When Continental announced it was going to build a consumer tire plant in Sumter, S.C., Continental and General tire dealers couldn’t wait for the facility to be up and running. That was in 2011, when the company’s fill rates were, by all accounts, too low.
“Customers told us, ‘We could sell more Conti and General tires if you could produce them,” said Nikolai Setzer, a member of Continental AG’s executive board and head of Continental’s global tire business.
Fill rates have improved since then. And they are about to get even better.
Many of its most loyal dealers were on hand recently when Continental Tire the Americas LLC officially opened the facility. The plant, which began production three months ahead of schedule, is expected to go to a 24/7 schedule this month.
It will produce some 800,000 tires this year, including the new ContiTrueContact, and 4.6 million tires a year by the end of 2017. The more than $500 million plant will be able to produce 8 million tires annually by the end of 2021.
“Our vision is to be the flagship facility within Continental’s global manufacturing network,” said Plant Manager Craig Baartman. The facility will manufacture Continental and General passenger, light truck and SUV tires (no private brands) ranging from 15 inches to 18 inches in diameter. They will be targeted for the replacement market for at least a year.
“You need to be in operation for a year before you can entertain OE systems,” said Baartman.
Despite a severe winter weather advisory for South Carolina that kept some dealers away, many big name tire dealers attended the grand opening.
“These men are valued business partners,” said Jochen Etzel, CEO of Continental Tire the Americas LLC. “This is a great day for our customers,” added Setzer.
Who was in attendance? Some heavy hitters from the retail and wholesale side:
1. Cassidy Tire & Service, Chicago.
2. Black’s Tire Service Inc., Whiteville, N.C.
3. Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack, Philadelphia.
4. Palmetto Tire & Auto, Sumter.
5. American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD), Huntersville, N.C.
6. Terry’s Tire Town Holdings Inc., Alliance, Ohio.
7. Jack Williams Tire Co. Inc., Scranton, Pa.
Those companies sent top executives to represent them: Will Tolerton, CEO of Terry’s Tire Town; Scott Williams, president of Jack Williams Tire; Dan Seitler, senior vice president of procurement for ATD; Jeremy Benton, vice president of commercial sales and operations for Black’s Tire; and Philip Marlowe, owner of Palmetto Tire, to name a few.
In addition, Len Lewin, CEO and president of American Car Care Centers Inc. (ACCC), was on hand. Prior to its recent decision to disband, ACCC was a strong supporter of both the Continental and General brands. Lewin also had served on Continental Tire’s advisory board. ■