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Software for buying tires has kept ASA in business for a quarter century

By Staff | Oct 6, 2013

MERRIMACK – A local software company that has been in the same business under the same name for 25 years – roughly forever in software time – must be making something pretty useful, right?

In the case of ASA Automotive Systems the answer is yes, if you want the right tires for your car. Not sexy, perhaps, but useful.

The firm is thriving, with about 30 employees in its Merrimack headquarters out of some 75 nationwide, and a customer base found in 3,500 locations nationwide, said Ken Halle, the president. (It doesn’t release sales figures.) A few years ago it moved from its longtime home on Route 101A across from Graystone Plaza, and is now behind the YMCA in Merrimack.

Like most software firms, it is now making the transition to smartphones, tablets and the rest of the mobile-device universe, with software to help drivers know when and how to service their car as well as to get the right tires. This move, accompanied by a tweak in company name

from ASA Tire Systems, is aiming at a whole new market.

“We want to keep up with demands of consumer for retail business,” Halle said.

The company’s roots are positively prehistoric by computer standards: Its founder, Alfred Angelone, left Arthur Andersen Consulting in 1969 – before the Web, before America Online, before PCs – to open a consulting company in Framingham, Mass. Inspired by nearby Digital Equipment Corp., it went into software development.

Over the next four decades, ASA developed a number of software businesses serving “vertical markets” – that is, various levels of a single industry.

ASA Automotive Systems dates back to the 1988 purchase of a Georgia firm making software for tire dealers. It’s the only part of ASA still operating.

The bulk of their business is serving tire stores and service shops. There are roughly 30,000 of them in the country, so there’s no shortage of customer base, even with a number of competitors, small and large.

ASA also deals with larger firms serving fleets of trucks, and wholesalers that help small firms, like “the collision shop that can’t buy directly from the manufacturer,” Halle said.

The software does plenty of things familiar to any retail operation, from processing bar codes to handling payroll, but the key is keeping up with the myriad of different tires produced by the various manufacturers, with all the different sizes, treads, capabilities and uses. That requires integration with manufacturers’ databases and other complicated processes.

Moving onto people’s iPhones adds more complication, but also more growth possibilities, allowing mechanics to scan your car’s barcode in the parking lot to not only guide tire-purchase decisions but suggest service work based on your service history or even order parts to respond to specific repair needs.

Halle said being in Greater Nashua has worked out well for the firm.

“Being here, we have access to talent from the 495 area … as well as in southern New Hampshire,” he said.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).


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