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May 27, 2014

Tire manufacturers' associate dealer programs

Continental's elite retailers go for the Gold, plus other programs

by Bob Ulrich - Also by this author

Mario Crociata, co-owner of Whitey’s Tire Service in Brooklyn, N.Y., appreciates that the company’s new plant in Sumter, S.C., is producing tires in the U.S. He is pictured with the new Continental TrueContact.

Mario Crociata, co-owner of Whitey’s Tire Service in Brooklyn, N.Y., appreciates that the company’s

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.”

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