“The fitment industry is safety-critical.” This is the stark appraisal of Supa Quick franchisee, Sharon Tattersall, a 24-year veteran of the tyre industry and owner of the fitment chain’s Gallo Manor and Craighall Park outlets. She said that if consumers don’t use a reputable fitment centre, their safety could be at risk.
“We work on areas of the vehicle like the brakes and steering,” she said. “If a part has been left out or a bolt hasn’t been properly tightened, the results could be deadly. Quality control has to be non-negotiable.”
The Supa Quick brand, which turns 30 this year, was founded on providing much faster service than was common in the mid-1980s, but Tattersall said fitment turnaround times have kept coming down as equipment becomes more advanced. “Two decades ago, a simple alignment job would have taken up to an hour,” she explained. “Now, we can do it in 20 minutes, thanks to 3D alignment technology.”
However, she cautioned that the race for speed has left less time for quality control. “In my outlets, we’ve really focused on the way we document our work. Every step is signed off by our staff and detailed on the invoice, right down to what torque was used when tightening the wheel bolts,” she said. “We explain to the customer what was done and also record any advice we give. It’s the only way to maintain safety standards when lives are at stake.”
Tattersall said that she replaces all equipment in her branch every four years, regardless of condition. “It’s possible to make this equipment last a lifetime, but then you miss out on new developments and better accuracy,” she said. “Even so, we still have the machines professionally calibrated twice a year.” She also pointed out the need for new equipment to deal with changing times. “Not long ago, a 17-inch tyre was cutting edge, but now our machines must be able to cope with 21-inch tyres and run-flat technology.”
Tattersall said a major challenge was keeping customers aware of safety issues. “Money is tight, but you just can’t take chances like putting a plug in a tyre’s sidewall or fitting inferior-quality parts,” she said. “If a customer insists, I’d rather decline the job than risk their life.”
Maintaining quality standards involves a lot of training, which is provided by Supa Quick head office. “A lot of my staff have been with me for eight or ten years, so they only need refresher training, but we can also send new staff for full training,” Tattersall explained. “Technical training is done in the branch by Supa Quick’s trainers whenever we request it.”
She said economic pressures were definitely causing people to delay fitment decisions. “Times are tough, and grudge purchases like tyres or worn shocks get put off,” she commented.
Some of the more common problems her outlets see are tyres worn far beyond legal limits, over-age tyres that have started to crack and deteriorate, and brake pads which have worn so badly they have started to damage the discs. Tattersall said that most people are reasonable and realise that they need to spend the money, but other spending priorities get in the way.
“Once you explain the safety dangers, most people will re-think their priorities,” she said. “They want to know that they and their families are safe on the roads,” she concluded.