SEMA Show, Day Three: Pace, Gori say Pirelli will stay the course

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Will Pirelli Tire North America Inc. (PTNA) hold its present course or change directions now that a new CEO is at the helm? Here's a hint: Pirelli has had double-digit sales growth each of the last five years.

"I think the focus is very similar to what it has been," says CEO and President Hugh Pace. "We will try to build on our strengths and eliminate our weaknesses."

According to Pace, Pirelli will continue its emphasis on high, ultra-high, SUV and light truck tires domestically. Original equipment fitments, including three for the 2009 model year Chevrolet Camaro, also will be a priority.

Pirelli is not entertaining the addition of another brand to its offerings, says Pace. "We are a single brand marketer." The Pirelli brand will ride solo until its sales have been maximized.

Part of Pirelli's guiding principle is selling through the independent tire dealer channel, he says. "We don't sell to mass merchandisers."

Francesco Gori, CEO of PTNA's parent company, Pirelli Tyre SpA, says PTNA is getting close to $500 million in sales, as he projected five years ago. The next step is $1 billion in sales, which can be achieved by "continuing and maintaining" its approach to the U.S. market.

To support such growth, the addition of a fifth module at PTNA's MIRS (Modular Integrated Robotized System) consumer tire manufacturing plant in Rome, Ga., is being considered.

Potential new plant sites overseas also are being discussed, and locations such as Russia and India evaluated. "There is nothing on the table," adds Gori.

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