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Tires as a lifestyle choice

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Tires as a lifestyle choice

Buying tires has never been a lifestyle purchase for the American consumer. G.S. Sareen hopes to change that.

Sareen’s company, Omni United (S) Pte. Ltd., which sells Radar passenger, SUV and light truck tires in the United States, has partnered with Timberland LLC, the famous American footwear company, to create Timberland tires.

If he has his way, one day people will feel as comfortable buying a Radar Timberland tire as they are putting on a pair of Timberland boots.

The co-branded line is “the first tire brand developed in partnership with a leading global lifestyle brand, positioned at the premium end of the market,” according to Sareen.

“Vehicle owners will now have a choice of a tire brand that mirrors their values for quality, value, performance, durability, style and sustainability.”

Upper tier tire

The first Timberland tire will be the Timberland Cross, a premium broad market tire designed for crossover utility vehicles like the Ford Escape, Acura MDX, Honda CR-V, Chevy Equinox and Toyota RAV4. The first 21 sizes, ranging from 225/75R16 104T to 275/55R20 117T, will be available to dealers in April 2015. Another 14 T- and H-rated sizes will added in September.

On the heels of the Timberland Cross launch, Omni United will introduce the Timberland A/T line in 30 P-metric and LT sizes.

“The Timberland Cross will be marketed as an upper tier tire, probably positioned at the bottom of Tier One or at the top of Tier Two depending on the different sizes,” says Sareen.

“Is there room for another brand in an already crowded market? We think there is. It all depends how we differentiate it.

“The brand recall of a tire brand to consumers is still pretty low,” he says. “The brand recall for a fashion brand is much higher. That’s our logic.

“Let’s say somebody walks into a store to buy a tire, where many brands and all kinds of tires are on display, but most of them are not particularly well known to the average consumer. Among them is a brand that he or she knows. In this case, it’s Timberland.

“The brand recall of what I call a fashion brand like Timberland is 82%. It comes with a tremendous amount of equity, much more than most tire brands.”

Sareen claims extending a well-known lifestyle brand to the tire category has never been done before, but it has been successful in other categories. Take eye wear, for example.

“During the past 30 years, the perception of eyeglasses has changed from being purely functional objects to becoming key fashion accessories,” he says. “As ‘shoes for your car,’ Timberland tires are the first lifestyle fashion brand in the tire category.”

John Soule, vice president of global marketing and licensed brands for Omni United USA, says the brand should be relevant to a target consumer group that previously felt no connection to the category.

“Our target for the Timberland line is what we call ‘outdoor life stylers.’ Timberland as a brand has a very strong equity and following, and we believe it will inspire tire consumers.”

Environmentally friendly

The Timberland tire was designed with style, safety, performance and sustainability in mind.

“When the tread wears out, the tires live on because they are recycled into the soles of new Timberland shoes,” says Sareen.

“This is an example of our commitment to running a corporation responsibly and growing our company in a sustainable way. As a leading global tire company with distribution in more than 80 countries and production facilities in Asia and the U.S., the supply chain and distribution network are a crucial part of our environmental responsibilities.

“Our Radar tire line was certified carbon-neutral last year, after we identified areas where greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and how we can offset our carbon footprint.

“That’s a good first step,” says Sareen.

“Our aim is to become the first tire company to have all of our products recycled at the end of their lifespan, and Timberland tires are an example of that commitment.”

From cradle to grave

Timberland says its mission is to “equip people to make a difference in their world. We do this by creating outstanding products and by trying to make a difference in the communities where we live and work.”

Sareen wants exactly the same thing. “Timberland tires are the result of a partnership between two companies with shared values,” he says. “Omni United is a forward-thinking, socially-responsible tire designer and manufacturer with a commitment to a sustainable future and giving back to society.

“Our commitment to quality, delivery efficiencies and market knowledge has resulted in dynamic growth. Our flagship Radar tire brand was certified carbon neutral in 2013.

“Our aim is to be the first tire company to have all of our products recycled at the end of their lifespan.”

Sareen says there is at least one more step to close the loop in the company’s cradle-to-grave mentality: owning its own tire plantation.

“Growing our own rubber, which is harvested sustainably on our own plantations, will eventually be the last step, and we’re working toward that. We’re currently in discussions to acquire land in Indonesia.”   ■

Made in America

Omni United (S) Pte. Ltd. has its private brand tires produced in five countries, including China, Thailand, Indonesia and India.

The new Radar Timberland tire will be produced in the United States by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. Sareen says engineers from Cooper, Omni United and Timberland were involved in the design of the product.

“The tire was designed to be used for certain other things at the end of its shelf life,” says CEO G.S. Sareen. “For example, recycled crumb rubber will be used in the soles of Timberland shoes, which have certain requirements for traction, durability and comfort.”

Sareen’s ultimate goal — and he is working on it — is to recycle 100% of the tire once it is taken out of service.

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