Positioning brands in the market is a difficult task for any company, let alone a tiremaker. All of them struggle to put their products, particularly their high-margin, performance and light truck/SUV lines, in the best possible place to gain consumer acceptance, market penetration and profitability. That is, after all, where increased sales and greater prestige await.
Continental Tire North America (CTNA) thinks it has found the formula to move its General brand to a stronger position in those two hot segments, while adding new Continental lines to bolster that brand’s premium post.
CTNA showed its four new tires at a recent event at its 5,000-acre Uvalde, Texas, test facility. Under the blazing desert sun, North American dealers and media put the new rubber to the test in head-to-head comparisons on wet and dry courses.
New are the General Exclaim UHP, the General Grabber UHP and the General Grabber HP, and the ContiProContact and ContiCrossContact UHP.
CTNA, according to General brand manager Tony Talbert, is working to better separate and differentiate the company’s two primary brands so “they don’t overlap.” Continental targets the premium “best” end of the spectrum, while the General brand is being nudged into the “better” category.
One key way to shift the General brand upward, said Talbert, is to bring more of Continental global tire technology to bear on General products, something he said the company had not done extensively in the past.
“The old General is gone,” he said. “It’s dead. Our performance level will go up, and we’re working hard to change the perception of the General brand.”
Hence the Exclaim UHP, the second in the Exclaim line, which is targeting the “value” ultra-high performance segment, and the Grabber UHP and Grabber HP, focused on pickup truck/SUV performance customers.
On the premium end of CTNA’s spectrum, the new ContiProContact replaces the CH95 and CT95 lines as the flagship replacement line, and will replace them at OE over time. The high performance, all-season ContiProContact incorporates three new Continental technologies PROactive Edge Technology, Controlled Sipe Interaction and PROgressive Groove Ramp, according to Paul Tecci, Continental brand manager.
Also new is the ContiCrossContact UHP, replacing the ContiSportContact 4×4 and targeting the luxury light truck/SUV performance market.
For the dealer/media launch event, CTNA did head-to-head comparisons on a wet and dry course, pairing the Grabber UHP against the Kumho Ecsta STX, the Exclaim UHP against the Kumho Supra 712, the ContiProContact against the Michelin MXV4 and the ContiCrossContact against the Michelin Diamaris on Porsche Cayenne SUVs.
According to Talbert, the Exclaim UHP targets today’s aggressive performance fitments, and the Grabber UHP and HP are General’s first street sport truck tires.
The Exclaim UHP features a double-V tread pattern for water evacuation and a silica tread compound for traction and wear. Exclaim UHP, the second tire in the Exclaim line, is available in 21 W- and Y-speed-rated sizes covering 16- to 20-inch wheel diameters. The tire has a UTQG of 380/AA/A.
The General Grabber UHP has a V-shaped directional tread pattern for wet and dry traction and hydroplaning resistance and a silica tread compound. Tread elements and shoulder blocks are siped to enhance braking and wet traction, while maintaining a quiet ride, said CTNA.
With a UTQG rating of 320/360 AA, the Grabber UHP will be available in 11 H- and T-rated, 15- and 16-inch sizes, and 16 W- and V-rated, 17- to 24-inch sizes, covering 70 to 35 series.
Grabber HP features multiple traction edges in the shoulder lugs for wet traction and braking, a “flat belt contour” for treadlife and an aggressive but quiet tread pattern, said CTNA. It will come in five T-rated 15-inch sizes with a UTQG rating of 360 AA.
The ContiProContact will be introduced in 22 sizes in H-, V- and W-rated, 15- to 18-inch sizes. There will be four run-flat sizes at OE, as well, CTNA said.
The asymmetrical ContiCrossContact UHP tire features a “bionic contour design” which optimizes the shape of the contact patch based on driving situations. In normal driving, the tire has a standard contact patch area, but the patch grows larger under braking and hard maneuvering, Tecci said.
The ContiCrossContact UHP is available in 20 H-, V-, W- and Y-rated sizes covering 16- through 24-inch wheel diameters.