Author Topic: This Week's Story, June 14th, Rubber Barons  (Read 384 times)

Offline mhershon

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This Week's Story, June 14th, Rubber Barons
« on: June 14, 2021, 09:27:09 PM »
Rubber Barons

I'm not crazy. I think it's a conspiracy. If you have a better explanation, write and tell me what it is.

It's the motorcycle tire companies. My hunch is that once a year each company sends a delegate to a secret meeting. Each tire company sends its coldest bean-counting non-rider, a guy who hates motorcycles.

One delegate, for instance, drives an eggshell beige Lexus SUV. He changes lanes every six seconds without pausing in his cell phone conversation. He never looks in his mirrors. He's never had a ticket.

A biker got his daughter pregnant when she was 17 and about to make the varsity cheerleader squad. His next-door neighbor campaigns a drag bike, a supercharged Suzuki. Tunes it in the driveway at midnight.

The tire company delegate is not the unshaved macho dude in the tire company ad. The delegate hates the ad. He doesn't read motorcycle magazines.

The delegates assemble at a boring hotel near an airport, where they're sure not to have a good time. Their employers don't want 'em happy. They want 'em mean.

Imagine: A roomful of tire marketing guys. Makes you want to wash your hands, doesn't it? They introduce themselves and shake hands, making each of them want to wash HIS hands.

First order of business, they decide what the market (that's us) will bear: How much they can charge at retail for a tire of a certain size and speed rating. Not how little they can charge, oh no. How much.

Clinically, dispassionately, they discuss just how much money they can extract from us. What's the most they can get without causing more than a certain percentage of us to quit riding, chuck the bike, do the economical thing, drive a car.

Sure, they're bound to lose a few of us. Wanna make omelets? Gotta break eggs. They argue about how many of us they can afford to lose to tire-rack sticker shock. Maybe 10 percent a year is okay. Maybe 20.

They cut fingers and mix blood. They vow, each of them, to charge that amount (every penny they can get plus-or-minus five percent) for the tire in question. Let's say it's $300; if it isn't YET, it will be soon.

And it'll be $300 across the board, no matter who made the tire.

So the buyer cannot simply vote with his wallet. He cannot base his tire-buying decision on price. Brand B costs just as much as Brand A.

Next, the delegates discuss just how short-lived that tire can be and not cause a revolt. Or provoke more than such-and-such a percentage of us to say the hell with it, sell our bikes, worn tires and all.

They decide how few hundreds of miles on the highway that tire should endure, or how few laps at some track day or motorcycle school. Each delegate vows his company's tire will wear out at the same rapid rate.

Bear in mind: While the tire remains in service, we as consumers are not doing our share for tire company's stockholders. The delegates represent the stockholders, not us. Duh.

The delegates toss around ideas about replacement sales. Sadly, though they try, the tire companies cannot convince every rider to buy tires in pairs. The dire warnings in their sales literature won't work every time: "Tires must grow old together. Buy two when the first wears out."

Buy two. What marketing genius. The same guy doubled shampoo sales by adding one word to the instructions on the back of the bottle: Repeat.

We know the tire guys work closely with motorcycle manufacturers. We figure they cooperate for our benefit. We are naive. We read the tire recommendations in our owner's manuals. We're thankful for the extensive testing the manufacturers did to ensure our safety and satisfaction.


We assume they choose our motorcycles' tire and rim sizes for optimum performance, utmost safety and maximum tire life. Sure they do.

Are you sure tire companies don't supply the wheels with tires pre-installed? Perhaps the tire companies pay the workers at the motorcycle factories, too, or build the damn factory buildings, in exchange for rim size choices that favor their rubber -- and specific mention in owners' manuals.

Nothing happens by chance in the world of marketing. Deals are made.

We see product brands in movies and think they're there by chance. Clint smokes Luckies, we notice. You bet he does. If he does, he doesn't have to finance the movie himself. Big Tobacco does it for him.

It is also not by chance that Brand A's and B's sales brochures are nearly interchangeable. Read their catalogs. See if I'm not right.

Read those catalogs and try to learn something. Want to make an informed buying decision? No way. Each outfit says the same things about its tires. Maybe one ad agency writes all the tire ads and brochures.

What do they say? They call their tires grippy but long-lasting. They tell us about innovative tread designs, unique cord wrapping, and rubber compounds that are harder at tread center than on the sides.

Harder rubber at the tread center? Harder than what? So hard that the tread is gone and cord appears at 6,000 miles -- on a so-called sport-touring tire? THAT hard?

How about choosing which model to buy? The categories into which the tire outfits divide their models are so vague as to be bewildering. An accident? Sloppy copywriting? I don't think so.

And the numbers? What's an ABCD? Is it longer-lasting than an EFGH or IJKL? Is it stickier? What's the difference between tires designated "original equipment" and aftermarket ones?

Does anyone know the answers to those questions? Do the tire companies want us to know those answers?

Why should they want us to know more about tires? They only want us to absorb images from their ads. They don't want us thinking about tires; we might think about tire costs.

They merely want us to BUY tires, at mileages that would infuriate car drivers, mileages that would spark a congressional investigation were they true for cars.

We motorcyclists replace tires at mileages so infuriatingly low that tire costs are often higher than fuel costs. If you're past adolescence and have a clean driving record, tires may cost you more than fuel and insurance combined.

We don't think about that when we buy bikes, do we? We don't look at those fat black hoops on our new R-1 and imagine the rear one trashed at 3500 miles. We should. It will be.

Even if we ride that R-1 the way our moms would -- if moms rode R-1s.

Do I sound crazy? Consider buying $600 worth of tires, plus mount-and-balance, every 4,000 miles. THAT's crazy.

Offline Scout63

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Re: This Week's Story, June 14th, Rubber Barons
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2021, 10:00:59 PM »
Another good story. You left out factory slowdowns and 19 Norton rims Maynard.
Ben Zehnder - Orleans, MA USA

Offline nc43bsa

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Re: This Week's Story, June 14th, Rubber Barons
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2021, 11:36:53 PM »
One of the first things taught in business school:

The primary purpose of a business is not to provide a product or service;  it is to make money for the business's owner, be it a person, family, corporation, group of stockholders, or hedge fund.  Therefore, the perfect business is one that makes money without producing anything, thereby having zero labor or material costs.
1990 MilleGT


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