Amid the swaying palm trees, sun and turquoise blue water of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, Continental GOLD dealers enjoyed networking while taking in cocktails poolside during the company’s 2023 GOLD Dealer Meeting. A thank you for its dealers’ support, Continental treated its high-volume dealers to the modern elegance of the four-diamond rated Atelier Playa Mujeres, billed as a barefoot luxury experience in the Caribbean. While the best way to explore the resort’s 13 restaurants, four pools and the sandy coastline was by foot, GOLD dealers took the steering wheel in learning about Continental’s EV tire strategy as well as its new partnerships and initiatives aimed at dealer success.
“I know that the last few years have been a challenging business environment and the fact that you’re here is because you supported us, and we really appreciate that,” said Bill Caldwell, senior vice president of sales and marketing. “Today, we want to show you what we’re working on to continue to earn your support as we move into 2023.”
New advertising and marketing partnerships, GOLD dealer incentives and education around tires for EVs (electric vehicles) were highlights on the agenda as Continental gave dealers a business update for the year ahead. Chris Charity, Continental’s vice president of sales, added that people, partnerships and products all add up to Continental’s value proposition for dealers.
“We talk about our value proposition to you, and it’s all based around listening to our partners as we continue to learn and grow together,” he said.
Getting EV Ready
While you might not see electric vehicles in your bays daily, more are coming, and properly replacing tires on EVs will take some technical knowledge on the dealer’s part… but, finding the right tires for your customer’s EV isn’t totally different from how you’d find them for their ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle. Joe Maher, product manager, dug into Continental’s EV strategy and factors that influence tire performance on EVs to explain how dealers can be a resource for their customers.
Through Continental’s research, Maher said a Continental or General tire can influence the range on an EV by 10% or less depending on tire choice. Other factors, such as the use of A/C and heat as well as a vehicle’s speed, can decrease a vehicle’s range more significantly than tire choice. For example, when a driver runs the heat in their EV at 20 degrees Fahrenheit, they can lose up to 24% of the range going 55 mph. At 75 mph, the driver will lose 40% more range under the same conditions.
On the other hand, consumers with a Conti replacement tire that accept the 10% range reduction for their EVs “would gain up to 30% more tread life and up to 15% wet improvement,” Maher said. New Conti replacement tires will now come with a checkmark on the sidewall indicating to dealers and consumers that they’re suitable for EVs.
“So, tires do make a difference in range, but it’s not the major impact that can happen [with other vehicle systems],” Maher explained. “We have a very strong portfolio of low rolling resistance, or improved-range, tires because we’ve been in the OE business since the CAFE requirements required all ICE vehicles to be higher fuel efficiency.”
Continental has worked with OEMs, including Tesla, for years on tires for replacement sizes on EVs. In addition, Continental covers seven of the top 10 EV fitments in the US market, including sizes for the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y as well as the Chevy EV Bolt.
Maher emphasized that the real difference between fitting an OE tire made for the EV versus a replacement tire comes down to the performance characteristics the driver wants from their electric vehicle. If a driver is focused on increased tread life and traction, a Continental replacement tire is right for them. If they’re focused on noise reduction and maximum range, the OE tire is the best choice. Continental has EV coverage in both OE and replacement products.
For tire dealers, one aspect that doesn’t change is matching the OE tire’s load index, determined by the carmaker, with whatever tire consumers choose for their second or third replacement to make sure the new tires can handle the increased load of EVs.
“As long as the tire manufacturer or the tire dealer are putting the same load index that came originally on that car, you’re doing exactly what’s necessary for that consumer,” he said.
In response to increased weight, Continental has introduced high-load (HL) tires for many of its Euro-metric sizes. Tires with an HL designation on the sidewall are offered in the same size but at a higher load index.
Lastly, Maher addressed noise and torque. He said all Continental and General tires are designed with an optimized tire pitch sequence to reduce noise initially. Some Conti tires are also made with ContiSilent technology, a strip of foam lining the inside of a tire, which helps reduce noise coming from inside a tire when confronted with bumps or potholes. An EV’s instant torque could speed up treadwear, Maher said. However, many EVs are designed with a torque management system, which is positive for wear, so what really matters is how consumers drive their EV.
“Even though the driver presses down hard on the accelerator, [these systems] maximize the range, and regulate the amount of torque that goes to the wheel,” Maher said. “An increased torque is not anything new to electric vehicles vs. ICE vehicles. Say you have a Mustang that has different torque levels depending on what type of engine and horsepower package it has. So, increased torque is definitely against tire wear, but it’s more about how the driver grips the vehicle.”
