How Will TPMS Change the Tyre Retail Business?
From 2012 European legislation dictates that all new cars will be fitted with tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS). With many modern vehicles already being fitted with them and the pressure watching technology due to become mandatory Tyres & Accessories has researched and compiled the latest information on the subject in order to answer the question: how will TPMS change the tyre retail business?
To start off with, there certainly appears to be a need for it. The 2008 Annual Tyre Pressure Review undertaken by Kwik-Fit found just over 46 per cent of cars tested had at least one tyre underinflated. Scaled up to represent the current level of UK registrations, this means that a staggering 12.46 million cars could be running on the roads like this, using £1.5 billion pounds of extra fuel and creating literally thousands of extra tons of carbon emissions. That 30 per cent extra tyre wear also means that an unnecessary 108,000 tyres each year have to be manufactured and disposed of too.
In addition research conducted by the Department of Transport, claimed that last year, over 2,600 serious injuries or fatalities were the direct result of tyre failure of under-inflation. Under-inflation reduces the driver’s ability to control the vehicle, with steering and braking inputs dramatically diminished by the tyre’s tendency to deform without the correct pressure to support it. According to Schrader Electronics’ Alfonso Di Pasquale, “It has been proven that up to 3 per cent of road accidents could be avoided if tyres were inflated to the correct levels…”
For those operating in either the retail or supply ends of the market the issue is that, last minute changes in the law notwithstanding, the new law could mean that (from 2012 on) when a car leaves the factory with TPMS equipment fitted, should it become inoperable, it may leave the driver effectively uninsured or facing an MOT failure when the time comes. The current thinking is that retailers may need to ensure that their aftermarket wheel and tyre set-up incorporates OEM spec sensors – and that these communicate effectively and accurately with the factory display equipment – or else run the associated insurance and MOT risks.
From a distribution point of view there are two distinct methods of bringing cars into the TPMS age – aftermarket solutions and OE fitted solutions. Of the OE variety there are two variants: direct (which measures pressures using sensors in each wheels) and indirect (which uses mathematics and a car’s ABS system to count differences in wheel rotations). With the jury still out on whether most tyre depots will want to or be able to up-sell a tyre-buying motorist to the advantages of an aftermarket solution (and along with it another box next to their phone and satnav on the dashboard), and with prevailing thought and most OEMs opting for direct systems, for the purposes of this article we will focus on this part of the marketplace. So what opportunities are available to those tyre dealers preparing for the forthcoming legislation?
Well for starters it looks like the standard tyre fit, valve and balance procedure of the past is set to become a fit, TPMS sensor service and balance before too long. Those that are ready will also be able to offer sensor replacement and system reset services (turning off the dashboard warning lights) as well. And because they are offering an extra service and – where necessary – new parts, there is an extra value opportunity. However, at this point it has to be said that the skill sets needed to change valves and to service TPMS sensors are quite different. For example, did you know that a brass valve core can potentially render a TPMS sensor useless due to a mismatch in the metals used in each and the resultant corrosion?
That’s where companies like North London-based Autogem come in. Autogem, which is unique as a garage consumables supplier inasmuch as it has direct relationships with both OE sensor supplier Schrader and with the motor factor and tyre retail distribution routes, is set to publically open its TPMS stall during October’s Brityrex in Manchester. Their proposition is based on the concept that it is “vital that tyre dealerships are provided with the necessary TPMS help, training and support” as well as the product.
As if to demonstrate the point, just a few days after T&A visited Autogem’s Wembley headquarters the firm took staff to local tyre retail operation (and Autogem customer) Golden Wheels for some hands-on TPMS training with Schrader UK sales manager Ross Eden. Eden was also present during T&A’s interview with Autogem and shared his advice on the subject.
“At Autogem we have developed the strongest workshop consumables, tyre repair and exhaust fittings offering in the industry and we are continually growing our range in line with the latest industry developments. The latest introduction is our Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) programme, providing the most comprehensive product inventory and an unrivalled level of support to our customers up to and beyond the implementation of the EU TPMS legislation in November 2012,” Autogem director, Prashant Chopra told Tyres & Accessories.
He added: “Our TPMS programme will ensure that our customers are trained to test, service and reset the systems and are able to obtain any sensor consumable or tool, including diagnostic tools, to efficiently deal with any TPMS issue that they may be confronted with. Along with this we have a dedicated technical support team and marketing support available to assist the implementation of TPMS servicing.”
Company representatives also made no secret of the fact that they would like Autogem to be Schrader’s closest partner in the UK.
Back in the UK, another major player is Performance Wheels Ltd, which manufacturers and distributes aftermarket Tyresure-branded TPMS units and which launched the Tyresensors.com website earlier this year. Tyresensors.com offers OEM replacement sensors for all makes of car. It also sells the ATEQ range of ‘trigger tools’ that simply plug into any cars OBDII port to allow the unit to interrogate and update the integrated central electronics system to ‘marry’ any new TPMS sensors to the car.
At the time of the launch Performance Wheels managing director, Ian Smith said: “The law is changing – and we all need to be aware of the consequences. With an ever-burgeoning market for TPMS and mandatory status on the horizon, it will be the tyre bays that invest in the technology now that will be ahead of the curve when demand explodes, with a very real opportunity to gain market share. In addition to the trigger tool, we also offer a comprehensive range of replacement TPMS sensors, service kits and workshop tools for every TPMS application…”
From a business perspective, the figures make compelling reading. Currently this area of tyre service is dominated by the vehicle main dealers which are able to charge vast figures for services that tyre specialists could easily perform with the right supply and support. Thanks to the astronomical charges pegged by vehicle main dealers for TPMS replacement, Ian Smith reports that tyre dealers can charge around £40 per ‘trigger’ unit – and still find customers delighted with the savings.
Nevertheless, with the technology in TPMS sensors and snap-in valves a world apart the main issue is likely to be training and information. In the US, where they are a year or two ahead of Europe in terms of introducing TPMS, Bartec USA LLC recently introduced TPMS Tuesday where owners of its tools are now able to participate in weekly TPMS training. This programme started on 22 June and was initially scheduled to run on every afterwards. Clinics were scheduled for basic TPMS, sensor service, diagnostics, re-learn procedures and tools. You have to wonder when – rather than if – something similar will be introduced on this side of the Atlantic.