Continental Adds Capacity, Expands Gold Dealer Benefits - Tire Review Magazine

Continental Adds Capacity, Expands Gold Dealer Benefits

At its annual Gold Dealer Program meeting and incentive trip, Continental Tire the Americas offered updates about its production expansions, new products, dealer program and education enhancements, and marketing and sales promotion efforts.

What do you call it when you get some 230 of your best customers – 488 people in all – on a ship for five days?

“Loyalty & Commitment” if you are Continental Tire the Americas and you are holding your annual Gold Dealer Program meeting and incentive trip. From April 13-18, CTA dealers and their spouses and staff enjoyed sun, fun and a little business as they traversed the Gulf of Mexico.

The business side of the trip was busy, with updates about CTA’s production expansions, new products, dealer program and education enhancements, and marketing and sales promotion efforts.

Unfortunately, corporate matters kept Bill Caldwell, CTA vice president of consumer tire marketing and sales, away from the event, but he did welcome dealers via a taped video message. Jim Sicking, CTA director of consumer tire sales, picked up the emcee mantel from there, and also provided a review of CTA’s capacity increase efforts.

A few years ago, CTA suffered shortfalls and fill rate problems, but those situations have been turned around, he said, by capacity expansion programs at CTA plants in San Luis Potosi, Mexico; Cuenca, Ecua­dor; Mt. Vernon, Ill., which is undergoing two significant expansions; and Camacari, Brazil, where capacity is expected to double by 2014.

With an artist’s rendering of CTA’s new Sumter County, S.C., consumer tire plant in the background, Sicking noted that crews are installing tire building equipment there and expect to see the first test tires produced in late 2013. “We know we have a ways to go, but capacity is growing. Sumter is ahead of schedule,” he said.

North American supply is better, he added, and dealers “should be noticing significantly better supply, especially in the key lines for us.

“We are in the best situation in six years with supply,” Sicking said. “We’re not perfect, but it’s the best since I’ve been with the company.”

Program Changes
National programs manager Chris Jenkins was next up, and he walked dealers through upcoming changes to the Gold Dealer Program, including improvements in per tire bonus payments.

Jenkins reminded that CTA relies on independent tire dealers to support and sell its products, and it has made changes to the dealer locator function on its consumer website so that dealers will be shown first over non-dealer outlets. “Our goal is to get as much business to you as possible. Our focus is to get more business to our core dealers,” said Jenkins.

And for Gold Dealers, that also means greater rewards for participating in the program.

Gold Program enhancements include volume bonus increases. The “Standard” level of 800 units per year earns a dealer $2 per tire, up from $0.75 per tire last year. “Select” level dealers buying 1,300 tires per year earn $3 per tire, up from $1 in 2012, and “Elite” level dealers buying 2,000 units or more earn $4 per tire instead of $1.25 as in 2012.

Four specific tire lines – three General lines and one Continental line – are now eligible for increased per tire payouts, Jenkins said. The Conti CrossContact LX20 will now earn a $5 per tire volume bonus, while the General G-Max AS-03 will pay $4, and the General Grabber HTS and Grabber AT2 each will pay $3.

Jenkins said Gold Program payouts will see a sharp increase this year over last. He illustrated that an average 2012 pay­- out of $18,971, or $4.68 per tire, would increase to $27,524, or $6.79 per tire, under the new 2013 program.

The Gold Dealer website (contilink.com) also was upgraded, he noted, and is now “a one-stop shop” for everything needed, including CTA’s Dealer Marketing Suite, Engage360 Dealer Training Center, Real Performance Motivation center, Dash for the Gold dealer contest, a rundown on dealer sales promotions and complete product data.

The site also now includes the Gold Dealer Calculator, which in addition to showing dealers their up-to-date detailed order-tracking information, including volume bonus and other earned bonuses, helps dealers to project and optimize their total Gold rewards by setting a purchasing plan.

CTAs Joe Maher, passenger and performance product manager; Travis Roffler, marketing director; and Jim Sicking, director of consumer tire sales.
Track and Pitch
CTA’s primary marketing and promotion focus has been around movie tie-ins, soccer and motorsports, and 2013 will be no different – just better, according to marketing director Travis Roffler.

Fresh from its tie-in with the most recent “GI Joe” offering, CTA will launch a series of efforts surrounding “Fast & Furious 6,” which opened nationwide over Memorial Day weekend. Besides providing all of the tires used in the action flick, CTA is running a consumer sale promo from May 13 through June 10 where tire buyers can earn $100 Adidas gift cards. Why Adidas? Because Continental AG has a deal to provide rubber stock for certain Adidas sports shoes.

Dealers were to receive in-store POS materials to support the promotion, and CTA planned ads in “top automotive magazines” to support the push. There also was a Fast & Furious Trivia Game on the Conti brand Facebook page where consumers could win daily prizes, the top winner getting a private screening of the movie for themselves and 50 friends.

Unable to discuss the pending deals during the dealer meeting, it was later revealed that CTA signed sponsorship deals to support the U.S. national men’s and women’s soccer teams and the U.S. Youth National Team. The multi-year partnership puts the Continental brand with the U.S. National Teams participating in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the 2016 Olympic Games and a variety of games and tournaments at every age level.

On the motorsport side, Roffler noted that CTA will continue to support both sports car racing series Grand Am and ALMS in North America. The two series will combine to a single series in 2014 and CTA plans to continue participating with the new series – United Sports Car Racing.

The General brand will continue participating in various Lucas Oil racing series events and will be a sponsor of Major League Fishing.

Roffler said CTA also will get more aggressive on social media, and set a goal of one million “likes” on its Continental and General brand Facebook pages. CTA will have a lot of work on its hands: at meeting time, the General Facebook page had 193,100 “Likes” and the Conti page had 172,935 “Likes.”

New Tires
Joe Maher, CTA passenger and performance product manager, gave dealers a look at three upcoming new products planned for 2013 release.

The most significant launch surrounds the General Altimax RT43 all-season touring tire, which will be available to consumers in August. CTA said the Altimax RT43 offers an “enhanced construction” that was designed for long tread life and “to give passengers a quiet, comfortable ride, combined with year-round, all-season traction.”

Maher explained that the latest Altimax, which replaces the original Altimax RT, melds convenience technologies, like the existing Replacement Tire Monitor and Visual Alignment Indicators, with all-new CTA technologies such as Peak Anti-Slip Sipe Design Technology, which increases the number of biting edges for traction on slippery roads; and Low Surface Abrasion Technology, which provides construction elements to reduce tread distortion as the tire rolls, resulting in less surface abrasion to promote even treadwear and extended treadlife.

Maher said the Altimax RT43 is being positioned against the Cooper CS4 Touring T, BFGoodrich Advantage T/A, Firestone Precision Touring, Hankook Optimo H722, and the Kumho Solus KR21.

The Altimax RT43 will be available in 44 initial sizes over 13- through 18-inch wheel diameters, he said. The tire will carry UTQG treadwear ratings of 600 for 13- to 15-inch sizes and 700 for 16- to 18-inch sizes. All sizes will have a 75,000-mile limited treadwear warranty and a 45-day “customer satisfaction trial.”

Also coming later this year will be the Continental PureContact GX and PureContact TX, OE versions of the Continental PureContact replacement line that was launched last year. Maher offered no details on those products.

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