Continental Gold standard
Continental Tire the Americas LLC executives recognize the important role independent tire dealers play in the sale of their tires to the consumer.
“They occupy the critical mass in the market,” Bill Caldwell, vice president of sales and marketing, told MTD during the company’s recently completed annual Gold Dealer Trip. “These are the guys who are our best partners.”
“Dealers are an avenue of growth for us,” said Travis Roffler, director of marketing. “If we show our programs to them, they respond.”
Caldwell said, “The vast majority of our Gold Dealers are invested in both of our brands. The exact mix varies by dealer depending on where they are located and the car parc.”
Because of that, Continental continues to increase the size of its sale force which works with its Gold Dealers along with improving the program. Currently, the company has about 54 field salespeople calling on accounts, along with 17 Gold Coordinators who “are 100% dedicated to working with our Gold Dealers,” says Jim Sicking, director of Continental’s dealer group.
The Gold Coordinators help dealers with point-of-sale materials, product training and other hands-on functions that Sicking believes helps dealers sell more product. “Dealers have told us that we are sending them a resource that nobody else is doing.”
Now in its 10th year, the Continental Gold associate dealer program continues to have features added to it. A Continental automotive credit card for Gold Dealers and the company’s “Total Confidence Plan” were announced during the trip held for dealers who achieved elite status.
National Programs Manager Chris Jenkins said the credit card is designed to help dealers generate more repeat sales. The card allows dealers to have their company name imprinted on it to remind consumers where they received the card. Car Care One is administering the credit card program.
For the first time, Gold Dealers will have flat tire roadside assistance as part of their sales package. Jenkins told dealers this new addition has been woven into a “Total Confidence Plan” that the company plans to promote to consumers.
The Total Confidence Plan consists of:
* Three-year complimentary flat change or towing up to 150 miles at no charge;
* Continental’s 60-day customer satisfaction trial;
* Limited product warranty and a mileage warranty;
* Road hazard coverage.
In addition to the new program features, Continental highlighted four new products. Joe Maher, product manager, told dealers that the new ExtremeContact DWS06 is replacing its ExtremeContact. The new UHP all-season tire is built for sports cars, luxury sport cars and luxury sport crossovers. The ExtremeContact DWS06 comes in 87 sizes from 16- to 22-inch wheel diameters with a W or Y speed rating. The company also has introduced its WinterContact SI and its General Grabber Arctic LT, both of which will be available for the upcoming winter tire season. These tires were featured in our March issue and more information about them can be found at www.moderntiredealer.com.
Maher also announced that a new General Grabber HTS60 for light truck applications will be introduced this fall. It will replace the Grabber HTS. Maher told dealers the tire will come in 50 metric and 12 light truck sizes and is designed to show significant improvement in wear while keeping similar dry, wet, snow and comfort parameters compared to the Grabber HTS.
Caldwell told MTD that 304 Gold dealers achieved elite status and in total, Gold dealer program tire sales grew 18% compared to industry growth of just 5%. He pointed out that the company increased its fill rate to 80% during the second half of 2014, a number that he said is “best-in-class.” His goal is to “squeeze 5% more” into this total in 2015, not an easy feat considering the company has over 1,800 SKUs in its line-up.
Continental currently supplies one in three OE tire fitments in Europe and one in six in North America. Caldwell said while the company wants to continue to grow at OE, it needs to do so responsibly so as to not interrupt its replacement business. Further, Caldwell said they are now being sourced at OE for upscale and luxury fitments, whereas 10 years ago, they were base fitments for vehicles.
Roffler said the company has invested heavily in NCAA basketball this year, including the sponsorship of the Big Ten tournament. Continental sponsored 21 different NCAA college basketball programs. “We made a commitment to a multi-million dollar, multi-year investment in college basketball.” Roffler said the company will only invest in programs where they will be the only tire sponsor.
Roffler says the company likes the college basketball sponsorships since the demographics match up against their target audience very well, which is 34- to 54-year-old males with household income of $75,000 and above and who own three or more cars.
The company is continuing its soccer and racing sponsorship and advertising programs for both the Continental and General brands this year, said Roffler.
Continental has developed a new website that is designed to help consumers find a tire and then direct them to “your store,” he told dealers. Roffler said the site does not have anything to do with retailing tires directly to the consumer. He noted that the site is very mobile friendly, reflecting the high amount of consumers (83%, according to Roffler) who use a mobile device when shopping.
The 2016 Continental Gold Dealer trip will be held at the Hard Rock Hotel in Cancun, Mexico, April 11-15. ■
100 years go fast!
To celebrate General Tire’s 100 anniversary, the company produced a retro-look calendar for 2015. Each month has a modern-day design interpretation taken from actual company advertisements from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
Gold Dealers were asked to vote on the illustration they liked the most. The company then held a drawing of those dealers who voted for the winning month. The winner received an exclusive screening of the Fast & Furious 7 movie for 250 people — all expenses paid. Kevin Wachter of East Penn Tire in Bethlehem, Pa., won the drawing.