GT Assist building brand confidence with Manchester dealer
The GT Radial brand has made much well-documented progress within the UK commercial vehicle tyre market over the past few years, and in December 2012, its manufacturer Giti Tire’s UK operation began rolling out a commercial vehicle roadside service assistance programme. Now in the third quarter of 2013, GT Assist has developed to consist of a network of approximately 220 dealer partner depots covering the UK and Ireland. Tyres & Accessories visited one of GT Radial’s longest standing customers in the UK, Manchester independent family business Tyre Save, to discuss the roadside service assistance programme with sales and marketing director Truck and Bus Tony McHugh and regional sales manager Truck and Bus Steve McDonald from GiTi Tire (UK) and Tyre Save owner Mark Davies and manager Stewart Little.
Tyre Save has been in business for 56 years, but has undergone several changes in its recent history. Originally located on a site in the area undergoing continuing development as part of UAE-led investment in and around Manchester City Football Club, the company has plans to develop its truck and passenger car tyre service with an extension to its current premises on Ashton Old Road – a busy route into the city centre from the east. It has also acquired Trafford Tyres on the west side of the city, and Davies says the company has plans for it “to be rebranded eventually”.
In addition to its role as a GT Assist dealer partner, Tyre Save began taking GT Radial passenger car tyres through the brand’s wholesaler Micheldever. Both Tyre Save and Trafford Tyres are part of the PCR GT Radial Performance Centre network too. “Doing the commercial side of [GT Radial’s product range], and seeing how it’s performing, we [decided to] take on the car side of things too,” Davies said.
Both Tyre Save and Trafford Tyres have GT Radial branded signage, and of the 13 vans Tyre Save and Trafford Tyres have equipped to provide mobile tyre servicing for trucks, four currently carry the GT Assist livery. “We’ve got plans to make the vans dual-purpose to provide tyre servicing for cars too,” Little adds. “We get more and more call for the mobile fitting – more people want their tyres to be fitted on site, even if it’s just [a PCR customer] asking if we can do them at her home. So we’re trying to cater towards that need as well.” Davies credits Micheldever’s GTPC website with increasing Tyre Save’s internet-derived customer base, which is increasingly expectant of this sort of service from their tyre dealer.
Having shown how Tyre Save had increased its business with Tyre Save, T&A returned to the main purpose of the visit: tracking the progress of the TBR GT Assist programme with one of its operators. McHugh began by answering the question: Why GT Assist? “It’s absolutely apparent that as we are trying to engage with the fleets through our dealer network, the approach from the end-users was [to say]: ‘I like the product, I like working with the GT dealer partner, [but] what about breakdowns around the country?` It was apparent that, to take the next step in our business cycle, we would need to put a breakdown network in place, of which Tyre Save were one of the first members.”
Built on an Infleet administration structure, GT Assist is serviced by RAC Commercial Assistance (RACCA). Truckers can contact their tyre dealer or use the GT Assist 0845 number, which allocates the work to the nearest of the 220 dealer points in the brand’s partner network, which will check stock at the depot and re-allocate the job to the next nearest dealer if the required product is unavailable.
Rising number of dealers
McHugh says the current number of tyre service dealer partners in the network has risen since the beginning of 2013, when the quoted number was 180, having built a network from scratch in November 2012. The number of sites – distributed across every region of the UK and Ireland – has “grown month-on-month”, as “dealers have more confidence with it,” he adds. This will have grown with the programme’s apparent ability to meet its 90-minute promise – McHugh says the target service time is being met at a rate that is “near enough 100 per cent.”
Clearly, a key objective for GT Radial itself is to retain and increase the number of customers rolling on the brand’s tyres. McHugh says that GT Radial “fitment is running at approximately 75 per cent.” Full GT Radial fitment is currently impossible, since some sizes fall outside the brand’s current portfolio. The GTR990 retread tyre introduced in 2012 for example is available “at the moment in a 295 or a 315”.
One development on the technical side of GT Assist is an app designed to track fitment information at each dealer partner, helping to track customer activity and demand as well as “the performance level of each dealer”. This in turn is something that will help “dealers to stock the correct levels of products,” McHugh says, with the ultimate objective of being able to “keep customers’ fleets clean” – or fitted uniformly with the product they want. The app also allows dealers to feed information back to Giti – the reasons for having to refuse business for example – on the same day of this occurrence. In fact, feedback time can be as good as instantaneous, and the programme has a target of two hours for it to be logged.
Tyre Save’s experience
So how is this working out for Tyre Save? Davies notes the better communication through GT Assist than in his experience with previous administration systems, while noting the increased demand for administrative speed placed on the dealer partner. “Sometimes it’s annoying, because the vans are out on jobs with the paperwork in them, but you will make sure that you get that paperwork in, because otherwise there’s another phone call. It’s a very good system.”
Little adds that the system gives the dealer peace of mind, since communication throughout the job is improved. “It’s been quite successful so far,” he says. “The benefit is that contact –you’re informed all the way along. Not all the network providers give you that contact. And that’s your 110 per cent.”
“We brought [GT Assist] in to add value to the range and to Giti as a company,” McHugh continues, noting that the question of servicing for breakdowns was often asked by existing and prospective customers. “We’re now in a position where we can say, ‘we have a breakdown network… with over 200 dealer [locations]’, which gives them confidence.” He says that the philosophy behind this approach is not about the brand’s competitivity with other tyre service providers, but “to add value to our product” and to try to get customers already running on GT Radial to refit the brand down the road.
