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CTNA discusses revamp of truck tire program

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CTNA discusses revamp of truck tire program

Continental Tire North America Inc.'s (CTNA) recent decision to enter the retread arena is just one step in the company's revitalization of its commercial tire program.

Two months ago, CTNA introduced five new medium truck tires, its largest commercial product launch in years. The company also has unveiled its ContiFleet program, which is designed for owner-operators and small fleets who don't qualify for traditional national account programs. And CTNA recently increased its sales force by 50%.

All of this adds up to what is, in essence, a complete re-tooling of the way CTNA approaches the truck tire market, says Paul Williams, executive vice president, Commercial Vehicle Tires, The Americas, CTNA. Modern Tire Dealer Senior Editor Mike Manges recently caught up with Williams to discuss CTNA's strategies and goals in this exclusive interview.

MTD: CTNA held its largest new truck tire launch in quite a while this past March. Given the fact the market is down, why hold such a big launch at this time?

Williams: Because we had all of these new products coming on board, we took the opportunity to bring a new message about what Continental truck tires are. We've gone out there and listened to the dealers and fleets to try to undertsand what the industry is looking for and where they see Continental within their sourcing strategy.

We thought, 'Let's at least address one of the aspects we've heard when we were making all of those fleet calls,' which was, 'You have excellent products, but you don't do enough to talk about them and you don't do enough to support them.' So we said we needed to work on that. And recognizing that we had all these new products coming on, we said, 'We need to ramp up and reorganize ourselves.'

MTD: What are your plans for the General truck tire program? Are you planning new products for General?

Williams: We're never going to ignore General. It's an important brand for us. We have a new steer tire coming out, the S581. In terms of value, it's going to be a very important product for us. But our main focus is to push the Continental brand because that's our premium brand.

MTD: What's your take on the general health of the U.S. truck tire market? What challenges do you face as a manufacturer that is trying to raise its profile?

Williams: We had our kick-off conference -- both our sales conference and dealer conference -- in January. One of my opening remarks was, 'There's a lot of speculation about how bad the market will be this year.' For me, it's completely irrelevant. There will still probably be 12.5 million to 13 million radial truck tires sold in the replacement market in the U.S. in 2009, and we're not selling them all. So there's plenty of scope for us to increase our volume and market share.

For Manges' full-length interview with Williams -- as well as Clif Armstrong, director of marketing, Commercial Vehicle Tires, The Americas, CTNA -- see the June 2009 edition of Modern Tire Dealer magazine.

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