Still aiming to be dealers “No. 1”, Continental Tire the Americas announced a number of updates for 2016 during its Gold Dealer Meeting on April 12 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Cancun.
“Two years ago here, we made a statement that you are our No. 1., our No. 1 dealers. You guys are the best that we have. And we said we want to be your No. 1,” said Jim Sicking, Conti’s director of sales. “We asked you questions. We said how can we be your No. 1. And the good news is a lot of you said back you already are so we kind of took that as OK how can we add additional support? How do we keep things moving?”
What dealers asked for hinged a lot on supply, which Conti has been working the last few years to increase.
Continental has been busy with its global growth strategy, which includes increasing plant capacity in North America.
Conti is currently making plans to construct a $1.45 billion dollar commercial truck tire plant around the 2017/2018 timeframe in Mississippi. This new facility will help Conti to grow its truck tire business in North America.
For its passenger car and light truck markets in North America, Continental has been expanding its capacity at its Mt. Vernon plant since 2013. More recently the tiremaker has started Phase II of its plant expansion in Sumter, S.C., which will double the plants capacity to 8 million units.
“So in 2015 when we were on the cruise we talked about replacing two major lines. We are very happy to say both those went well,” Sicking said “… But the feedback was we need to expand our product line.”
With an increase in capacity, the tiremaker has been able to increase its supply and its product offerings.
New Year, New Products
“This year is a really exciting year because as Jim alluded to, we are interested in seeing product in two brand new segments for us,” Joe Maher, product manger said.
This fall, the tiremaker will roll out three new tires.
The Continental TerrainContact A/T is the Continental brand’s first all-terrain tire. The tire for light trucks and SUVs targets consumers looking for a tire with off road traction that also offers a quite ride and wet traction, Maher said.
Featuring Traction Plus Technology, the tire has off road capability plus on road manners, Maher adds. The tire ships to dealers in September, with more sizes available in November. The TerrainContact A/T will be available in 20 metric sizes, 16-inch to 22-inch diameter, and 15 LT metric sizes, 16-inch to 20-inch rim diameter.
From its General brand, the tiremaker has added the General Grabber X3 to its LT/SUV portfolio. This new tire also enters a new tire segment for Conti, with a terrain mud tire made to handle dirt, mud, and rocks.
The tire features a 3-ply Duragen construction with a robust compound and high strength steel belts, Maher said. The Grabber X3 will also be available in September in 29 sizes, including 13 flotation sizes in 15-inch to 20-inch rim diameter and 16 LT metric sizes, 16-inch to 20-inch diameter.
The new tires will also include the standard red Grabber lettering, plus sizes with black letters.
Conti’s third new tire, the General Grabber Arctic is the General brand’s newest studdable winter tire. The SUV and light truck tire replaces select General AltiMax Arctic sizes and features the three peak snowflake symbol. The tire also is made with Duragen technology.
The Grabber Arctic will be available in July and August, for the 2016-2017 winter season.
Building the Brand
The tiremaker has also been working to increase its brand awareness across a number of different sporting events.
As a sponsor of some NCAA teams, Conti had a good year with the Final Four teams all being Continental sponsored. For the 2015-2016 season, the tiremaker added seven teams.
Continental continues to secure its place as a sponsor for Major League Soccer, as well as the U.S.A. men’s and women’s soccer teams.
To reach light truck drivers, Conti’s General brand is sponsoring Major League Fishing and anglers. The General brand is also still the Official Tire of the Automobile Racing Club.
Look for more on Conti’s Gold Dealer Meeting in an upcoming issue of Tire Review.