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Marangoni has big plans for Unitread in U.S.

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Marangoni Tread North America's (MTNA) decision to manufacture its Unitread product at its plant in Madison, Tenn., will open up many doors for the company, says MTNA CEO Bill Sweatman.

MTNA is adding Unitread production at the factory as part of a recently anounced $3.3 million investment. Unitread, a flat splice product, has been available in North America for years, but has only been built in Europe, South America and China.

In this exclusive interview with www.moderntiredealer.com, Sweatman discusses the Madison investment, Unitread’s expected role in MTNA’s growth and other subjects.

MTD: When will Unitread production begin in Madison?

Sweatman: By the first of April. We’re working on the machinery line itself. We’ve started site preparation. Most of the construction will really start in the fourth quarter of this year. Installation and getting (the line) up to running will probably take most of the first quarter.

MTD: How long has Unitread been available in the U.S. and Canada?

Sweatman: It’s 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’s worked very well.

We’ve been so successful that now we see a real need to support sales of products and service to independent dealers. Within the last 10 years we’ve really seen the consolidation and vertical integration with the new tire companies and retread suppliers to put together programs primarily for larger fleets.

We see a big opportunity. We’re centrally located and we want to service the independent commercial truck tire retreader in North America.

MTD: Will there be any application overlap between RINGtread and Unitread? Will Unitread be marketed as a completely independent product or perhaps a supplemental product to RINGtread?

Sweatman: It will be a little bit of both. The RINGtread is our premium brand dedicated and engineered to deliver the very best performance when it comes to mileage, traction, low rolling resistance and all of that.

But the conventional, flat splice precure dominates the market. It’s certainly well-accepted. It can be mass-produced, and there’s a real need for it. There are both price points and applications that call for that, and we want to serve that market and consolidate our business with our existing dealers so we (provide) a greater percentage of their total product needs.

In addition, (we’re looking for) new distribution through independent dealers who need a conventional, flat precure line.

Here in Nashville, we can service 75% of the market overnight or within two days, so customer service-wise, we think we have a big, big opportunity.

MTD: Will this be more of a value-priced product than RINGtread?

Sweatman: Yes, but we also expect it to be right there, quality-wise, with Michelin, Goodyear and Bandag. It isn’t aimed at the low end, very bottom, price-oriented market.

Most of (MTNA’s franchisees) are buying flat tread products from somebody else. We want to consolidate that business, as well as reach out and service a bigger percentage of the independent tire dealer market. Maybe they don’t want to buy a container-load (of new tires) from India… or some (other) off-shore country? They will be able to buy from us and I think we’ll be able to service them at a higher level.

In the past, we have taken products that were available in Europe, Brazil and other parts of the world and have offered them to our dealers, but we have never had a complete line or a total commitment to developing products specifically for the North American market.

MTD: What are the long-term plans for Unitread once production is up to speed?

Sweatman: I think we’ll be half and half – half RINGtread and half Unitread. I think there’s that much demand not only for the product but for overnight delivery, better customer service, dealing with fewer suppliers… those are some of the trends we’re seeing and we want to be able to play into them. We’ve got the warehouse here and we can consolidate shipments.

A separate Unitread dealer network also is the works, according to Sweatman.

"It’s possible for those dealers whose market and ambition is perhaps not the whole RINGtread-Unitread line… they just want to replace their existing suppliers. We also have received inquiries from start-ups – guys who want to get into retreading."

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