Michelin brand tires.
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