Continental Looks to Future as Gold Dealer Program Grows
Bill Caldwell, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Continental Tire the Americas LLC, set the stage for this year’s Continental Gold Dealer meeting in Riviera Maya, Mexico, by reminding everyone of Continental’s upcoming 150th anniversary on October 8.
While telling dealers that the meeting would be about looking forward, Caldwell did make sure to point out a few key points about the company’s heritage.
For instance, Continental had saved a photo of the Continental Caoutchouc Company’s first U.S. headquarters in 1907 on Warren Street in New York City, along with a current photo of the building that houses a real estate company.
Caldwell also referred to the 1989 purchase of General Tire as “our single biggest event to grow in the U.S.”
This - combined with upholding the company’s four pillars - has helped Continental steadily grow, he said.
The four pillars, according to Caldwell, are “People, value proposition, partnership with the customer, and strong performance and portfolio.”
The Continental Gold Dealer network, which has roughly 3,500 dealers, grew by five dealerships during 2021, said Chris Charity, vice president of sales for Continental, who added that “2020 was a unique year. There’s just no other word for it.”
While referring to Continental’s four pillars, Charity said that the company strived for “agility, reliability and confidence” during the past 18 months.
Continental decided to keep its salesforce intact during the pandemic and restructured to make sure to stay connected with its dealers. “We had over 30,000 customer engagements,” said Charity.
Since supply issues are top-of-mind for dealers, Charity put it bluntly when he said “we all want more tires. But we are working through this together.”
He said that Continental is delivering more tires than the rest of the industry.
During an interview session with MTD, Caldwell elaborated on the supply issue. He said Continental has been able to source tires from its European factories, since those countries have not recovered and don’t have the demand for tires like the U.S.
He further added that Continental is getting products from Brazil and is working hard to navigate the supply chain issues facing everyone.
During this same session, both Caldwell and Charity elaborated on the company’s Gold Dealer program.
Since Continental has no retail outlets, it depends on its dealers to carry its message forward.
“It is up to us to integrate our promotions with their programs,” said Charity. “We need to add value to them. If they are successful, then we are successful.”
Caldwell added that communication is key. “We want every customer touched four times per year.”
The company has been promoting its upcoming 150th anniversary on social media, including a video featuring racer Tony Stewart, Travis Roffler, director of marketing, told dealers. Roffler further hinted that dealers might be seeing more of Tony Stewart in the future.
To continue its outreach to consumers, Roffler said the company has extended its Continental brand’s Major League Soccer sponsorship through 2025 and its NCAA basketball sponsorship through 2024.
On the General tire brand side, the company has renewed its Automobile Racing Club of America contract - as well as its Major League Fishing sponsorship - through 2024.
The company has been involved in these sponsorships for quite a few years, something that Roffler says is important for the brands. “We are after consistency and longevity” which Roffler says builds both brands’ image and loyalty among consumers.
Due to COVID-19, many hospitality opportunities at various events were not available, but are being put back in play this year, said Roffler. On November 26, Continental will be sponsoring the NCAA’s “Continental Tire Challenge” at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. The basketball game will feature Duke and Gonzaga.
Roffler also told dealers that the company will launch a new branding message for its Continental brand starting in January 2022, but did not reveal further details.
During the meeting, Joe Maher, product manager, passenger and winter tires, reviewed two specific tires for dealers.
The first, the Continental ExtremeContact DWS06Plus was launched in February of this year. The tire comes in 100 sizes and covers more than 96% of the segment, said Maher
The other featured tire was the Altimax 365AW, which is the General brand’s new all-weather tire. The tire features the 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake certification and is designed for consumers who live in or visit areas with moderate snowfall in the winter and want enhanced snow traction, Maher told dealers.
The tire was designed to meet the needs of consumers who do not want to own more than one set of tires for their vehicle.
Maher showed comparisons of the Altimax 365AW to the Toyo Celsius, Nokian WRG4 and Firestone WeatherGrip in dry, wet, snow and ice conditions. Maher said those tires were three main competitors of the new tire, which comes is 52 different sizes.
Debbie Richards, GOLD program manager, highlighted many of the programs that have been designed and used for Gold dealers since its formation in 2004. She then congratulated attendees as Gold dealers have seen an increase of 26% in sales during the past year.