'We see a big opportunity'
Marangoni Tread North America (MTNA) has offered its Unitread flat precure product in North America for years, but only on an import-only basis.
MTNA officials say that will change this spring when the company begins building Unitread at its Madison, Tenn., tread rubber plant.
Manufacturing Unitread in the U.S. will open a lot of doors for MTNA, including the possible creation of a dedicated network of Unitread retreaders, according to MTNA CEO Bill Sweatman.
The company’s timing couldn’t be better, he believes. “Some retreaders are going in the direction of vertical alignment with the tire manufacturers and there are others who are saying, ‘I think there is still an opportunity to be a totally independent retreader.’ We see a big opportunity.”
The start-up plan
MTNA’s Madison plant, which currently produces the company’s RINGtread product, will start building Unitread by April, says Sweatman. (Unitread currently is produced in Europe, South America and China.)
Installation of equipment and setting up the production line will probably take most of the first quarter.
All of the above will represent a total investment of more than $3.3 million.
“Unitread has been here for years. We just haven’t really done anything with it.
“When I came to Marangoni, the strategy was we would penetrate the market with RINGtread, so we’ve concentrated on building the RINGtread brand, and it has worked very well.”
In fact, the RINGtread program has been so successful that “we see a real need to further support the sales of products and services to independent dealers.”
RINGtread remains MTNA’s premium brand, but, Sweatman admits, “the conventional, flat-splice precure product dominates the market.
“It certainly is well-accepted and it can be mass-produced. There’s a real need for it and there are both applications and price points that call for it.”
These factors will make Unitread attractive to retreaders, he says.
“We want to serve that (conventional precure) segment and consolidate our business with our existing dealers so we can supply a greater percentage of their total product needs.
“Most of (our franchisees) are buying flat tread products from somebody else.
“And we’re looking for new distribution through independent dealers who need a conventional, flat precure line.”
Madison, a Nashville suburb, also is centrally located, making it an ideal shipping point for the product, he adds. “Here in Madison, we can service 75% of the market overnight or within two days, so customer service-wise, we think we have a big opportunity.”
A Unitread network?
Unitread is ideal for “price sensitive” fleets, says Sweatman, “but it isn’t aimed at the low end, very bottom, price-oriented segment.
“We expect it to be right there, quality-wise, with Michelin, Bandag and Goodyear.”
Long-term, he predicts that the Madison plant will split its production 50-50 between RINGtread and Unitread.
“I think that there is that much demand, not only for the product but for overnight delivery, better customer service and dealing with fewer suppliers. Those are some of the trends we’re seeing and we want to be able to play into them.”
As for the eventual creation of a separate dealer network for Unitread retreaders, he says “it is possible for those dealers whose market and ambition is to perhaps not carry the whole RINGtread-Unitread line.”
In the meantime, MTNA will add capacity to produce more RINGtread products. “We’re not going to allow ourselves to be in a position where we won’t be able to continue to grow our RINGtread business.”
MTNA announced its newest RINGtread dealer, Coyote Tire Retreading, a retreader based in Phoenix, Ariz., last month. ■