The History of Big O Tires
How Big O has grown over 50 years — a brief history of a great auto service franchise
The Big O Tires story begins back in 1962, just as America’s new love affair with the automobile was hitting high gear. The market for replacement tires was exploding, and independent tire dealers found themselves struggling to compete in the face of low prices offered by major tire manufacturers’ own company stores. Big O’s founding fathers were a handful of progressive independent tire dealers who decided to band together to form a tire-buying cooperative (co-op) so that they could secure volume pricing and keep their customers happy. Their concept worked. In the years that followed, the Big O Tires co-op evolved into a full-fledged auto service franchise as it continued to find innovative ways to harness the power of the group to benefit dealerships and their customers.
Watch Big O’s 50th Anniversary, Looking Back
Big O’s founders created a culture steeped in the values that have made American business great: providing the best products at the lowest prices; building long, happy relationships by approaching customers as neighbors; giving back to the community; and constantly improving procedures and efficiency in order to maintain and grow profits.
Big O Tires quickly became one of North America’s largest retail tire franchises. We have more than 360 franchisee-owned and 40 corporate-owned locations in 19 states, providing customers with a broad range of automotive services in addition to quality tires, wheels and accessories. Big O has become an industry role model admired for its innovative approach to franchising.
Our franchisees are deeply involved in the direction of the business. Bill Thomas, one of Big O’s founders, helped develop the committee system that still serves Big O today: Owners in each region meet once a month to discuss their business, successes and challenges, to discuss marketing strategies, and to find ways to improve. They also elect members to our Franchise Advisory Council that helps steer the company’s strategic direction.
In 1996, Big O Tires joined forces with one of the largest and most respected tire marketers in the nation when it became part of the TBC Corporation, a marketer and distributor of tires and other products for the automotive replacement market. Big O’s reach and resources were broadened again in 2005, when TBC Corporation was acquired by Sumitomo Corporation of America, the largest wholly-owned subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sumitomo, one of the world’s leading traders of goods and services. Today, Big O is part of TBC Retail Group, which is an automotive retail network that includes more than 2,500 locations, including Midas® and SpeeDee® as well as affiliated tire retailers Tire Kingdom®, Merchant’s® and NTB®.
Independent ownership and major corporate backing combined has created huge advantages for Big O tire franchise owners, who have built their reputation upon the customer service mindset and now also enjoy access to the knowledge and resources of industry giants.
“I’m part of a huge company, but I still get to be an independent guy and still get to be an individual,” says Bill Walker.