Zimmerman’s Automotive has undergone a few transformations over its history, the most recent being the addition of tires to its business plan and Tire Pros to its name.
Judy Zimmerman’s father Walter started the company in 1958 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. In the decades that followed, it grew to have three divisions: Automotive Tire Sales and Repairs, Quick Lube, and Automotive Sales.
All have faced unique and incredible challenges over the past year, ranging from supply chain disruptions and price hikes to instability in the new car market.
“So far, we have managed to get through it,” says Zimmerman Walter.
Like other tire dealers, it has juggled the availability of tires and auto parts over the past year.
In his fast lube business, the biggest problem has been the availability of some of the more unique oil products.
As for car sales, prices have gone up and Zimmerman Walter says that poses risks.
“You have to be careful. You have to know what your vehicle is going to be worth. Auction prices (will go) from wholesale to retail and continue. We had to be careful when buying our vehicles.
But Zimmerman Walter says Zimmernan’s Automotive Tire Pros overcame the bumps in the road and found a way to keep growing.
By 2022, the company’s 12 bays that install tires and provide automotive services are expected to generate more than $2 million in overall sales.
With quick lube and auto sales included, total sales are expected to be $5.5 million
“We are people who believe in looking at the big picture and looking to the future. That’s why we’re involved in a lot of things nationally.
“We have to extract resources from all kinds of places – stores in California, Oregon and the Midwest, as well as the East Coast.”
A case in point is a lesson she learned from one of her member associations – think of a person’s vehicle as “their biggest piece of personal protective equipment”.
Carpooling and public transport pose health risks during a pandemic and the result has boosted the entire automotive market.
Zimmerman’s Automotive Tire Pros offered curbside service, customer texting and phone payments. The company also markets a disinfection service for private vehicles, using PermaSafe protective coatings.
Even with a willingness to adopt the best practices she’s learned elsewhere, Zimmerman Walter says nothing has prepared her for what has proven to be her biggest challenge in 2021 — explaining the rising costs of business to people.
“Consumers don’t like it, but they understand it. People have been very kind. They mention (the prices), but they don’t really shout at you. They just growl. You do what you have to do to keep moving forward.
Even the occasional grumpy customer taught Zimmerman Walter an important lesson.
“Some people are under so much stress. Talk to them. Ask them about their grandchild or their child who’s gone back to college. It’s relationship building, which is so important in this industry.
Fast Facts: Four Things to Know About Zimmerman’s Automotive Tire Professionals
- Jeff and Judy Zimmerman Walter own and operate the business. Jeff is COO and Judy is CEO and CFO. Their daughter, Jacquie Walter Hower, currently works as operations manager and represents the third generation of the dealership.
- It is a passenger and light truck tire company. Tires account for 25% of the company’s overall sales.
- The main dealership repair shop has 12 service bays. There are four more dedicated to the automotive sales side of the business and a two-bay fast lube on site.
- For years, Zimmerman’s Automotive Tire Pros have sold tires almost by accident due to state mandated vehicle inspections. Three years ago, the dealership increased its buying power by joining Tire Pros and adding tires to its menu.