What does the iconic Pirelli P7, Red Bull and Joey Tribbiani have in common? Their paths crossed at the 2012 Pirelli Dealer Meeting in Austin, Texas, Nov. 16-18.
On Nov. 17, Pirelli Tire North America Inc. (PTNA) introduced its Cinturato P7 All Season Plus to its dealers near the new Circuit of the Americas track in Austin. (Modern Tire Dealer attended the grand opening of the track in October. To check out photos from the event, click here.)
One day later, the dealers were treated to the 2012 United States Grand Prix Formula One race at the new track -- and Pirelli is the spec tire for F1.
Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel, on the verge of winning his third consecutive F1 championship, finished second to increase his points lead with one race to go. His closest pursuer, Ferrari SpA's Fernando Alonso, finished third; both racers lost to McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton.
The Cinturato P7 All Season Plus was designed for the U.S. replacement market (the original equipment version does not have the "Plus" nomenclature). As PTNA Chairman, CEO and President Pauo Ferrari said during the track's dedication, "We know how important it is to make (premium) products for each market."
The P7 All Season Plus will be produced at the company's new Mexican tire plant in Silao, Guanajuato. Pirelli told its U.S. dealers -- Randy Groh, vice president of product marketing for U.S. AutoForce, among them -- that prior to the plant's opening, only 6% of their needs came from North American production. When the new plant is up-to-speed, that will increase to 53%.
With more upscale vehicle models such as BMW, Audi and Mercedes coming to the U.S. fitted with Pirelli tires, company executives believe the increase in supply will be very important to satisfying fill rates.
Pirelli also told its dealers that it will ramp up social and digital media.
And Joey Tribbiani? Matt LeBlanc, who played Tribbiani on "Friends" and is currently starring in "Episodes" on Showtime, was a guest in Pirelli's suite during the race. So was Chip Foose, the star of the reality series "Overhaulin'' on Velocity, and Ken Brock, Monster World Rally driver.
The real star, however, was the Pirelli brand.