Tires for life? Think again

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News

The offer of "tires for life" never seems to lose its appeal - to dealers or their customers.

To dealers, it's an opportunity to win a customer for life. Everyone needs to replace their tires at some point. When they do, they could be back for other services, too.

To customers, it can bring peace of mind knowing they'll be able to replace parts hassle-free whenever the need arises.

But these programs are expensive, and it is often difficult to calculate future costs.

Several years ago, I wrote about a Mississippi Ford dealership that had to suspend a tires-for-life program because the costs were overwhelming.

Now a Salem, Ore., dealer has run into trouble with a tires-for-life offer - canceling it but then vowing to revive it after customers complained.

There's the Dallas vendor, Millennium Protection Group Inc., which went under in 2009. The program started off looking lucrative for participating stores but ultimately left dealers in several states stuck with thousands of dollars in unpaid claims.

It's an old saying but things that sound too good to be true usually are.

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