Old Name Renewed
Cooper Tire Re-Launches Avon Brand in Partnership with The Tire Rack
Since acquiring the Avon brand in 1997, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. has readily admitted it had no real strategy for the 119-year-old brand. Over the last seven years, there were plenty of other things for Cooper to focus on. Consequently, there was no real effort to leverage the historic name.
Thanks to its new relationship with The Tire Rack, all that has changed.
The South Bend, Ind., wholesaler and mail-order house is now the exclusive U.S. and Canada distributor of an all-new Avon line of ultra-high performance and competition tires, produced by Cooper. The Tire Rack will begin offering the Avon Tech line to wholesalers, dealers and consumers this spring.
Calling it "Performance Tuned for Drivers by Drivers," the new Avon Tech line was co-developed by Cooper and The Tire Rack using real-world input from performance tire consumers collected by the distributor through its extensive customer feedback system.
The agreement between Cooper and The Tire Rack came about after a "two-year courtship," said Tom Datillo, Cooper’s chairman, CEO and president.
Datillo noted that Cooper’s recent outsourcing moves and expansion projects opened up capacity at its U.S. facilities, allowing the tiremaker to increase production of high performance tires, including its own Zeon line. Cooper has shifted production of its medium truck tires and some of its broadline products to Chinese tiremaker Hangzhou Zhongce Rubber Co.
Matt Edmonds, vice president of marketing for The Tire Rack, said Cooper wanted to activate an existing asset, and his company was looking for a brand with a motorsports heritage and focus. Unveiled at The Tire Rack’s headquarters, the new Avon Tech line includes the Tech R, a Z-rated DOT/competition tire; the Tech M500, a W-rated summer UHP tire; and the Tech M550 A/S, a W-rated all-season UHP.
The Tech R will be available this spring in six 13- to 18-inch sizes, and will be expanded to 12 total sizes by the end of the year. The Tech M500, covering 15- to 20-inch diameters, will be launched in late spring in 22 sizes, expanding to 43 total sizes this year. The Tech M550 A/S will hit the market this summer in nine sizes, reaching 21 total 16- to 18-inch sizes by the end of the year.
Edmonds said the Avon UHP line would be expanded gradually to include light truck/SUV applications and the upper UHP segment.
Tech R tires will be produced at the Cooper-Avon plant in Melksham, England, while the other Tech tires will be made at Cooper plants in Findlay, Ohio; Tupelo, Miss.; and Texarkana, Ark.
The Tire Rack plans to promote the new products to consumers via its existing ad campaigns in enthusiast magazines, via direct mail to customers, and on its Web site. And, it plans to use direct mail, Cooper’s new www.avontyres.com Web site and tire trade magazine Web sites to reach wholesale customers and dealers. Cooper officials said The Tire Rack would assume responsibility for existing Avon distributor customers. Cooper will continue to support Avon racing tires in North America.
Edmonds said because The Tire Rack guarantees delivery within two days, the advantage for dealers is that they don’t need to stock inventory. The Tire Rack has distribution centers in New Jersey, Louisiana, Nevada and at its South Bend headquarters.
Carl Casalbore, Cooper’s vice president of retail sales and high performance product development, said the Avon re-launch is "not the final piece in the performance puzzle" for Cooper