SEMA News - February 2010
By Alysha Webb
Incoming President of Tire Industry Association
“I have been involved with tire dealers all around America. I care about my customers and learned about the business and their needs, not just digital needs,” said Wayne Croswell, ASA Tire Systems president and TIA president.
“I fell in love with the industry and the people, and it got into my blood,” he said.
Croswell, 54, has a computer science degree from Boston University. A computer programmer might not seem like a natural tire guy, but most tire dealers and retreaders rely on specialty software to manage their businesses. ASA Tire Systems is now the largest division of ASA International Ltd., in which Croswell is a group vice president.
“I have been involved with tire dealers all around America,” Croswell said. “I care about my customers and learned about the business and their needs, not just digital needs.”
It was customers who pushed ASA to begin exhibiting at the SEMA Show. Dealers began telling ASA more than a decade ago, “You gotta go to SEMA,” said Croswell. “We went there first just to walk the aisles, and we were blown away.” The next year, ASA bought a 10- x 10-foot Show booth.
But those were the days before there was a special tire and wheel section, and ASA was so small that its customers couldn’t find the company at the SEMA Show, said Croswell. “We were beyond a needle in a haystack,” he said.
ASA stuck it out, continuing to exhibit for the next few years. Then, in 2004, the tire industry combined its exhibits at the SEMA Show, and the tire and wheel section was created. “All of a sudden, our customers could find us,” said Croswell. “[The SEMA Show] became a huge success for us. Now we have a 20 x 30 booth.”
Retreaders and tire dealers—ASA’s customers—are coming to the SEMA Show in growing numbers. There were 5,237 registered tire and wheel buyers in 2009, compared to 5,016 in 2007. But as president of TIA, Croswell is concerned about another trend—the declining number of tire manufacturers exhibiting at the Show.
Just before Christmas, TIA gathered the major tire manufacturers in Washington, D.C., to talk about how to make the SEMA Show work better for them. SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting was there at the beginning of the focus group, then took leave of the meeting so that the manufacturers could have a frank discussion with TIA, Croswell said.
“The challenge is to make [the tire and wheel section] a show within a show,” he said. “I want to do whatever we can to make the manufacturers feel that our presence is obvious inside the SEMA world.”
Making the SEMA Show the best it can be for TIA members is also important for TIA as an organization, Croswell said. The SEMA Show is a big revenue stream for TIA, which uses the money for training programs for its members, government affairs and other activities.
“Being an association, we have limited places to go for revenue,” said Croswell. “Our members need to help support us, and a big part of that is participating in the SEMA Show.”
For Croswell, who is an avid soccer player and sports fan, making the SEMA Show work for the tire companies is more than just his job. “I do have a passion for the industry, the dealers and the [Tire Industry Association] members,” he said. “You don’t have to just be selling tires.”