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To build a brand

Long known for its specialty tire expertise, Alliance Tire U.S.A. has never enjoyed a medium truck tire product of its own in North America — until recently.

In late 2009, Alliance gained exclusive distribution rights to the Aeolus truck tire brand in the United States thanks to its acquisition of GPX International Tire Corp.’s assets.

GPX, which declared bankruptcy last year, had been administering the Aeolus program in the U.S. (Aeolus tires are manufactured in China by Aeolus Tyre Co. Ltd.)

“We think this gives us a unique opportunity,” says John Hull, Alliance’s national truck tire sales manager. Hull was tapped to direct Alliance’s Aeolus program two months ago. Before that, he served as vice president of sales and development for GITI Tire, which also sells Chinese-built medium truck tires.

Hull recently returned from a visit to Aeolus Tyre’s truck tire factory in China. The plant has a capacity of five million truck tires per year, he says.

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Established dealer network

Aeolus, which currently offers 93 SKUs, has been sold in the U.S. since 2002 and has an established network of dealers, says Hull.

This gives Alliance a built-in advantage as it attempts to expand the brand’s distribution.

“The dealer network has been very loyal to the brand. It’s incumbent on us to leverage the benefits of the (GPX) acquisition to combine the Aeolus customer base and its apparatus of delivery with the Alliance customer base.”

Presently, Aeolus is distributed via container and also through a warehouse in Houston, Texas, that Alliance gained via the GPX asset purchase.

When asked if Aeolus truck tires will be made available through Alliance’s year-old distribution center in Portland, Tenn., Hull replied that “it’s the plan of Alliance to broaden its distribution.

“We have a tire that has proven itself. We don’t have to spend a lot of our time convincing the market and our customers about the performance of the product.”

Hull expects Alliance to import 30% more units in 2010 than GPX brought in last year.

The brand is in good shape despite the problems that plagued GPX during the last few years of its existence, he explains.

“When we took over, we found a brand that had held up well despite the difficulties GPX experienced and also the difficulties that the industry in general experienced in 2009. Aeolus did experience a decline in units last year, but so did everyone else.”

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Brand positioning

In addition to expanding Aeolus’ customer base, “we want to drill down into the market to get closer to the end user, learning more about what the market needs in terms of new product development,” says Hull, who adds that Aeolus has its own in-house research and development department.

Brand positioning will be critical. “We believe Aeolus represents what we define as a ‘transitional’ product. We’re placed somewhere between the cheap, non-verifiable-performance products that are coming in from all around the world and some of the long-time, successful tier-two products.”

Hull says Alliance wants to position Aeolus “between the price point-only products and products that have value based on their overall performance, what they can deliver, and the total cost of ownership to the end user.

“We have to continue to differentiate Aeolus from other import tires. We are in the process of rolling out a value proposition that will include verifiable performance data and dealer testimonials about both new products and the retreadability of our tires.”

In a market that continues to see an influx of non-traditional brands from offshore sources, “we believe our price and program will enable us to capture additional market share. As the commercial market in the U.S. bounces back, we’ll ride the wave.”    ■

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