The Tire Rack - Rubber, The Right Way

For Years, The Tire Rack Has Reigned As The Undisputed Heavyweight Champ Of Wheel And Tire Sales. Here's Why.

Christopher R. Phillip Jan 13, 2008 0 Comment(s)
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What makes The Tire Rack the world's leader in tire and wheel testing, marketing, sales, and support? To find out, we spoke with Tire Rack Vice President Matt Edmonds during a private tour of the company's 42-acre facility in South Bend, Indiana.

"The Tire Rack's mission is a commitment to expertise, quality, and selection for its worldwide customers, installation solutions for product purchasers, and award-winning customer satisfaction and warranty support," Edmonds tells VETTE.

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Although the vast majority of the Tire Rack's business is done via mail-order, the company does maintain a sprawling retail showroom at its headquarters in South Bend.

The Tire Rack opened its first retail store in Indianapolis in 1979 and quickly became Indy's performance-tire specialist. In 1982, the company took out a small ad in Autoweek introducing a phone-based mail-order service it described as a "customer-direct showroom." This became the foundation of The Tire Rack's business, and it continues to grow to this day. In 1996, the company introduced the industry's most in-depth, up-to-date Web site, The site contains everything from real-world test results to customer feedback to help prospective buyers make their decisions.

The Tire Rack prides itself on the training it gives its customer-service representatives and the friendly service these reps provide to the public. All of the company's sales associates are genuine auto enthusiasts who go through an extensive training regimen-both in the classroom and behind the wheel-before they're turned loose on the phones. Sales-team members train for eight-and-a-half weeks to get up to speed on the products they sell and The Tire Rack's customer-service-oriented way of doing business. As a result, customers can be assured they'll always receive the same high level of service, whether their sales consultant has been on the phone for 15 minutes or 15 years.

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This photo graphically illustrates the evolution of tire technology over the past half-century. Pictured from right to left are early (bias-ply) and modern (radial) general-use tires, a modern high-performance tire, and a shaved, ultra-high-performance offering.

To ensure timely product delivery after the sale, The Tire Rack keeps five distribution centers around the country, each one full and ready to ship within 24 hours. The centers-located in South Bend; Newcastle, Delaware; Shreveport, Louisiana; Midway, Georgia; and McCarran, Nevada-are situated so as to provide ground-shipping service to anyone in the U.S. in a maximum of two days and to more than half of the country in just one day.

It's clear, then, that The Tire Rack owes much of its success to its carefully crafted business model, but there's much more going on behind the scenes to give this mega-retailer its competitive edge. According to Edmonds, "Performance test-track drives are made possible by our purpose-built test track, which is used for testing during the week and scheduled by car clubs for SCCA and other autocross competitions on the weekends. Since it isn't used as a parking lot, we don't have to worry about parked vehicles dripping oil and antifreeze, creating isolated slick spots. Our approximately 1/3-mile test course challenges the tires' steering response, handling, braking, and cornering capabilities and allows us to compare the products at their limit on cars, SUVs, and, of course, Corvettes. Our test track also features a sprinkler system that allows us to evaluate traction and handling under consistent wet-road conditions."

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You may not realize it, but the condition of a driving surface plays a major role in determining tire grip, ride quality, and road noise. For example, contrast the new, polished concrete here...

For standardized scoring comparisons, The Tire Rack team evaluates each tire's comfort and performance on a scale of 1 to 10. The company then publishes these test results in an easy-to-search format on its Web site. Edmonds says he found that the test team's driving experiences and insights tend to closely mirror those of The Tire Rack's customers.

"Our Performance test-track drives and real-world road rides result in expert, unbiased tire-performance comparisons. It's helpful information when you're shopping for tires, and it is available 24 hours a day," Edmonds says.

Follow along for highlights from our recent tour, and see why The Tire Rack, like the products it sells, just keeps rolling along.




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