Kenda is relying on research and development
Kenda USA held its inaugural dealer and distributor meeting three days before the 2014 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas. Two of the highlights were the introduction of the Kenda Klever S/T and the rollout of the company’s new associate dealer program, Kenda Traction.
“With your help, with your support, we’re moving towards our goal to have a substantial market share in the U.S. market,” said Jimmy Yang, president of American Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd., which does business as Kenda USA. “I have always said the goal for Kenda in this market is to have a 5% market share, which is 10 million tires a year. And guess what? We’re getting there.”
Yang said the key is to differentiate the Kenda brand from its competitors and position it as a brand with “substantial value.” To do that, Kenda will concentrate on building brand equity, beefing up its engineering capabilities and enhancing dealer loyalty.
Yang said Tom Williams, Kenda’s new vice president of engineering, is tasked with enhancing existing technical centers in Yuan Lin, Taiwan, and Kunshan, China, and developing technical centers in Akron, Ohio, and Europe.
Kenda also eventually will target original equipment fitments. “We hope that… one day before long, you’ll see Kenda tires on a Honda or other vehicles,” said Yang. “They could be on the Lexus, could be on the BMW, could be on the Mercedes.
“Not Ferrari!” he added.
The Klever S/T (K52) is a touring tire designed for SUVs and crossover vehicles in North America. It is the long-term replacement for the KR15.
The tire will initially be available in six sizes, which will be introduced “very early” in 2015, according to Dan Shavers, chief engineer. Approximately 20 sizes will be released later in the year.
Compared to the KR15, the Klever S/T has improved snow traction thanks to a new tread compound. The tire also features an asymmetric tread pattern that effectively balances inside and outside tire performance; a five-pitch tread pattern sequence optimally designed to reduce tire noise; and strong outside shoulder blocks that enhance handling and cornering capabilities. It also has a greater number of sipes and increased lateral groove densities for “good” all-season traction, and four large circumferential grooves that help improve hydroplaning resistance and wet traction.
Kenda will back the tire with a limited tread wear warranty, which Shavers said has yet to be determined.
Shavers teased the attendees about Kenda’s future plans, which include two new tire product lines that will be designed in the U.S. and available in early 2016.
“The first is an ultra-high performance all-season tire designed specifically for sport sedans and coupes. It will initially be released in 20 sizes. The target is to take orders at (the SEMA Show) next year.” Shavers said the tire’s design parameters are broad: excellent dry and wet steering, handling and braking performance; great hydroplaning performance; good ride and noise performance; good snow traction and handling capabilities in light snow conditions; and good tread wear.
“The next product is our light truck highway tire line. This tire line is targeted for light trucks, SUVs, and commercial vehicles primarily for highway use. This will be a long-term replacement for our existing KR5 product.
Tentatively named the Klever H/T, the tire eventually will replace the Klever A/P. “It will originally be released in 12 LT sizes and 14 SKUs. Again, our target is... for you to be able to take orders at this time next year.”
The company also rolled out its Kenda Traction associate dealer program.
The incentive program is designed to reward Kenda’s dealers and distributors for purchases of at least 125 tires a quarter.
Dealers must register each location as a separate account, while distributors will be required to approve the addition of each of their dealers to the program. Cash payouts will be distributed each quarter through the Kenda reloadable debit card, good for Kenda branded merchandise
Sign-ups for Kenda Traction began Dec. 1, 2014. The program will start Jan. 1, 2015. ■