New Marketing Partnerships
Travis Roffler, director of marketing for Continental Tire, highlighted both Continental and General Tire’s new slogans and showed dealers how they’ll be used in sports marketing to bring awareness for both brands—and attract more business to dealer locations.
Continental’s new slogan, “The Smart Choice in Tires,” debuted last year, and Roffler said that message will be spread through commercials during Major League Soccer (MLS) games, in which Continental has branding and hospitality for the league’s 29 teams across the US, and at 30 NCAA college basketball schools and major college basketball tournaments. In the new commercials, Roffler said the goal is to highlight how athletes made smart choices in games and their reasoning behind their game-winning decisions to emphasize Continental tire being the smart choice.
“Consumers want to know more information about tires. They’re just fearful to ask,” he said. “So, we’re going to start creating a lot of cool content that talks about the idiosyncrasies of a tire, how it delivers performance and what it does on a daily basis for your vehicle.”
On the General Tire side, Roffler said its new slogan, “Delivers,” was meant to showcase the performance of the brand’s passenger and light truck offerings. New commercials with athletes from General Tire’s major sports marketing partnerships—Major League Fishing and the Automobile Racing Club of America’s (ARCA) Menard’s Racing Series—bring the slogan to life, Roffler said
“General Tire helps you live so that you can deliver whatever it is you want,” Roffler said, explaining the emotion behind the slogan. “General Tire helps you live through delivering, whether it’s performance, off-road capability, on-road capability, or whatever you’re looking for in a tire.”
Roffler also highlighted new sports sponsorships for both brands, aimed at increasing brand awareness for different audiences. New for the Continental brand is sponsorship of the youth soccer league Elite Clubs National League with 3,500 teams across the US. Continental will be the official tire of the league as it looks to create brand awareness among youth and parents. Last year, Continental also partnered as the official tire supplier with Toyota Gazoo Racing’s GR Cup and World Racing League team Random Vandals.
For General Tire, expanded brand awareness will come with a new title sponsorship of the General Tire ArenaCross Championship Series for motorcycle racing. Roffler said both the Continental and General Tire partnerships come with brand activations, sponsorships and hospitality for dealers in their local markets.
“Everything we do in marketing is to drive that [customer] to you to make the smart choice in a Continental Tire at your dealership,” Roffler told dealers.
Continental Credit Card and Promotions
With the goal of bringing value to dealer businesses, Continental also emphasized its Continental Tire credit card and promotions throughout the year to incentivize dealers to sign up customers for it. Roffler said a new toggle option on Continental’s dealer locator on its website will give consumers the option to filter their dealer choice to focus on those that offer the credit card.
From March to August this year, Continental is also running a promotion, offering double the rebate if consumers pay for their tires with the credit card.
“So, for July and August, say your customer purchases a set of TerrainContact A/Ts, they’ll get $200 back for that promo if you put it on the credit card, where they’d get $100 back if they just do the rebate,” he said. “So, it allows you that opportunity to encourage the consumer to make payments over time through the use of the credit card.”
Debbie Richards, GOLD program manager, added that the credit card also has enrollment incentives without an annual fee. Customers can also pay for mechanical services, car rentals, tolls, car washes and gas with the card. In addition, GOLD dealers can get an additional $100 for the first $2,000 in sales billed with the credit card. Dealers can receive an additional $50 for every $1,000 of sales billed after that.
GOLD Program Update & Incentives
Charity said 782 dealers qualified for the Continental Tire GOLD Trip this year and over 300 attended. During 2022, he said the company added 36 new dealers to the GOLD program.
“When we look at the GOLD program, we want to be a consistent partner to you,” he said, noting the longevity of the dealers in attendance with the program.
Richards emphasized that the “smart choice in tires” is also synonymous with the right payout. For GOLD dealers, Continental offers a standard $10 per tire sold that goes to the dealer’s bottom line. For the month of March, she said GOLD dealers are able to earn an additional $3 per tire by selling the General G-Max RS and the G-Max AS-05 and an additional $2 per tire by selling the AltiMax RT45.
On top of that, GOLD dealers and their employees can earn double points or another two to three dollars on the three General Tire lines for cleaning their sales on the RPM program.
“People really matter to us,” Richards said. “Together, we’ll make sure that your customers understand why your business and Continental General Tires are the smart choice for automobiles of the future.”