Rockin’ and Rollin’ into 2016 - Tire Review Magazine

Rockin’ and Rollin’ into 2016

Travis Roffler, director of marketing at Continental, discusses the tiremaker's latest marketing strategies.
Travis Roffler, director of marketing at Continental, discusses the tiremaker’s latest marketing strategies.

Still aiming to be dealers’ “No. 1,” Continental Tire the Americas announced a number of updates for 2016 during its Gold Dealer Meeting, themed “Conti Rocks Cancun,” on April 12 at the Hard Rock Hotel in Cancun, Mexico.

“Two years ago here, we made a statement that you are our No. 1.; our No. 1 dealers. You guys are the best that we have. And we said we want to be your No. 1,” said Jim Sicking, Conti’s director of sales. “We asked you questions. We said ‘How can we be your No. 1?’ And the good news is a lot of you said back, ‘You already are.’ So we kind of took that as OK, how can we add additional support? How do we keep things moving?”

Increasing Supply

What dealers asked for hinged a lot on supply, which Continental has been working to strengthen the past few years by increasing plant capacity in North America.

“Three years ago, our supply was lackluster and the feedback from the dealers was don’t go into anything new until you get good at what you’re giving us now. So don’t enter into any new product segments until you reach great,” Travis Roffler, director of marketing at Continental, told Tire Review during a post dealer meeting interview.

Currently, Continental is making plans to construct a $1.45 billion commercial truck tire plant in Mississippi around the 2017-18 timeframe. This new facility will help Continental to grow its truck tire business in North America.

While the plant was officially announced as a commercial tire plant, Continental said the plant has the capability to also produce passenger and light truck tires if the market demands and the local economy can support it.

For its passenger car and light truck markets in North America, Continental has been expanding capacity at its Mt. Vernon, Ill., plant since 2013. More recently, the tiremaker has started Phase II of its plant expansion in Sumter, S.C., which will double the plant’s capacity to 8 million units.

“Conti is becoming very aggressive in plants, whether it’s CVT or PLT,” Roffler said. “We are opening plants. We aren’t backing down from what we believe will be continued growth for the future.”

New Year, New Products

Barry Terzaken, product manager of light truck tires for Continental Tire the Americas, grabs a wig and guitar to rock out during the 2016 Gold Dealer Meeting.
Barry Terzaken, product manager of light truck tires for Continental Tire the Americas, grabs a wig and guitar to rock out during the 2016 Gold Dealer Meeting.

Now that Continental has bettered its supply and continues to do so, 2016 was the right time to expand its product line, the tiremaker said.
“This year is a really exciting year because as Jim alluded to, we are interested in seeing product in two brand new segments for us,” said  Joe Maher, product manger for the tiremaker.

This fall, Conti will roll out three new tires.

The Continental TerrainContact A/T is the Continental brand’s first    all-terrain tire. The tire for light trucks and SUVs targets consumers  looking for a tire with off-road traction as well as quiet ride and wet traction, Maher said.

Featuring Traction Plus Technology, the tire has off-road capability   plus on road manners, Maher adds. The tire ships to dealers in September, with more sizes available in November. The TerrainContact A/T will be available in 20 metric sizes ranging from 16- to 22-inch wheel diameters, and 15 LT metric sizes ranging from 16- to 20-inch wheel diameters.

From its General brand, the tiremaker has added the General Grabber X3 to its LT/SUV portfolio. This new tire also enters a new tire segment for Conti, with a terrain mud tire made to handle dirt, mud and rocks. The new tires will also include the standard red Grabber lettering, plus sizes with black letters.

The tire features a 3-ply Duragen construction with a robust compound and high strength steel belts, Maher said. The Grabber X3 will come in 29 sizes, including 13 flotation sizes in 15- to 20-inch wheel diameters, and 16 LT metric sizes ranging from 16- to 20-inch wheel diameters. Like the TerrainContact A/T, the Grabber X3 will be available in September.

“These are being introduced at the time they are being introduced because of changeovers,” Roffler said. “The first quarter’s very full of complexity, so we’re bringing them in when it makes sense to introduce them because we know if we launch a product and we deliver a terrible fill rate right off the bat, it can kill a product.

“So we know we want to be at max capacity with our launch volumes in warehouse by the time we launch these tires and that is why we have a September timeframe for both of these products,” he continued.
Conti’s third new tire, the General Grabber Arctic, is the General brand’s newest studdable winter tire. The SUV and light truck tire replaces select General AltiMax Arctic sizes and features the three-peak snowflake symbol.

The Grabber Arctic will be available in July and August for the 2016-17 winter season.

Conti also is offering dealers a new incentive for selling the new all-terrain tires – Continental TerrainContact A/T and General Grabber X3. Dealers who purchase 80 of either or both of these new tires in the fourth quarter can win their choice of a General or Continental themed Les Paul guitar.

Programs and Branding

To reward the success of Continental dealers, the company has added and changed some perks of the Continental Gold Retailer Program.

After many requests, Conti now allows dealers to use their DMS points to purchase wearables and also lease branding materials for events. Additionally, Conti’s Engage 360 online training platform  went live during the meeting after being revamped in April.

The tiremaker also has been working to increase its brand awareness across a number of different sporting events.

As a sponsor of some NCAA teams, Conti had a good year with the Final Four teams all being Continental sponsored. For the 2015-16 season, the tiremaker added seven additional NCAA teams.

Continental continues to secure its place as a sponsor for Major League Soccer, as well as the U.S. men’s and women’s soccer teams.

New to Conti’s sports marketing is the tiremaker’s sponsorship of the “Continental Tire Coaches Corner” on Direct TV’s Dan Patrick Show, which features interviews with coaches across all sport teams.

To reach light truck drivers, Conti’s General brand is sponsoring Major League Fishing and anglers. The General brand also is still the Official Tire of the Automobile Racing Club.

Concluding the trip, Conti announced it is taking its dealer meeting back to the seas next year with a Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas Cruise March 26-31. The cruise will leave Miami and travel to Nassau, Bahamas, with a stop in Cozumel, Mexico, before returning to Miami.

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