Report From the Editor

October 1964, Automotive Fleet - Department

by Roy Wiley

I have received many comments on my views on tire standards which appeared in conjunction with the Tire Survey in the August issue of AF.

Most comments were favorable, endorsing my position that the tire industry must come up with self-imposed regulations to end the public confusion over tire lines and levels. For this I am grateful-grateful that so many fleet users feel as I do. It is an indication that we are keeping out hand on the pulse of the industry.

Some comments were critical, inferring that I was suggesting increased government regulation over the tire industry. For this I am disappointed-disappointed that a few would believe that I am an advocate of increased government control and regulation. Anyone who has been a regular reader of this column should know that my basic philosophy has been and will continue to be the "less government is the best government"-within reason.
A few comments showed a lack of understanding, inferring that I was suggesting price fixing and collusion. For this I again am disappointed-disappointed that my views were not clear enough.

When I suggested that the tire companies put "their collective heads together," I was not suggesting that they get together and fix prices. I remember only too well the Federal Trade Commission hearings of a few years ago which hinted at price collusion in the tire industry. And the recent price-fixing debacle involving electrical equipment manufacturers. And the recent charges of price-fixing in the steel industry.

Perhaps I aided the confusion somewhat when I said most fleet users were concerned about pricing standards in the tire industry. What I meant was line and level standards and the correlation between what a manufacturer calls "first line" and what the quality of such a tire might be.

I still contend that the tire companies can get together and discuss minimum standards for various lines and levels without the danger of government intervention. After all, setting up minimum standards would not prevent a tire company from charging as much for a tire as it thinks the market will bear. This is a basic part of the American free enterprise system-making a profit in the marketplace of spirited competition. And I am positive that the competition would still abound if minimum standards were to prevail. The only thing that would be missing would be public confusion.

While I don't like to comment on individual letters, I feel the letter from W. A. Boddy, marketing manager of Mohawk Rubber Co. requires an answer. Boddy-whose opinion I respect-said in part "If a tire company's pricing is complicated, then they ought to change it, but that doesn't mean by any stretch of the imagination, that the whole industry should try to settle a perplexing problem that apparently is shared by only a few." Judging from the reponse that I have had, this "perplexing problem" is shared by a great many fleet users-and fleet users are sophisticated tire buyers. Think of the perplexity of the average tire buyer!

Comments from readers also brought forth other examples of confusion. The question of first-line nylon replacement tires by the Big Five is but one example. This is answered in the tire story elsewhere in this issue.

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