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Goodyear introduces tires featuring SilentArmor technology

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Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. is launching two premium-priced tires that target SUV and pickup truck owners, respectively.

Focusing on consumer desires for both "strength" and a "comfortable ride," Goodyear introduced the Goodyear Fortera featuring SilentArmor Technology and the Wrangler featuring SilentArmor Technology at a press conference in Grapevine, Texas, near Dallas, earlier this evening.

"In essence, the owners of pickup trucks and SUVs told us what they wanted in the ideal tire," says Jeanne Sherman, Goodyear's director of new products. "Working from the market back, we challenged our design engineers to build tires that reflect the needs of this burgeoning market segment."

According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the on/off-road truck tire segment is growing at 15.7% compared to 2002 figures, with no signs of slowing down.

The growth in the SUV tire segment is even more dramatic since 2002.

"These are vehicle segments that are increasingly popular, primarily because the buyers have made lifestyle statements about what they want," says Sherman. "In trucks, they are straightforward about

their desire to go where they want, when they want. SUV owners choose their vehicles because they want a perfect combination of style and utility."

Both of the SilentArmor tires are engineered with an Armor Zone that features the following:

* an Armor Zone that is comprised of a layer made with DuPont Kevlar, a fiber which is, pound for pound, five times stronger than steel.

* a Durawall rubber compound, which reinforces the sidewall to help withstand cuts. Durawall technology was borrowed from the Wrangler MT/R, Goodyear's tire for severe off-road use.

* a rugged Rim Guard that protects wheels from curb damage.

On the comfort side, the tires are built "to soak up road

noise for a smooth and quiet ride," says the company.

Although Goodyear's distribution channel strategy for the tires has not been finalized, Larry Mason, president of consumer tires in North America, expects the rollout to be very similar to last year's Assurance tire introduction. (Assurance tires were initially sold only through independent tire dealers and Goodyear company-owned stores.)

Fortera with SilentArmor

"The Fortera featuring SilentArmor Technology is a perfect blend of utility, strength and style," says Todd Hershberger, Goodyear marketing manager for light-truck tires. "SUV owners choose an SUV over a passenger car because the SUV gives them an extra edge in versatility. This new tire mirrors that kind of versatility."

In addition to the Armor Zone, the tire has a super absorbent layer between the tire's tread and underlying belts that provides, on average, 20% more cushion than average tires designed for SUVs and light trucks, according to David Griffin, lead project engineer. This feature helps the new tire deliver a ride that feels more like a passenger car.

"Additionally, our engineering team made several adjustments in the inner tread design -- the tread pattern that becomes visible after the tire is worn," says Griffin. "Within the inner tread area, we increased the tread stiffness to improve wear and reduce

noise."

The tire is backed by the "Fortera Premium Utility Package," which offers consumers a 70,000-mile limited tread-life warranty; a 30-day, no obligation trial period; a roadside assistance program; nationwide warranty service; on-line product registration; and tire rotation reminder service.

The tire will be available in March in 25 sizes, ranging from 15 to 20 inches in diameter. More sizes will be added at a later date.

In a related matter, Goodyear will discontinue the Fortera H/L except in original equipment sizes.

Wrangler with SilentArmor

"Although most of their driving is on the road, truck owners want the capability to drive on any terrain," says Hershberger. "They expect their tires to emulate the performance of their trucks. They have to be tough to get the job done, and they also have to be comfortable and quiet like a passenger car."

The new Wrangler contains unique traction ridges designed between the tread of the tire. These aggressive ridges provide traction in wet or muddy conditions.

The tire is stamped with the industry's mountain-snowflake symbol, which certifies it for "severe snow" usage.

The tread compound is a new Goodyear silica blend that maximizes wet traction without sacrificing treadwear, adds the company.

Similar to its Fortera counterpart, the Wrangler featuring SilentArmor Technology is backed by the "Wrangler Utility Package," which offers a 50,000-mile limited tread-wear warranty; a 30-day, no obligation trial period; nationwide warranty service; on-line product registration; tire rotation reminder service; and off-road assistance.

The new tire will be available in May in 24 sizes, with rim diameters ranging from 15 to 17 inches. To prevent duplication, it will replace some replacement sizes of the Wrangler AT/S.

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