McHugh also talked about the strength of the brand derived from the presence in the market of five area sales managers, such as McDonald through whom feedback can be transmitted both back to Giti’s management and to the dealer network itself.
The approach seems to be yielding results at Tyre Save. While Davies, and indeed the company’s signage, makes clear that all the major UK truck brands are available – and Tyre Save does a decent level of business through one premium manufacturer’s network too – he says that “easily over half” of its truck sales are GT Radial, because of the value it offers at its price point. The fact that it is also offering the value boosting GT Assist programme helps the brand to stand apart from similarly priced tyres, with brand-led service programmes available only with higher priced products.
“With GT Assist,” says Little, “we’ve got the confidence to go to customers and say, ‘that’s not the dearest tyre you’re going to buy, it’s not the cheapest tyre you’re going to buy, but we stand by it.’ And we’re happy to say this or that customer has given us good reports about the tyre. We can show you tyres that have done good mileage, been reliable, help you manage your costs, and give you peace of mind.”
Davies carries that confidence with the brand through to generating new business, telling T&A that Giti sales staff can also offer presentational support when approaching a new customer, including fleets. “We’re growing our customer base on GT,” Little says. “I don’t think we’ve had someone accept GT as a policy and then come off it.” He continues that Tyre Save has successfully converted fleets to the “mid-range” tyre as a way to manage outgoings, while discussing the importance of tyre husbandry. “It makes [the monthly outgoings] more manageable, and the tyre is giving the results that they’ve paid for. So people are standing by it. It’s £300 as opposed to £450 and [the customer] isn’t expecting massive mileage, but they’re being pleasantly surprised by the return.”
The perception of better-than-expected performance, combined with having paid less for the tyres in the first place is a powerful tool, Little says. “That feeling with a customer goes a long way. And it extends into the GT Assist as well… As long as you don’t oversell it, you give them what they want… And it gives us continuity in our customer base – what we’re all aiming for. It’s all about using the tools that you’ve got to get the right job done.” While some premium brands are producing increasingly sophisticated analyses of fleets’ tyre and tyre-related costs, Tyre Save suggests that there are benefits to keeping a simpler, get-what-you-pay-for approach with the cheaper GT Radial brand.
Mark Davies was “one of the earliest dealers [GT Radial] started working with,” McHugh continues, “And they’ve also gone through a marked change in the last few years… This partnership is a strength because he’s got the backing of a regional sales team, a technical team and of course we’ve got the R&D in the UK. This gives them a bit more confidence because they can come and test the product… The cycle of where GT Radial is at now exemplifies the way we want to add services and value to the products.”
With 220 depots, GT Assist has very reasonable coverage in the UK and Ireland, but McHugh says “we’re always looking to expand”, for example in parts of northern Scotland, and two recently added dealers in mid-Wales have filled some previously existing gaps where job requests have been made. “All the main motorway channels are very well covered,” McHugh concludes. Tyre Save itself covers jobs “around 30 miles” away, according to Davies.
New GT Radial TBR products on way in last few months of 2013
At the time of writing, GT Radial is about to introduce one new truck product, with another to follow by the end of the year. Details on the tyres are as yet unavailable, as the distributor awaits their arrival into the UK. Giti Tire (UK) sales and marketing director Truck and Bus, Tony McHugh says that the new products in development that “will help the partnership and the customer in specific markets”.
On the passenger side of commercial vehicle tyres however, the brand will attempt to make a splash with its plan to make its debut at Coach & Bus Live 2013 in support its recently launched all-position urban city-bus tyre, the GAU861. The flagship Giti Tire brand will also display the GAR820 regional all-position tyre and the GT629 regional drive axle model. Tony McHugh, sales and marketing director at Giti Tire UK, said: “The GAU861 was very well received when it was launched at The CV Show in April, and interest and demand since means that the participation of GT Radial at Coach & Bus Live 2013 is a must.” GT Radial will be located at stand M138.
The GAU861 has been designed with an extra reinforced sidewall protector to increase resistance to curbing and impact damage, while a unique tread pattern with a 20.2mm depth ensures good mileage performance combined with extra comfort and reduced noise. Available initially in 275/70R22.5, the tyre can be used in both steer and drive positions on both 4×2 and 6×2 configurations and is M+S marked indicating excellent traction in mud and snow conditions.
Also on show will be the GAR820, a regional all-position 17.5” diameter tyre created to cater for the increasing requirements of comfort, excellent wet and dry handling properties and long wear-out performance. Initially available in sizes 215/75R17.5, 205/75R17.5 and 225/75R17.5, the company has 235/75R17.5 and 245/70R17.5 currently in development and due for release later in the year. The tyre also carries a M+S marking indicating good winter performances.
A dedicated drive axle tyre for coach and regional bus operations, the GT629 utilises the latest three-dimensional interlocking sipe design with open shoulder and sidewall protector ribs. Designed to deliver exceptional regular wear, it is M+S marked and available in 295/80R22.5.
“With the new tyre, and the others on stand, we have a strong mid-market product portfolio and support services offering that puts us in a very strong position in the sector, messages we will be driving home throughout the show and into the market thereafter,” concluded McHugh.