In the past year, Hercules Tires has launched around six new products—including its first ag tire. Most recently, the company debuted its new mud-terrain tire in partnership with TIS Wheels, the TIS TT1, by Hercules, that targets larger fitments and aesthetics any off-roader would drool over. So, with a wide range of product launches, what’s Hercules’ product strategy and what should dealers know about the brand come 2023?
In this episode of What’s Treading with Tire Review, presented by AAPEX, Josh Simpson, president of Hercules Tires, digs into some of the brand’s new products from the past year and how it is looking to help dealers navigate the complex tire market, especially on the light truck side.
In this episode, Simpson delves into:
- Details on the TIS TT1 by Hercules and the partnership between Hercules and TIS Offroad (0:28)
- Performance characteristics of the TIS TT1 by Hercules (2:18)
- How Hercules is targeting its products in the Hercules and Ironman lines (3:16)
- The specificity of the light truck market and how Hercules is catering to those segments and other trending segments in the industry (5:06)
- SKU complexity and how dealers can navigate an increasingly complex tire market (7:42)
- What dealers should know about Hercules Tires going into 2023 (9:14)
Maddie Winer, Editor, Tire Review: Welcome to What’s Treading with Tire Review. I’m Maddie Winer and we are live at Industry Week and I have the pleasure of being joined by Josh Simpson, President of Hercules Tire. Josh?
Josh Simpson, president of Hercules Tire & Rubber Co.: Thank you for having me.
Winer: Hercules has had some interesting new product launches over the past year, but there is one in particular that you guys are launching at Industry Week. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Simpson: Sure. So, we’re pretty excited. The first thing I wanted to comment on is we’re celebrating 70 years this year. So that’s a big deal. And what better way to celebrate 70 years than to actually launch a new product?
Winer: Yes, of course.
Simpson: So, we brought our new Hercules TIS Off-road TT1 out to launch this year at SEMA. We’re pretty excited about it. Really, it’s hitting a segment we’ve never really addressed. We’re talking about large rim diameters. We’re looking at large overall diameter tires, 37-inch up to 24-, 26-in. type rim diameters—something that Hercules has never really participated in. So, we see this as an opportunity for our dealers to really go out after an incremental segment and really help boost their profitability. We see a lot of tires in the market. We want to be able to participate in that market, so we’re taking advantage of the opportunity.
Winer: That’s great, and you guys had a collaboration with TIS Wheels on another product launched last year, correct?
Simpson: Yes. Last year, we launched the Hercules TIS UT1, which is the first time we ventured into the side-by-side, or utility segment. We’re pretty excited about that. We’ve had it for about a year now. It’s going pretty well. We’re getting really good feedback on the product. And again, it’s another opportunity for our dealers to get incremental sales and profitability.
Winer: Going back to the TT1, I know I’ve seen pictures and I can’t wait to see it in person. It looks like a pretty aggressive off-road tire.
Simpson: Yes, the goal there was to not only create something that looks good but will also perform. It has a three-ply sidewall and very aggressive, what we call side biters, on the side. The cool thing about it is the consumer can really customize their ride. We have two different sidewalls, so you can pick between the two, which is pretty cool. We’re looking forward to getting this thing totally launched and getting it out in the market.
Winer: Congratulations on that launch and all the other launches that you guys have had. There is lots going on with Hercules.
Simpson: There is a lot. Yes.
Winer: So this tire, the TT1, balances performance and aesthetics, correct?
Simpson: Absolutely. The fact that it looks the way it does, but it also provides great grip, great off-road ability, and also it’s relatively quiet on the streets—it hits all marks.
Winer: One other product that I wanted to go into with you that you guys launched this past year is the Ironman All Country HT. ‘m curious how that fits into your product line for light trucks.
