When launching its latest winter tire offering, the ExtremeWinterContact, Continental Tire North America opted for the snowy, wide-open spaces of Big Sky, Mont. The tiremaker invited select media and dealers from the U.S. and Canada to attend the mid-February launch, complete with a ride-and-drive at nearby Yellowstone Airport.
The new ExtremeWinterContact, designed to deliver confident performance in winter weather conditions, is part of a new family of performance tires dedicated to North America that includes the ExtremeContact DW and the ExtremeContact DWS.
The ExtremeWinterContact is engineered with an advanced tread compound and structured siping that CTNA said dramatically improves ice and snow traction. The tire also delivers improvements in wet performance, fuel efficiency, extended wear and ride comfort, as well as considerable improvements in dry performance, CTNA said.
In addition to testing the Extreme-WinterContact for performance capabilities on ice and snow, the tires were pitted against all-season tires both Conti’s and a few competitors’ in order to demonstrate the traction and handling that winter tires offer above and beyond their all-season counterparts. That aspect is part of CTNA’s ongoing “Winter Tire Belt” initiative, which urges consumers to “Make the 45⊄š Shift” to winter tires if they live in colder climates. The program includes unique POS materials and an outdoor display for tire dealerships that features two rubber tread discs one made of a summer compund and one made of a winter tire compound for consumers to feel the difference.
“We’re at the forefront of educating consumers on the importance of using winter tires,” said CTNA CEO Matthias Schoenberg. “It would be fantastic to make an industry-wide issue out of that and it would be great if other manufacturers would join us, but we’re going to continue to stress how much winter tires improve performance in cold weather in dry, icy or wet conditions.”
The ExtremeWinterContact will be available for the 2009/2010 winter season with a 52-size lineup ranging from 13- to 17-inch wheel diameters. For the first time ever, CTNA is including light truck sizes in a winter tire line, as well. The tire comes with a 30-day customer satisfaction ride guarantee, a manufacturer’s workmanship limited warranty for 72 months with free replacement up to 12 months and road hazard coverage for 12 months, CTNA said.
Winter Market Heating Up
In addition to plenty of time on the track, CTNA also offered those in attendance a detailed look at its achievements and goals for future growth in the North American winter tire market.
In 2008, the winter tire market made up 2.3% of the U.S. tire market, with 5 million units sold, and 34% of the Canadian tire market, with 8.3 million units sold. That marks a 31% increase in winter tire marketshare in the U.S. since 2006, and a 45% increase in Canada during the same time period, according to Andreas Gerstenberger, executive vice president for performance and light truck replacement sales and marketing.
Individual growth for CTNA in the winter tire market since 2006 showed an increase of 24% in the U.S. and 63% in Canada, he said.
Much of that increase can be attributed to the large number of new SKUs CTNA has introduced into the replacement tire market in recent years. “In 2006, we committed to introducing 500 replacement SKUs (both new lines and added sizes in existing lines) to our portfolio over the next three years in order to reach 80% market coverage for each targeted market segment,” Gerstenberger said. “By the end of 2009, we will have introduced 734 new products, with 261 coming in 2009, our biggest launch year ever.”
Those new lines and sizes combined to give CTNA a successful 2008, despite hard hits in demand felt across the industry. CTNA’s total unit sales were up 15% compared to 2007, and winter tire sales were up 46% in that same period, he noted.
In 2009, CTNA boasts a product lineup in which more than 60% of tires sold will be younger than three years, an industry-leading accomplishment, according to Gerstenberger.
From a production and logistics standpoint, CTNA aims to minimize its dependency on European supply by shifting production to its plants in North America. For the first time, winter tires including the ExtremeWinterContact will be produced in CTNA’s Mt. Vernon, Ill., plant, resulting in decreased shipping and currency exchange costs in addition to providing improved fill rates, Schoenberg said.