Continental Tire the Americas offered up Infineon Raceway as the center stage upon which to introduce the new General G-Max AS-03 to both tire and automotive journalists and its dealers in back-to-back events.
The late-February launch in Sonoma, Calif., gave dealers and media one of the more dynamic and demanding tire introduction ride-n-drives they have ever experienced. Thankfully, the driving part of the event came with a little tutoring thanks to the renowned Infineon Raceway instructors.
Bringing the fun was an assortment of interesting test vehicles, like Chevy Camaros, Audi S5s, Ford Mustangs and Mitsubishi Lancer Evos, which hit the track at a pretty good clip.
The new General G-Max AS-03, an all-weather UHP tire, will replace the General Exclaim UHP and provide even broader size options for dealers and drivers. Bill Caldwell, CTA consumer tire vice president of sales and marketing, said the new tire “delivers precise response in dry and wet conditions, with “excellent” light snow grip. In terms of snow traction, the tire is enhanced through lateral edges, 3D siping and the use of V-shaped strakes in the tread, which fill with snow, capitalizing on snow-on-snow adhesion. And to reduce hydroplaning, the G-Max offers a V-shaped, directional tread pattern with Aqua Cleave Channels that direct water from under the tire.”
The G-Max name is part of an overall “reimaging” for the General brand, company officials said, and will become the family name for all General-brand high performance tires, much as Altimax has become the group name for General touring and winter products, and Grabber for light truck and SUV tires. The General Exclaim, in the company’s mix for six years, will be discontinued.
The G-Max AS-03 began rolling out to dealers as of April 4 with 35 initial sizes, including six 20-inch sizes previously unavailable under the Exclaim UHP. The remaining 28 sizes will come in by August, with the entire W/V speed-rated line covering 15- through 20-inch wheel diameters. Tire sizes will range from 195/55R15 to 275/30R20. And the tires will be manufactured at various Continental plants worldwide, in the U.S., Europe and Mexico.
According to CTA, and as Caldwell pointed out, some of the highlighted technologies of the G-Max AS-03 offer vehicle owners immediate insight into the tire’s performance. For example, the new tire features some consumer-driven technology, such as:
RTM (replacement tire monitor) Technology in the tread indicates when a tire has reached a tread depth of 2/32nds-inch; the words “Replace Tire” are displayed on a visible indicator strip.
VAI (visual alignment indicators) Technology allows the driver to see if the vehicle needs an alignment. VAI is short sipe patterns in each shoulder of the tire. If sipes on one side of the tire wear off before the corresponding sipes on the other outside rib, the vehicle is out of alignment, something the vehicle owner can plainly see.
The tire’s 3D Sipe Technology, which is made up of interlocking tread blocks within the tire siping, that CTA said improves handling and reduces heat.
The new G-Max AS-03 features a directional UHP tread pattern developed to improve wet traction and reduce road noise.
With a 480 AA UTQG rating, the new G-Max AS-03 tire comes with a 40,000-mile limited treadwear warranty with a 45-day free trial guarantee.
“This is a challenging offer to consumers and tells you just how confident we are about this tire,” said Travis Roffler, CTA’s director of marketing. “We’ve really put together a package of selling features in this tire for the dealer that should make it very obvious to their customers that this is one great tire.”
Part of that package, said Roffler, was a special launch program that gave dealers a free POS kit on an order of 24 G-Max AS-03 tires.
The on-track driving program included a number exercises in dry and wet conditions, full track exercises, and some short track solo events that allowed journalists to push the tires as hard as possible against a variety of worthy competitive tires. In all, one was able to receive a complete understanding of the tire’s full capabilities, as well as some top-notch high performance driving instruction.
On the following day, dealers and select customers were invited to Infineon Raceway to enjoy a similar day of on-track experiences with the new G-Max AS-03. Len Lewin, president and CEO of American Car Care Centers, was among those on hand and reported, “The opportunity to put this new tire to the test for ourselves and see just how much this tire offers our customers demonstrates the kind of effort Continental is placing in the General brand.
“This is a tire that seems to offer a wide range of our dealers the opportunity to sell a very complete package, especially dealers in those parts of the country that go from dry to wet to snow. And we expect the price point of this tire to be very appealing to our dealers and their customers, “ Lewin added.
As for the lineup revision and the birth of the G-Max, Caldwell pointed out that, “if you look back four to five years ago, Continental has been rebuilding the General brand, starting with the Altimax HP and the Altimax RT Powerline for touring and high performance applications. Then we added the Grabber light truck and SUV line coupled with the Grabber HTS, an all-season on-highway light truck tire. All in all, these tires have increased General brand sales by 77%. We’ve really made an impact in the market with the brand.”
At the end of the day, it looks like the General brand has added another new twist to its portfolio, one that dealers will welcome.
To see more photos from this event, click here.