Aboard the Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, 640 tire dealers, their guests and Continental Tire the Americas staff took to the sea for the 2017 Gold Dealer Meeting.
This year 334 Elite Gold Dealers, including 67 new dealers, qualified for the annual Gold Dealer trip by selling more than 2,000 units in 2016. The five-day cruise left Miami on March 26 and featured stops in Nassau, Bahamas, and Cozumel, Mexico.
With a focus on bringing dealers additional support, Continental shared at its Gold Dealer meeting that its 2017 strategy includes four key areas: value proposition; people; partnership; and strong product performance/portfolio.
“We want to make sure we are adding value and supporting your business every day,” said Bill Caldwell, vice president of sales and marketing, Continental Tire the Americas. “We always want to make sure with our products, with our pricing, with our programs that we are creating a value proposition that is compelling for the end consumer but also compelling for you.”
This year Conti is changing up its Gold Program and investing an additional $4 million to the 2017 Volume Bonus Payouts. With this change, Gold Dealers who sell 3,500-plus units will have access to $24,000 in volume bonuses, more than double the amount a dealer selling 2,000 units in 2017 could earn.
This 3,500-plus-units level also creates a new dealer tier, yet to be officially named, that is above the Gold status. Qualifying dealers will also earn two additional days on next year’s Continental Gold Dealer trip.
Conti said it is also bringing additional value through its people. The tiremaker is investing in training its sales team to properly serve the dealer, making sure the company has good relationships with dealer customers. Continental reported its Gold Dealer call volume was up 12.6% last year.
Partnerships and Marketing
Creating a reliable, trustworthy brand is top of mind for Continental, and the brand plans to showcase its reliability and history in the new campaign, “Since 1871.”
“We’ve been doing this since 1871…I’m going to verify, but I believe we are the oldest tire manufacturer in the world, and we’re going to use that rolling out in a new campaign that we’re going to start this year moving forward, ‘Since 1871’,” said Travis Roffler, Continental Tire the Americas’ director of marketing. “So reliable/trustworthy, I think we can check that box. And we are committed to helping you and giving you the tools to help communicate that message to your customer,” he adds.
Strategic marketing partnerships are also in the works to grow brand awareness for ease of selling and to move consumers to the website to locate a Continental dealer.
Continental will continue to work with the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and recently signed a multi-year agreement as exclusive tire supplier for the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda in 2017. Additionally, Continental will sponsor 32 college basketball teams in 2017 and the tiremaker renewed its partnership with Major League Soccer and U.S. Soccer through 2022. General Tire sponsorships include Lucas Oil, ARCA, angler partnerships and Major League Fishing.
Dealers can take advantage of the #OdeToSoccer and #OdeToBasketball campaigns on social media featuring commercials with soccer analyst Alexi Lalas and Dan Patrick of the Dan Patrick Show. Additionally, the General brand is running its #ReelJobSweepstakes with the General Tire Anglers.
“Everything we are doing whether it’s sponsorships, everything that I’m going to show you today, is about driving consumers to the website so they can come find you. We want to drive them to your store so they can buy tires at your facility,” Roffler said.
What you won’t find on the Continental’s website in 2017 is direct-to-consumer online sales. Caldwell told Tire Review that the company understands dealers don’t like the idea and are sensitive to the idea of companies asking for and taking more business from dealers.
“So we’ve purposely stayed away from that, and we think we win in the market with that position. But, there are still tools that we provide to them so that they can be better,” Caldwell said. “A lot of Travis’ marketing activities create content, and to be good online, you need content. Whether it’s the basic website or the social media challenges… all the stuff you saw today is creating content that we make available to them so they can also be successful on their own sites.”
Roffler adds that the company continues to investigate more online tools that will help independent tire dealers stay competitive, which doesn’t rule out an e-commerce component.
In order to provide dealers strong product performance, Caldwell said Conti is committed to refreshing products for better size coverage, niche sizes and expanding its portfolio into new segments.
This year the tiremaker is introducing four new tires to address some of these areas of product performance.
In February Conti launched the Continental brand ExtremeContact Sport, which offers enthusiast drivers an all-season UHP tire. Replacing the ExtremeContact DW, the tire offers dry and wet performance, without sacrificing street manners. The tire is currently available in 71 sizes for sport, luxury sport and muscle cars, covering 80% of the market.
For service van fleets and light trucks, Conti’s General brand launched the new Grabber HD on April 3. The Grabber HD features Conti’s Duragen technology for cut/chip resistance and extended tread life, strong shoulders and a new sidewall curb guard to protect the sidewall from being damaged by curbs. The tire will be available in eight LT-metric sizes and three van sizes.
Replacing the G-Max AS-03, the General G-Max AS-05 is a UHP all-season tire that has been updated with an asymmetric tread pattern and improved noise and wear. Featuring SmartGrip technology, the tire offers sporty handling and all-season grip in dry, wet, and snowy conditions. Additionally, StabiliTread technology extends tread life and Smart Monitors alert drivers to check alignment and replace tires with visual indicators on the tire, the tiremaker adds. The G-Max AS-05 launches in May and will be available in 54 sizes for sports cars and sporty vehicles, covering 90% of the market.
For the winter months, Continental introduced the General AltiMax Arctic 12. The studdable winter tire replaces the AltiMax Arctic with improved tread life and snow and ice traction, Conti said. Conti is taking orders now and the tires will be delivered to dealers in July. The AltiMax Arctic 12 is available in 47 sizes and joins the Grabber Arctic and Grabber Arctic LT to create a winter tire power family of 72 sizes and 80% market coverage.
Expanding the Portfolio
The purchase of Hoosier Racing Tire Corp. also adds the racing tire segment to Conti’s portfolio. How exactly Continental will position the brand is still up for debate.
“We’ve been partnered with them since ‘09,” Roffler told Tire Review. “We actually had a relationship with them back in the ‘90s when we actually built Hoosier passenger car tires…. And I think that suffices to say that we add the Hoosier brand to the portfolio and we aren’t going to just let it sit on the shelf. Whether it’s in motorsports, whether it’s outside of motorsports is yet to be decided. Clearly it’s a very important and valuable brand in our portfolio.”
Further product expansion within the passenger car and light truck segments is also being explored.
“So we are looking in every area we need to grow, we know we need to grow and if you take Tier 3 and Tier 4 as probably a better part of 50% of the business in the United States, that’s an area we need to address and look at and see if there’s potential,” Roffler notes.
Caldwell adds that as Continental Ag’s OTR initiatives continue, the U.S. should expect more ag and mining tires coming to the U.S. Continental is starving for capacity to build all these new and different tires. While many tires are still imported, Continental is making an effort to make more tires on U.S. soil.
Continental told Tire Review, the expansion projects for the commercial plant in Mississippi, and passenger car and LT plants in Mt. Vernon, Ill., and Sumter, S.C., are on schedule.
“We want to make it here, and in the current political environment maybe that’s even more pressure to make it here, but we wanted to make it here anyways,” Caldwell told Tire Review. “We want to make stuff where we sell stuff and we are still importing quite a bit of product so regardless of how we grow, there is an opportunity to fill those plants as they grow.”
Continental plans to go back to Mexico for its 2018 Gold Dealer Meeting, hosted at Paradisus Resort in Playa del Carmen, April 10-14, 2018.