Winter tires are giving Canadian dealers a big advantage over dealers in warmer regions, in the guise of customer retention.
“People need a place to store them,” says Ken Shaw Jr., Dealer Principal of Ken Shaw Lexus Toyota in Toronto. “If you’re in a condo there’s a challenge there, and even in a house, you don’t want to bustle tires back and forth.
“A big part of our business is tire storage.”
Shaw’s dealership stores more than 3,000 tires on racks in a small warehouse at the back of the store’s 10-acre lot. It charges $100 to store a set of four tires for six months, but that’s not where the value is: it’s in keeping the customer.
“It’s an incredible retention tool,” says Shaw. “Let’s face it, the customer has to come in twice a year. While they’re there, they might as well look at this, they might as well look at that. Regular maintenance is less frequent now, so to keep your service department busy these days, you’d better be competitive in tires and brakes.”
In Quebec, the use of winter tires from Dec. 15 to March 15 has been mandatory since 2008, but recent changes in regulations across Canada have spurred the use of winter tires in every province.
In Ontario, where insurance companies offer a 15 per cent discount for their installation in winter, there’s been an increase in their use from 56 per cent in 2014 to 65 per cent today, according to the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC).
In B.C., the TRAC says 49 per cent of drivers now use winter tires, compared to 38 per cent in 2014. In Alberta, the usage is 55 per cent compared to 45 per cent two years ago. Manitoba and Saskatchewan have increased 11 per cent to exactly half of all cars, while in Atlantic Canada, 81 per cent of cars are fitted with winter tires, which is up eight per cent from 2014.