Mario Crociata, co-owner of Whitey’s Tire Service in Brooklyn, N.Y., is an elite Continental Gold dealer. There are many reasons why he likes being associated with the dealer program. Patriotism is one of them.
At the recent 2014 Continental Tire Gold Dealer Meeting in Cancun, Mexico, he was outspoken in his support for the new Continental consumer tire plant in Sumter, S.C. His allegiance had nothing to do with lower prices or fill rates.
“No, I just like American. I just like that it’s made here,” he said. “We’re overdue. There have been too many years of everything being made overseas and not being made here.
“My personal opinion? We have the capability, why not make it here? Why do we have to keep going to other countries? Keep it on our soil. I’d rather pay a few more dollars for a tire and have it made here.”
He said the volume discounts are welcome and helpful, but being a member of the Gold Retailer Program, and buying from Continental Tire the Americas Inc., is not about the money.
“To me, it’s about the pride. I like Continental because I can sell a tire with pride. If somebody comes in with a warranty issue I can take care of it without a problem because Continental gives us that ‘extra’ to help people and to help us. Like if a customer hits a pothole.”
The family-owned business also is a member of other dealer programs. “I’m involved in all of them: Michelin (Alliance), Goodyear (Tire & Service Network), Bridgestone Firestone (Affiliated Retailer Nationwide Network), Pirelli (FasTrack), Falken (Fanatic), Toyo (Driven), Kumho (Premium Fuel), Cooper (Medallion), Hankook (One) and Yokohama (Advantage). Like Continental, they give you incentives, all the tools you need to help you sell.
“I always give a customer a choice: A, B or C. You take your choice. You want something good, you want something in the middle, you want something OK, it’s your call. I know what I have on my car. It’s the best tire money can buy. If your family’s in the car, you have to have the best tire on there.”
New plant, new tire
Bill Caldwell, Continental’s vice president of sales and marketing, told attendees the opening of the one million-square-foot Sumter plant gives the company more options in North America. “In 2013, we really turned the corner in terms of being able to supply at a level that we expect to, although we still want to improve in that area,” he said. “We want to make products here, where we sell them.”
The new plant is on pace to produce close to 1 million tires this year. That includes the new Continental TrueContact, an all-season performance touring tire, and the year-old General Altimax RT43.
The TrueContact is an asymmetric tire designed for standard touring vehicles, small CUVs and mini-vans, according to Continental’s product manager, Joe Maher. It features the company’s proprietary performance indicators (for dry, wet and snow traction) on the tread and the EcoPlus logo on the sidewall.
The tire is available in 31 sizes ranging from 185/65R15 88T to 235/55R19 101 H. The T- and H-rated sizes are backed by a 90,000-mile limited tread wear warranty. The one V-rated size, 215/45R17 87V, is backed by an 80,000-mile warranty.
When the first phase of the plant’s construction is completed by the end of 2017, it will be able to produce 12,600 tires a day. By the end of 2021, the facility will have the capacity to produce nearly 22,000 tires a day, or close to 8 million tires annually.
“Now we’re ready to grow,” said Caldwell. “We’ve gotten through the challenge of getting capacity on board in order to get sufficient supply to service customers in the right way. We’ve been working on the product portfolio... and it’s in a really good place right now.
“Us growing is about you growing, and us growing is about you valuing us some more so that you buy more of our tires.”
Plenty of enhancements have been added to the Gold program for 2014. According to Chris Jenkins, national programs manager, they are designed “to put more money in your pocket.”
1. Marketing line rewards. Continental increased the Gold Reward on its most popular Continental and General lines. For the Continental CrossContact LX20, ExtremeContact DWS, ExtremeContact DW, ProContact EcoPlus, PureContact and the new TrueContact, the reward was raised to $7 a tire; last year, it ranged from $4 to $6.
For the General G-Max AS-03, Grabber, Grabber AT and Grabber HTS, the reward was increased to $5; in 2013, it ranged from $2 to $4 a tire.
All dealers continue to be eligible for volume bonuses, which are paid quarterly.
2. ContiLink. Gold dealers now have complete access to all Continental programs through ContiLink, including Engage 360, the company’s online training program; RPM (for Real Performance Motivation), a rewards program that awards points for tire sales; and the improved Gold Calculator.
3. Dealer locator. Continental has added a function to its dealer locator tool: turn-by-turn directions from the consumer’s location to the dealership, via Google Maps.
The nine-year-old retailer program was “infused” with more than $5 million this year, added Jenkins.
Associate dealer programs, like the Continental Gold Program, are created by tire manufacturers. In turn, they are offered to independent retailers either by the manufacturers or through wholesale distributors. American Tire Distributors Inc., for example, offers nine programs covering 16 brands.
Here is an alphabetical list of the other associate dealer programs, plus the enhancements made to them in 2014.
Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC
Program name: Bridgestone Affiliated Retailer Nationwide Network.
What a dealer needs to do to join: A retail dealer must be nominated for participation in the program by a Bridgestone consumer sales team member. The retail dealer must possess a good retail image, meet Bridgestone’s minimum purchase requirements and agree to implement a representative merchandising plan.
2014 upgrades: Bridgestone has added a capital financing program for equipment and retail showroom upgrade needs through its new “Preferred Partner” Curtis Funding. The company also plans to launch a certified tire recycling program for network members in the fall of 2014.
