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In the driver's seat: You call the shots when selling high performance and ultra-high performance tires

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In the driver's seat: You call the shots when selling high performance and ultra-high performance tires

Forward-thinking tire dealers constantly evaluate and re-evaluate their product line-ups. Nowhere does this approach make more sense than in the ever-changing high performance tire segment, which also includes ultra-high performance tires.

A significant number of you took a proactive approach to selling high performance tires in 2004. Thirty-seven-percent of the dealers who responded to Modern Tire Dealer's 2004 Performance Tire and Custom Wheel Survey added or dropped a high performance brand last year. Sixteen percent of the respondents plan to alter their high performance brand menu during 2005.

Your input into the high performance tire purchase cannot be understated: 74% of high performance tire buyers are influenced by their retail tire dealer. Here's how that breaks out:

* 41% do not specify what brand they want, according to survey respondents.

* 33% come into the store with a specific brand in mind but are more than happy to let dealers help them make another choice.

And there are plenty of choices, as evidenced by the number of tire companies that displayed new high and ultra-high performance tires at the 2004 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show last November.

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Dub sizing, more or less

Major brand tire manufacturers are introducing more 20-inch (nicknamed "Dub") sizes. Private brand tire marketers such as SURE Tire Co., Treadways Corp. and Vogue Tyre and Rubber Co. are following suit.

Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC (BFNT) added the Fuzion HRi to its Fuzion tuner tire brand, which was introduced at the 2003 SEMA Show. The HRi will be available in March in 24 H-rated sizes ranging from 14 to 17 inches in diameter. BFNT's first Fuzion offering, the ZRi, also will receive four new sizes. BFNT says it plans to double its Fuzion advertising this year.

Falken Tire Corp.'s new Azenis RT-615 is "pure sport" for drivers who are interested in both performance and image, according to Richard Smallwood, Falken vice president of sales and marketing. "Price is not a consideration in this category," he says. The Azenis RT-615 is available in 14- to 18-inch sizes.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is addressing the ultra-high performance segment with two new Dunlop tires. The Dunlop SP Sport Maxx is designed for luxury sports cars and is available in 26 sizes from 16 to 22 inches. "We focused our research and development efforts on dry handling capabilities," says Warren Croyle, marketing manager for Dunlop consumer tires. The Dunlop Direzza DZ101 targets the tuner market and comes in 12 sizes. It complements Dunlop's other tuner product, the SP Sport FM901.

Hankook Tire America Corp.'s new Ventus V4ES ultra-high performance tire ranges from 16 to 20 inches in size. The W-rated tire "gets twice the winter performance of a typical summer ultra-high performance tire," say Hankook officials. Hankook also rolled out its Ventus S1 Evo ultra-high performance tire. The Y-rated tire comes in 11 sizes and fits 17- to 22-inch wheels.

Kenda USA introduced its H- and T-rated Kenetica passenger radial for the United States market. Additional lines will be added incrementally and extended into Canada. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. distributes, markets and sells Kenda radial passenger tires in North America. In December 2003, Cooper and Kenda USA's parent company, Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd., formed a joint venture to build radial passenger and light truck tires in China.

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Maxxis International - USA's MA-Z1 Victra ultra-high performance tire contains a directional tread design and a rim guard to protect wheels from scrapes. It will be available in three 20-inch, Z-rated sizes: 285/30R20, 245/35R20 and 255/35/R20. "There are plans to make some of the smaller 20-inch tuner stuff," says Brad Williams, Maxxis senior salesman.

Nitto Tire North America Inc. introduced its Neo Gen for sport compact enthusiasts. Featuring a silica-reinforced tread compound, the UHP tire has an asymmetrical, non-directional tread pattern. Its lineup will include 16- through 19-inch sizes.

SURE Tire added a tuner tire to its Essenza line. The Essenza 210 Type S/T is available in three H-rated sizes: 285/60R18, 275/55R20 XL and 285/50R20 XL. SURE Tire is investing millions of dollars in new molds "to meet current and future market needs," says SURE Tire President Pat McLaughlin. "Proliferation is a huge problem. It's also an opportunity for us in the custom brand business."

Treadways Corp. has added the Zenith tuner tire to its Powerline product screen. The S-, H- and V-rated Zenith will be available during the second half of the year in 25 sizes, ranging from 17 to 24 inches.

The new Vredestein Wintrac Xtreme ultra-high performance tire is V- and W-rated. It comes in 13 sizes, ranging from 16 to 18 inches. The tire is engineered for low noise levels and boasts a directional tread. Also new from Vredestein Tires North America is the Sportrac W high performance tire, which comes in 12 sizes and offers extra grip on wet roads, plus low rolling resistance.

Mounting and balancing high performance tires will continue to be profit centers for enterprising dealers. Sixty-four percent of survey respondents report that they charge more to mount and balance performance tires than broad-line tires.

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