Pure Gold (Dealers): Continental Shares New Tires and Segments With Its Elite

June 10, 2016

The first Continental pneumatic passenger tire was built in 1898. The first General pneumatic passenger tire was produced in 1915.

Yet more than 100 years later, Continental Tire the Americas LLC is getting ready to compete in two market segments for the first time. And its Continental Elite Gold dealers are responsible.

“The feedback from you was we needed to expand our product line,” said Jim Sicking, director of independent dealer sales, to the 310 Elite Gold dealers in Cancun, Mexico, recently. “We are now getting into some markets or some areas that we have not been in in the past.”

The TerrainContact A/T is the first Continental all-terrain tire for crossover vehicles, SUVs and light trucks. The Grabber X3 is the company’s first General extreme terrain tire for light trucks and SUVs.    

TerrainContact A/T

Of the 4.1 million miles of public roads in the U.S., 1.4 million miles are unpaved, according to Joe Maher, product manager for passenger and winter tires.

“It’s a very surprising stat that a third of the roads in the U.S. are not paved, so you really need to have off-road and on-road capabilities.”The light truck and SUV replacement tire market represents 70 million tires; 37%, or 26 million tires, fall into the all-terrain category, an untapped market for the Continental brand until the TerrainContact A/T.

“The target consumer is owner of a late model pickup truck or SUV,” said Maher. “In many cases this is a premium fitment... they want a tire that looks like an all-terrain tire and has the capability of an all-terrain tire, but really are very interested in on-road performance. They do the majority of their driving on-road, but they need some off-road capability. They value the quiet ride and good wet traction.”

The TerrainContact A/T was designed using Continental’s TractionPlus Technology, which combines off-road traction (thanks to a very open, high void tread pattern) and durability (large stable blocks) with “good road manners,” says Maher. The latter includes a quiet ride, partially the result of noise blockers in the shoulder.

The tire will roll out in 20 metric and 15 LT-metric load range E sizes, which cover 80% of the premium all-terrain market, beginning in mid-September. The metric sizes range from 265/75TR16 to 285/45HR22 XL. The LT sizes — a first for the Continental brand — range from LT245/75R16 to LT285/60R20. All sizes are backed by a 60,000-mile limited tread wear warranty.

The TerrainContact A/T will compete against the Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo 2, Goodyear Wrangler All-Terrain Adventure with Kevlar and Michelin LTX A/T2.

Grabber X3 and Arctic

The “X3” in the new General Grabber X3 stands for extreme dirt, mud and rock, making it Continental’s first true M/T tire in the U.S. It will replace the original Grabber, which was “really intended to take us into the off-road market for desert racing and short-course racing,” said Travis Roffler, Continental’s director of marketing.It also has on-road capabilities. Designed with race-proven 3-Ply Duragen Technology, the new tire is not only cut – and chip-resistant, but also has a long life for a mud-terrain tire. The high void shoulder design and self-cleaning evacuation channels provide traction in mud, dirt, sand and gravel.

“For rock, we have multi-angled gripping edges,” said Maher. “So basically, the tire (provides) traction in every direction.” In addition, a series of ribs in the shoulder protect the upper sidewall from damage.

The tire will be available in 29 sizes beginning in September, broken out as follows:

  • 16 LT sizes with rim diameters ranging from 16 to 20 inches. They feature an 18/32-inch tread depth.
  • 13 flotation sizes with rim diameters ranging from 15 to 20 inches. They feature a 21/32-inch tread depth.

Thirteen of the sizes will be available with either black lettering or “smooth red letters,” said Roffler. That brings the total number of SKUs to 42.

The General Grabber Arctic is a studdable winter tire for SUVs, CUVs and pickup trucks. It falls between the Altimax Arctic (passenger cars) and Grabber Arctic LT (for full-size light trucks) in General’s winter tire portfolio.

The tire will be available for the 2016-17 winter season in 15 extra-load sizes featuring the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol.

Sports sponsorships

Continental will continue to align itself, and by extension its dealers, with racing, fishing, basketball and soccer in 2016.

 In addition to its off-road racing sponsorships, the General brand is the spec tire for the on-road ARCA Racing Series for the first time this year.

The company also will continue to participate in IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“And like every one of our (racing) sponsorships, we not only come in as the official tire, but we also get engaged with the tracks,” said Roffler.

The General brand also is heavily tied to Major League Fishing, which has a schedule of 13 events in 2016. General is the official tire of the league, and Continental has signed deals with four of the professional anglers.

“We will continue to further our involvement in fishing in the future,” said Roffler. “We believe it’s a great demographic.”

For the 2015-2016 college basketball season, Continental added seven team sponsorships, including eventual champion Villanova. That brings the total to 28; Roffler said Continental is looking at adding more teams.

Continental also is the official tire of Major League Soccer and both the men’s and women’s national soccer teams.    ■

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.