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
Program name: Medallion (Cooper), Century (Mastercraft).
What a dealer needs to do to join: N/A.
2014 upgrades: Associate dealers who are part of these programs are supported by Cooper in many ways, including marketing insights and assistance, product education, and other tools and techniques to help build their businesses.
Falken Tire Corp.
Program name: Fanatic.
What a dealer needs to do to join: Independent retailers and car dealers can join by placing an order for as few as 24 Falken tires with any Fanatic distributor.
2014 upgrades: Dealers can view their marketing points balance and place orders online via the Dealer Dashboard; redeem marketing points for Falken tires; earn Azenis Express Shipping privileges if they achieve “Fan” status (or better); and enjoy reduced pricing on Web services from Net Driven, Fanatic’s newest strategic partner.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Program name: Tire & Service Network.
What a dealer needs to do to join: 1) Commit to an annual purchase volume; 2) commit to an advertising program (one of three levels); 3) submit sell-out data; 4) honor the network’s nationwide warranty claims (road hazard and service warranties); 5) adhere to the Motorist Assurance Program (MAP) inspections and communication standards; 6) employ a minimum of one ASE-certified technician and one “Tire Expert” per location; 7) support the National Promotional Program; 8) process national account deliveries; 9) display TSN point-of-sale materials; and 10) submit to a periodic facility review.
2014 upgrades: New elements are dealer websites; exclusive towing and database marketing programs; an improved targeted print advertising program; and special pricing on in-store merchandising tools.
Hankook Tire America Corp.
Program name: One.
What a dealer needs to do to join: a signed enrollment form with a 24-unit opening order invoice.
2014 upgrades: Hankook has added identification for each level. Its quarterly minimum units have increased to 60 units per quarter and 240 units per year. Two premium lines were added — the K120 replaced the K110 and the H457 was added as a premium line reward. Marketing kits for Level 3 and Level 4 dealers were upgraded.
Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc.
Program name: Premium Fuel.
What a dealer needs to do to join: Dealers can reach out to their distributors or Kumho Tire directly to join the program. Final approval will be determined by Kumho. A 12-unit opening order of eligible tires is required for enrollment.
2014 upgrades: The Kumho Tire Dealer Portal is available to dealers. Live sales tracking also is available for dealers enrolled under a distributor that has EDI capability. New marketing resources include logos, tire images and rebate information; in addition, point-of-purchase and point-of-sale materials were upgraded. Kumho created the Edge comprehensive training program.
Program names: Alliance and Open Market.
What a dealer needs to do to join: Alliance associate dealers have to sign an annual agreement at one of four Bib Levels tailored to meet individual dealer needs. The minimum unit commitment is 500 Michelin and/or BFGoodrich tires for Bib 1. Dealers must be at least 60% retail.
2014 upgrades: In March, Michelin launched the Open Market Associate Program, which serves those dealers who currently sell Michelin and BFGoodrich tires but need additional support to build volume and eventually become Alliance associate dealers. Open Market associates enjoy electronic agreements and eStatements; quarterly cash payments; and access to Michelin Learning Institute training. The minimum purchase quantity is 100 Michelin and/or BFGoodrich tires per point of sale annually.
Pirelli Tire LLC
Program name: FasTrack.
What a dealer needs to do to join: Only tire retailers can join. There is no other requirement. Rewards start with purchases of 75 Pirelli tires per quarter. Applying tire retailers need to be approved for FasTrack through an enrollment process before starting the program. Only purchases from Authorized FasTrack Distributors are included in FasTrack totals.
2014 upgrades: The FasTrack Secondary Supplier option has been added with Secondary Supplier purchases counting for rate. National Account Deliveries (car dealer deliveries) count for rate. More FasTrack promotions are planned for 2014 compared to 2013. There are also more rewards.
Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.
Program name: Driven.
What a dealer needs to do to join: Dealers interested in joining the Driven program should contact their local Toyo distributor or Toyo regional sales manager. The enrollment process includes an online application and a minimum purchase once the application is approved. Once enrolled, Driven dealers can track their purchases and payouts through the Driven website, which is Driven.ToyoTires.com.
2014 upgrades: Toyo has significantly increased its payouts since the fourth quarter of 2013 — the payout to associate dealers has doubled for the majority of Toyo’s tires in the program. The company also is improving its reporting and making major enhancements to its product training this year.
Yokohama Tire Corp.
Program names: Advantage and Advantage Commercial.
What a dealer needs to do to join: The program is open to full-service retail dealers in the U.S. with a store front. To join, dealers need to complete an enrollment form and satisfy the opening order requirement.
2014 upgrades: Yokohama is going to unveil a new phase of Advantage Online soon. This new tool will help distributors and associate dealers maximize their earnings potential by monitoring program progress. Also for 2014, Advantage Commercial introduced new reward payout values for cash and travel, making the dealer’s earning potential bigger than ever.
Read the entire May 2014 issue of Modern Tire Dealer by clicking on our digital version here!
Related Topics: Associate dealer programs, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, Continental Tire the Americas LLC, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., Falken Tire Corp., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Hankook Tire America Corp., Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc., Michelin North America Inc., Pirelli Tire North America, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp., Yokohama Tire Corp.
Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.