June 15, 2013 7:59:42 PM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Since the recent announcement that tire manufacturer Yokohama Tire Company would be locating a plant in Clay County, area distributors have noticed an increased demand for the brand.
Although the West Point plant will not make passenger car and light truck tires when it begins production in 2015, the company's decision to locate in Clay County has been met with enthusiasm. Customers of George's Tire in West Point are specifically ordering Yokohama's car and light truck tires, according to owner Todd Glusenkamp, who said he has seen an overall sales increase of about 20-to-30 percent since he started distributing Yokohama tires just over a month ago.
"It has really taken off. That's my top seller right now. Everybody in West Point is really on fire about it," Glusenkamp said. "They really want to support it. I never thought anything about it because they're going to do the commercial truck tires at first. I never thought anything about the passenger and small truck stuff."
Glusenkamp said he wasn't particularly familiar with the brand and he didn't actively pursue becoming a Yokohama dealer. Instead, company representatives approached him with the idea.
"They just showed up at my door and chose me and said they wanted me to be their dealer in West Point. It was their doings," he said. "They do build a fantastic car and light truck tire, which I had no idea (about) until they came to town."
While that same intense interest has not yet spread throughout the Golden Triangle, other distributors in the area say they've received a noticeable difference in the amount of people inquiring about Yokohama products.
Mike Fittes, service manager at Premier Ford in Columbus, said the company locating in the area should make ordering Yokohama tires much easier for him. Right now, whenever he receives a request for the tires, he has to order them from the company since he doesn't have an inventory as of yet.
"We feel like people will jump on the bandwagon and try to support companies in our area," Fittes said.. "Yokohama being local is going to help sell Yokohama tires, and we certainly want to be in line to do that. We have had several inquiries. I think it will blossom the more people think about it and the more you hear about construction."
Paul Wells of Gateway Tire and Service Center in Starkville said Yokohama tires account for about 60 percent of his tire sales. The problem he currently has --the high shipping tax he has to pay with each order -- will be alleviated by having the plant so close to home.
"We sell a good many to start with," Wells said. "They're made overseas and shipped over here, and the demand has been great, but the tax was so high we almost couldn't afford to get them over here. In the long run, this is just a good deal all the way around. It will be cheaper and a lot quicker getting them, especially the large truck tires."
Schmidt Auto Services owner Galen Schmidt said his Brooksville business hasn't seen much change since the announcement, but he hopes the volume of inquiries he's received will soon translate to increased sales. Most importantly, though, he said the amount of job opportunities the plant brings to the area is crucial to its economy.
"I wouldn't say I've had a jump in sales. There might be a little more activity but I haven't noticed a big change," Schmidt said. " I've had people asking if that was the same company as the tires I'm selling. Hopefully, it will be a boost to the economy and will give more people jobs. As far as increasing my tire sales, I don't know if it will. I do think it will help give Yokohama a bigger name in this community. It's a good tire but not as well known as other tires around. I see it advantage to get people to open their mind to it more."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.