Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is working to make its brand known in China, and its latest venture is a set of retail stores developed in partnership with existing tire dealers. The fourth Cooper Superfeel Center opened in July, and two more are to open by the end of 2015.
The company is counting on China becoming the world's largest tire market by 2017. These centers are between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet and feature interactive displays and large video screens. The stores sell passenger and SUV tires and also offer other tire-related services like alignment, balancing and tire repairs.
Cooper declined to explain the details of its arrangements with tire dealers in China, but did say its dealer partners "do offer other retail store options." And, so far, Cooper has partnered with a different tire dealer in each market it has entered.
"Dealers are selected by the team in Asia based on dealer interest, location and commitment to the concept. We normally work with the tire retail leader in the chosen market," the company says.
Centers now are open in Shanghai, Shandong, Beijing and Chengdu. Stores are planned for Inner Mongolia and Baoding.
“The Cooper brand has been in China for more than nine years and the tire business there is quite unlike the United States," says Brad Hughes, chief operating officer for Cooper. "It’s a highly fragmented business with no major distribution channels or household retail names. The nature of the market and the explosive growth in vehicle ownership in China provide an opportunity for Cooper to team with dealers to build upon our already respected brand in the region with a new retail tire sales and service experience that is an enhancement over what exists today.
"We’ve invested in the Cooper Superfeel Center concept to stand out in the marketplace and gain acceptance for our brand among consumers, many of whom are buying their first cars. The Cooper Superfeel Center gives us a way to further embed our brand in China, and it is among a set of initiatives in our overall Asia growth strategy, which calls for significantly expanding our presence in China through widening distribution, and continued penetration of the original equipment (OE) market.
"The quality of our products, many developed at Cooper's Asia Technical Center in Kunshan and produced in China, have earned Cooper entry into several OE accounts in Asia. Now, with the Cooper Superfeel Centers, we are also earning our way into the consumer market by partnering with dealers to present a distinctive shopping experience coupled with outstanding service."