Looking to sell more tires? Consumer Reports shows how

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News
Consumer Reports' recent study on how consumers shop for tires can provide dealers some insight into how to increase their tire business.

Promote and discount sets. That's how most customers buy tires. Two-thirds of the respondents replaced all four tires at once, 22 percent replaced two tires, and just 11 percent bought just one tire.

Regularly advertise tire sales. The No. 1 reason customers changed tire models was price, so discounts will help dealers steal customers from the dedicated tire stores and boost awareness that the dealership sells tires. Tire stores were by far the leading retail outlet for tires. Car dealers were a distant second.

Promote a broad selection. The No. 2 reason that customers switched tire models was availability.

Advertise heavily online and promote sales through the dealership's technicians. The top sources of information about tires were a mechanic (46 percent), online reviews or articles (44 percent) and online ads (32 percent). Women were more likely to lean on their mechanic's advice; men tended to glean information from magazine ads. Women also were more likely than men to buy tires from a car dealership.

Perform state-required safety inspections and promote the fact that you do. The majority of consumers don't research their tire purchase. Often they put off replacing tires until they positively have to in order to pass the state safety inspection. If they flunk because of tire wear, they'll be desperate to buy tires, and more than likely they'll buy them from the inspection station.