At its annual incentive trip in mid-April, Continental Tire the Americas welcomed some 260 members of its Gold Dealer Program who hit over 2,000 units purchased within the past year.
Bill Caldwell, vice president of sales and marketing, welcomed and thanked 87 first-time Gold trip attendees and 167 who have attended multiple Gold dealer trips, and gave a big welcome to five dealers who have been on all seven of the tiremaker’s Gold program incentive trips.
His opening remarks addressed CTA’s continued commitment to increasing its presence in the Americas with manufacturing support that will center around five major production facilities: Mt. Vernon, Ill.; Brazil; Mexico; Ecuador; and CTA’s newest plant, a greenfield facility in Sumter, S.C.
The $500 million Sumter plant, which will create some 1,600 jobs, sits on 330 acres and is slated to start producing passenger and light truck tires in the first quarter of 2014. By the end of 2016, the plant will have an annual capacity of 4 million tires in its first phase. A second phase will allow the plant to produce 8 million tires annually by 2020.
“The Sumter facility improves our reliability for our customers and allows us to grow in a healthy, supportive manner,” Caldwell said. “We’re building more capacity for you and because of you. We believe there’s an opportunity for both of us to grow together and we believe there’ll be a high demand for our brands. But quite honestly, we know those tires aren’t going to sell themselves.”
The meeting did not spell out specific growth targets for the Gold Dealer program, but Caldwell said Conti continues to evaluate key markets for new dealer members. There is a lot of growth potential west of the Mississippi, Caldwell mentioned in particular.
At the same time, he said, CTA expects its program enhancements will enable the company to do more business with existing Gold Dealer program members.
Caldwell pointed out that CTA improved its marketshare in North America last year during a down market year, and he noted the Gold Dealer network was integral to that growth. He attributed the marketshare increase to Conti’s diverse customer base and an up-to-date product portfolio, which includes a few new products that were presented to dealers, like the Continental CrossContact LX20 (replacing the CrossContact LX) and the ProContact GX and ProContact TX designed for OE fitments.
The CrossContact LX20 includes Eco Plus Technology, which CTA said improves fuel efficiency, tread wear and wet braking; traction grooves that CTA said add tractive edges inside the groove; and “smooth response,” which CTA said provides responsive handling, a smooth rolling feel and a quiet ride.
Caldwell’s management team then took center stage, walking dealers through a number of presentations detailing product upgrades, strategic pricing evaluations and new production technology for OE and replacement applications.
Travis Roffler, director of marketing, said the company is simplifying its dealer website – contilink.com – which allows dealers to create custom ads for their local marketing efforts, along with the ability to see earned co-op funds to reinvest and build future sales. The site also features a sales tracking function that allows Gold dealers to see how they are doing against their goals.
Roffler also announced a new marketing effort with Richard Petty, as the Continental brand will be the exclusive tire of Petty’s Garage Mobile Tour 2012. Continental also will continue its Grand Am Road Racing sponsorship, as well as its Major League Soccer sponsorship. The General brand will continue as team sponsor of more than 30 off-road race teams, sponsor of both the TrophyLite and JeepSpeed series, and it also will continue to support programs like Best in the Desert and Lucas Oil Off-Road. And new in 2012, General will be supporting four 4-Wheel Jamboree Events.
Roffler then focused on the continuing growth of social media and urged dealers to place a greater emphasis on its value in order to support marketing and product initiatives. He said, “Conti’s social media effort is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, aimed at enhancing brand awareness through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.”
Primarily, CTA aims to expand its Facebook presence and have more than one million “likes” by the end of 2013, up from 25,000 at the present time. “The bottom line is to make sure the thousands of visitors to Conti’s social media sites make their way to the dealer locator and then to our dealers’ websites,” Roffler said.
The recent Continental Tire “Drive Your Imagination” promotion, which ran through May 6, offered a Nook tablet reader to consumers who bought $499 in tires. The program was extremely well-received, according to Roffler, who said the tiremaker’s website received more than 78,000 unique impressions regarding the Nook promotion in one week’s time. From July 1-Aug. 15, the General brand GI Joe promotion will run, during which consumers buying four General passenger or light truck/SUV tires will receive a $50 prepaid Visa gift card.
Jim Sicking, director of independent dealer sales, reminded the Gold dealers that they have access to online sales training through the company’s Engage 360 website. Some 16,000 users already are registered, he said, and five more educational tools will be added to the site in 2012. CTA’s Gold Dealer program offers four levels of involvement and support: Express, Standard, Select and Elite.
Another support tool assists dealers in generating greater revenue by applying market analysis and a “pricing for profit” model the company has developed. Sean McDermaid, national sales manager, and Cal Ganda, manager of pricing, ran down the program details for attendees.
Under the Gold program, Elite level dealers can get tailored market analysis showing area market potential and local market vehicle registration information that can point to sales potential by tire segments, vehicle categories and tire unit potential – including tire sizes – down to brand/pattern applications.
From there, dealers can review a profitability analysis that includes sell-in vs. sell-out pricing comparisons, retail pricing analysis by market, dealer profit opportunities and competition analysis.
The approach is based on selecting specific vehicles and tire applications and then looking at an unbiased competition retail price matrix. “We formally started this program in 2009 and our five-person department takes dealers through a process we believe can assist our customers to maximize their profitability and bring our dealers to a new level of how they approach their business,” according to Ganda.
“Continental Tire the Americas is committed to refreshed and new products for its Continental and General brands and our team looks for greater capabilities that make it easier for our dealers to sell our brands, along with increased capacity,” Caldwell said at the close of the meeting.
The overall response from dealers in attendance was very positive, and for the General brand, many dealers agreed that they have seen a considerable uptick over the last three to four years.
Mike O’Neal, managing director of wholesale for Buffalo, N.Y.-based Dunn Tire, which distributes and retails both Continental and General brands, recognized and commended the strong retail support these brands offer his company’s own retail stores and the dealers to whom Dunn distributes. In fact, Dunn Tire has attended six Gold Dealer incentive trips, and hosted a number of its associate dealers who hit the required 2,000 units to qualify for this year’s Bahamas Gold Dealer trip.
“This program offers all of the elements that can assist my company’s success moving forward. Both brands are solid performers,” said Eric Kumernitsky, president of Stew’s Tire Center in Schnecksville, Pa., who was one of the 87 first-timers on this year’s Gold Dealer trip.