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Diffen leaves business legacy

Ian Diffen, who helped to revolutionise tyre retailing in Perth, passed away last week at the age of 59.

Mr Diffen introduced the concept of multi-brand discounting to the Perth tyre market and built a 38-store chain in two states.

As well as being a successful business owner, Mr Diffen was well known for his racing exploits in the 1970s, when GTHO Falcons, Chargers and Toranas were the favoured models.

He was also an active race organiser and sponsor.

Less well known was his charity work, particularly for the Variety Club Bush Bash.

He was the first person to sign up for the first ‘Bash’ in Western Australia in 1989 and was involved in many other "Bashes" as a participant, organiser or sponsor.

Other charities he supported included the Salvation Army.

The business he founded, Ian Diffen World of Tyres & Mufflers, is the largest tyre retailer in Western Australia with a 25 per cent market share.

It has 17 city stores and 10 country agents in WA plus 11 stores in Queensland, where it first opened six years ago.

Managing director Peter Bird said Mr Diffen was at work until the very end, planning new moves including a push into Victoria.

"He was an incredible man, strong willed and very courageous. He was still making plans for this week and for next month.

"And he was still thinking about his staff. He’d say to me: ‘make sure these guys are okay, make sure they are alright’.

"He was so full of compassion."

Mr Diffen grew up in Inglewood and was educated at CBC Highgate, Aquinas College and the University of Western Australia, where he completed a commerce degree.

He joined Ford in Melbourne in the mid-1960s and soon started working on tyre development.

In his early 20s, he became the youngest person ever to sit on Ford’s product development committee.

When he opened his first store in Wellington Street in 1970, he introduced the concept of multi-brand discounting.

This was a big change from the tyre stores that each manufacturer previously operated.

"He was a real visionary, he made it happen," said Mr Bird.

"His philosophy was value through volume. The more we sold, the more we could discount.

"He just blew the others out of the water."

Mr Diffen worked part time over the past few years but was always looking for new ideas.

"Ian would say to me: ‘I don’t always work in the business but I always work on the business’,"

Mr Bird said.

Mr Diffen is survived by his second wife Rina and seven children.

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