At a press conference last year during the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show, Triangle Group executives talked about plans for the U.S. market. Since that time, the company has opened a wholly-owned subsidiary in the U.S. and brought in Manny Cicero as its CEO.
The company also has celebrated its 40th anniversary in Shanghai, China, in April, with a day-long conference. The Weihai City-based company hosted around 500 people. The attendees included Chinese government officials, employees from around the world, suppliers, customers and, yes, Modern Tire Dealer.
Triangle Group Chairman Yuhua Ding shared his vision with guests. He referred to Albert Einstein and his belief that “science and technology are the driving forces of society.” Ding said the company is focused on the improvement of its U.S. research and development center in Akron, Ohio, and will use this model in other parts of the world.
Ding said the company hopes to be producing 30 million units per year in five years, up from 25 million per year at the present time.
Ding ended his remarks by stating the company wants to accelerate its globalization, but in doing so, he says the “global team must adhere to integrity and culture. Hard work and diligence is the road to success.”
Product leadership, manufacturing excellence, and the Triangle brand will drive the company’s success and globalization, according to Triangle CEO Pierre Cohade.“Our focus on product leadership is anchored on true research and development testing facilities, one in Weihai City, one in Akron, Ohio, and very soon we will announce a third facility in Europe,” he told attendees.
“We invest every year 5% of revenues in developing our own technology and our own expertise using the most advanced testing equipment. The expertise we have developed is the reason Triangle does only one thing. We love tires, we only do tires, and we do all tires.”
He also offered a glimpse into Triangle’s plans for products in 2016, including the introduction of aviation tires and the reintroduction of a line of radial farm tires. A total of 151 Triangle products will be launched in 2016.
“We continue to innovate in jumbo OTR, we just manufactured our first 63-inch tire, the world’s largest tire (53/80R63). We continue to innovate in OTR radial, we continue to improve the OTR bias, but we never forget our roots in TBR and PCR,” he said.
An opportunity in the U.S.
The conference gave Triangle a platform for celebrating its heritage and its initiatives to transform from a Chinese-focused company to a large player in the global tire industry.
And the U.S. market is one that the company intends to pursue. Manny Cicero, new CEO of Triangle Tire USA, was the only speaker from Triangle who was not based in China.
Cicero used his speech to explain branding in the U.S. “Brands can make people pay more for even a commodity,” he said. “But it starts with a relationship we’ve established over the years. This will allow our (dealer) customers to help promote our brand.” Cicero said Triangle’s great opportunity is “to build a brand in America that is clearly focused on the independent tire dealer.” Cicero shared highlights of Triangle’s five-year marketing strategy with attendees.
“So many companies have entered the U.S. on price and price alone that most dealers see it now as a given. That’s what they expect, especially from a Chinese tire company. Triangle cannot succeed long term with such tactics,” Cicero said.
The next two years will be devoted to “pushing” the product and brand through America’s best dealers, according to Cicero. The third year will see the start of a “pull” strategy to focus on the purchase, ownership and repurchase experience.
Cicero said the brand push activities are designed to “meaningfully reward those key distribution partners willing to get in on this unique ground floor opportunity. Once distribution is in place we’ll shift to brand pull activities to bring more customers to our customers’ door. Finally, we’ll continue to refine our marketing efforts and lift the Triangle brand to increase brand awareness and brand preference and to make Triangle a strong and sustainable tire brand in the U.S. market.”
While emphasizing the need to work in partnership with dealers, Cicero stated that Triangle has growth opportunities, with some of those coming about due to the fact that major tire companies are “competing against” their customers.
“I think we have an extraordinary opportunity before us in America. The major tire companies are growing through controlling their distribution channels, not partnering with them. They’re not just supplying their customers, they are actually competing against them. Triangle could be the new brand, the new alternative the independent tire dealer can turn to for partnership and profits,” he said.
Cicero told MTD, “We are looking for dealers interested in getting in on the ground floor with a global brand that is making a strong commitment to the U.S. market. We want dealers who want to build the brand with us, to grow with us, not just a one-time acquisition situation based on price.”
The company plans to have warehousing available for the second half of the year, but for now, Cicero says they are selling container loads. “But this will change when we get our warehouse up and running.”
When asked directly about how Triangle will determine whether its sales in 2016 were successful, Cicero responded, “For year one, more than a quantifiable number, we are trying to change the direction of Triangle Tire in the U.S. from strictly container loads to building long-term relationships with dealers and commercial end users. So, we may actually be taking a step back in 2016 with an eye on a more strategic path for the future.”Tech center in the U.S.
A month before the anniversary celebration in Shanghai, Cicero introduced his sales and marketing team at a media event at the company’s technical center, A3T LLC, in Akron, Ohio. Cicero’s team consists of Mary Ma, director of marketing; Angelia Wyatt, customer service manager; Sid Parr, director of commercial tire sales; and Tunney Vandevender, manager of consumer tire sales. Cicero plans to add sales and marketing professionals, as well as people to fill operations, finance, engineering and warehousing functions. He expects the team to grow to 20 employees.
A3T is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Triangle Tyre Co. It is staffed by eight engineers who conduct research and development on tire technologies, tire manufacturing processes, rubber processing, testing, tire design, and rubber and materials compounding. Ed Montgomery is the general manager of the technical center, which was established in August 2011. A3T serves the North American market and also supports global product development for Triangle. ■