Simpson: So really, Hercules Tires is powered by American Tire Distributors. They are our mothership if you will. We distribute all our products through American Tire Distributors and within American Tire Distributors, and we really have two main proprietary brands. They are Hercules, and then Ironman. We consider Ironman what we call our value tier or our value segment. It’s more of what we call entry-level, if you will. So what we do is we’re constantly evolving the Ironman brand and the Hercules brand, and we saw an opportunity to launch a new tire that really was going after a segment that continues to grow. Within the All Country HT, there is a lot of SUV sizes and there are a lot of truck sizes, but mainly SUV sizes. As we all know, that segment continues to grow not only in Tier One, Tier Two, Tier Three, but also in tier four. We wanted to make sure that we have all the fitments that we need to address the market. So we launched that. We’ve had really good feedback from that. It’s performing very well, and I think it’ll be a staple in our stable for probably a couple of years to come.
Winer: Interesting. I was curious about the product lines and how they all fit together in the different tiers. So, speaking about the light truck segment, something that we’ve noticed, and I think in a past interview we’ve talked about, is the light truck tire offering is getting very specific, and the tires are getting very specific for the different vehicles that are coming out. Can you go into how Hercules’ product line is addressing that specificity?
Simpson: Sure. I think within the light truck segment, truly the consumer’s getting smarter, and they’re trying to really fit a product to their vehicle or the application that they need in order to get the performance that they want where they’re driving. What we see within the light truck segment, light truck SUV segment is a strong push toward all-terrain. Then you have what we call the R/T segment. Then you have a mud terrain tire. And then right before the AT, you have what we talked about. A tire like the HT, which is a ribbed-type tire. So folks are looking at which application they need and they’re looking at what size and what fitments they can get.
One thing that surprised us… what we’re seeing is we have an SUV all-terrain tire that is really getting put on smaller SUVs and CUVs because they’re driving these products off-road to a certain extent, and they also have an aggressive look and feel that they want to get out of their all-wheel drive vehicles.
Something else that we’ve seen starting to trend a lot is all-weather. So the Hercules Terra Trac X-Venture and X-Journey, our AT tire, it comes with a Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol, and that’s becoming more and more important to folks, especially up in the states where they get the more severe weather. So we’re continuing to monitor that and look at that and try to curtail our product offering to really where the market’s going.
Winer: Yeah, that Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake and all-weather designation has become a lot more in the spotlight/
Simpson: Absolutely. I think we have some great partners up in Canada, and we see it very strong up there, and we also see it coming on stronger and stronger in the States.
Winer: Very interesting. Josh, you talked about the different segmenting of the light truck tire market. We hear from dealers all the time, as we interview different dealers that is SKU complexity is insane. So how is Hercules trying to help dealers navigate that in such a crowded or maybe even confusing market?
Simpson: I think the biggest thing is really educating the dealer to understand where the sales are within their market, depending on a geographic location. Are they specifically more in an off-road type of fitment or are they more of an on-road type fitment? Are they metropolitan or is it more a rural type of area? And ideally, we offer a tire for all segments, for all categories.
But in terms of stocking, in terms of selling, I think they need to look at where they’re at in the market, what their sales trends are, and make sure that when they have a set, when they’re stocking a set, that’s what they’re focused on.
I will say this, I feel for those guys because everything’s getting so specialized these days. There are so many different opportunities to bring out a new SKU, but there’s also only so much room everyone has. So, you really got to be smart about the inventory you’re carrying.
Winer: That’s so true. I know ATD, as a side note, has a lot of tools to help dealers with that.
Winer: Josh, last question, going into 2023, what would you like dealers to know about the Hercules Tire brand?
Simpson: I would say in 2023, Hercules is focused on the value of the brand, the value for the dealer. Our philosophy is pretty simple: We want to carry a high-quality product, we want to have exceptionally good fill rates for our dealers, and we want to make sure that the product’s profitable for them. And the thing we’re doing on the Hercules side is really trying to create that brand awareness, so the folks are coming into their places of business and asking for our product.
We’re offering consumer rebates twice a year. We’re constantly partnering with different marketing… to get our name out there. So, the biggest thing for Hercules with the independent tire dealer is we’re going to continue to create value in the brand to help them succeed in their business.