As they battle toe-to-toe in the North American truck tire market, major tiremakers have always stressed the importance of tire lifecycle costs.
Backing that point, Bridgestone, Goodyear and Michelin all have their retreading systems, either home grown or acquired.
Continental Tire the Americas is taking the lifecycle concept in a new direction, and is plunging headfirst into the retreading pool by creating and producing its own line of like-for-like precure treads and launching a retreading business across North and South America.
The company has created a dedicated business unit LifeCycle Activities completely focused on developing, producing and selling retreaded truck tires that are exactly identical in every way to CTA’s Continental brand truck radials. In this fashion, CTA said, fleets can buy new Continental truck radials and use the same exact tire through multiple retreadings.
Paul Williams, executive vice president of CTA’s commercial truck tire side, said ContiLifeCycle is “a complete, seamless solution for fleets that offers a full product and service suite from Continental” and allows fleets “to extend a premium truck tire’s lifetime from the new tire through the entire usable life of the casing,” with retreads having the “same tread designs and the same performance as our new premium tires.”
The flat precure treads are being produced at a CTA-owned and operated facility in Morelia, Mexico, which the tiremaker acquired quietly last year. Since developing the ContiLifeCycle plan last year, CTA has signed on six retreaders in Mexico to produce retreaded Continental radials, and now plans to expand its network by adding U.S. and Canadian retreaders.
Williams said the North American response to CTA’s lifecycle solution has been “staggering.”
“Even before we made any official announcement of our intent to offer the LifeCycle concept in the U.S., we were fielding calls from all over the U.S. and Canada,” Williams claimed. “Our intent is to ensure that any fleet located across the U.S. and Canada can meet their tire needs with the ContiLifeCycle solution. Unlike other tire manufacturers, Continental will be the first to offer a completely clean distribution footprint where its dealers will not be competing geographically for ContiLifeCycle business.”
As for CTA’s financial commitment, Williams said, “We have to have a lifecycle solution, we have to have retreading. This is not a question of funds. This is what we need to succeed in truck tires. It is not my intent to stay at No. 4. If we are going to be a player in the commercial market, then we are going to be a player in the commercial market.”
CTA’s initial foray into retreading was a licensing deal it struck with Marangoni Tread North America last year, in which the Italian firm would produce precure Ringtread tread stock for the U.S. resembling specific Continental brand truck tires. That licensing deal will remain in place, at least through 2013 when the contract expires. At present, said Williams, some two-dozen Marangoni retreaders are producing Conti Ringtread retreads.
Williams said the lineup of Continental tread designs that will be available include a number of SmartWay-approved, fuel-friendly patterns, and he vowed that the matching retread stock would be as fuel efficient as the new tire.
The tread stock plant in Morelia currently has the capacity to turn out 500,000 treads per year, Williams noted, but it can be expanded to reach 1 million tread pieces, which is CTA’s plan.
Already in production are precure pieces for the Continental HDL Eco Plus, HSU2, HSR, HSR1, HSR2, HDC1, HSC, D450, HDR1, HTL Eco Plus and HTL1 in all available sizes.
This entire program also is being launched throughout Mexico and what CTA refers to as the Andean region of South America.
The LifeCycle Activities business unit, which will manage all of the Americas, will be headed by company veteran John Barnes, who will be backed, Williams claimed, by the company’s engineering, marketing, business analyst, factory and sales groups.
High on Barnes’ to-do list, said Williams, is to build out the ContiTread Mexico plants through 2012, build the new network of ContiLifeCycle dealers in the U.S. and Canada, bring acquired ERCO retread facilities and Renovallanta brand under the ContiTread banner in Ecuador and the Andean region, and expand ContiLifeCycle to the tiremaker’s successful business units in Brazil and Argentina.
“Naming John to this important position means that we have taken yet another crucial step to support the research and development, business activities, products and machinery for retreading in each market of the Americas,” Williams said.
“Our entire perspective is completely different than any other major tire manufacturer. Continental’s portfolio of retreading is exclusively built around the technologies and tread designs of our new tires, and we will be the first major manufacturer to build from the ground up without having any unlinked products that are separated between the design of the new tire and that of the retread.
“You will definitely see our footprint grow throughout the Americas as we continue to support and expand the ContiLifeCycle this year.
“Retreading represents the future of Continental and what we can offer our customers,” Williams said.