Continental announces Gold Program enhancements, branding efforts

May 22, 2013

Continental Gold Dealer Program enhancements and continued marketing investments in its brands were two key topics of discussion during the Continental Tire the Americas LLC Gold Dealer meeting and incentive trip held in mid-April.

The Continental Gold Dealer program has seen several upgrades for 2013, according to Chris Jenkins, programs manager. A key component of the upgrades is higher payouts for participating dealers.

Continental has increased its volume bonus payout as much as 400% as well as increased Gold rewards on popular replacement marketing lines. The company is making quarterly payouts at all levels of participation in the program on a quarterly basis, with a year-end reconciliation for dealers who may miss a quarter but still attain their yearly objective.

“We want to reward retailers for program performance over time. This creates a stronger value proposition that allows us to enhance our share of account (business) with retailers participating in multiple programs,” Jenkins told dealers.

Continental does not have its own company-owned stores or company-owned distribution centers, so dealers do not compete with Continental and it depends on independent dealers to sell its products. “We will compare our program against any program out there, bar none,” Jenkins said.

Continental also has enhanced its dealer locator system on its website to make it easier for consumers to find its Continental and General products. “Our goal is to direct as much business as possible to all of our dealers,” said Jenkins.

The company does want to sign new dealers, but its main focus is increasing business with its existing dealers.

The company is continuing its “Dash for the Gold” promotion among dealers. The winner of the contest receives a trip to Chicago and a “mad dash” through the company’s fulfillment warehouse, getting to keep everything that is put into a shopping cart in a specific amount of time.

The company is also giving its Engage360 online training program a new look for 2013. The program is broken into various modules that will allow dealers and their associates to increase their knowledge of very specific aspects of the company, whether it is portfolio-related or new technology-related.

The company has more information about its Gold Dealer program at its website.

Continental is continuing to increase its branding and marketing of both its Continental and General brands. As part of this process, the company has tied in with promotions surrounding the launch date this month of the new movie, Fast and Furious 6.

For the Continental brand, Travis Roffler, director of marketing, said the company is continuing its sponsorship of Major League Soccer (MLS). “Our tie-in with soccer goes way back to World Cup Soccer.”

The company will have signage and hospitality in the following MLS cities in 2013: New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Houston, Chicago and Kansas City. Continental is also the official tire sponsor for the U.S. National men’s, women’s and youth teams as well as the U.S. Olympic men’s and women’s soccer teams. The company is planning signage, hospitality and advertising for four men’s World Cup Qualifiers held across the U.S. this year.

The company is working with both sports car racing series, Grand Am and ALMS in North America. Roffler said the two series will combine to a single series in 2014 and the company is looking to be actively participating with the new series when it launches.

Roffler said the company’s unaided brand awareness among MLS and Grand Am racing fans is much higher than among the average consumer. Continental has a 4% unaided awareness among average consumers, 27.4% among MLS fans and 72.1% among Grand-Am fans.

The company continues to invest with its General Tire brand through various Lucas Oil racing series and Major League Fishing. The General brand sponsorships will be seen at 90 Lucas Oil events in its Off-Road Racing Series, Late Model Dirt Series, Drag Boat Racing Series and its Pro Pulling League.


General Altimax RT43 launched

Due to launch in August, the General Altimax RT43 will be shipped to distributors in July. The tire is planned to replace its current Altimax RT line, which launched in 2007.

Joe Maher, product manager, passenger tires for Continental, said the new tire has been three years in development. The tire is positioned to compete in the value segment of the market for consumers who currently have T- or H-rated OE tires and are more interested in mileage than sporty performance.

The tire is being launched in 44 sizes in T- and H-speed ratings and rim sizes of 13-inch to 18-inch. It will come in 50- to 70-series aspect ratios and from 175 mm to 235 mm widths. Maher says the tire will carry a 75,000-mile tread wear warranty.

Maher said the General RT43 features a new construction design that will help improve tread wear without sacrificing other performance attributes.

The tread pattern for the new tire is different from the General RT. This construction will be used in other value lines offered by the company moving forward.

The General RT43 will use the company’s Monitor Technology which includes Replacement Tire Monitor (RTM), a tread wear monitoring system, and Visual Alignment Indicator (VAI) for early monitoring of alignment wear conditions.

The tire is being positioned to compete against the Cooper CS4 Touring T, BFGoodrich Advantage T/A, Firestone Precision Touring, Hankook Optimo H727 and the Kumho Solus KR21.

Jim Sicking, director of independent dealer channel for PLT replacement U.S. team, addressed the pressing issue of supply and fill rates. He said the company has invested heavily in its factories. “We are in the best situation in six years with supply. We are not perfect, but it’s the best since I’ve been with the company.”

Continental has moved molds for its OE tires for the domestic market to its European plants since European tire demand is light at the present time. This is allowing the company to concentrate on replacement tire supply in the U.S.

Sicking said the Mt. Vernon, Ill., plant’s planned 30% production increase is almost done. In fact, Sicking said the company’s production increases, including its new Sumter, S.C., factory, are ahead of schedule.

The Sumter factory is due for start-up in the first quarter of 2014. He said the company’s Brazilian plant is the only plant lagging behind schedule. This plant is due to have its production doubled by mid-2014.

Sean McDermaid, national sales manager, dealer group, told the dealers that in total, Continental has spent over $1 billion in manufacturing improvements.

The 2014 Continental Gold trip will be held April 7-11 in Cancun, Mexico, at the Hard Rock Café Hotel and Resort.    ■

About the Author

Greg Smith | Publisher

A 36-year veteran of automotive trade publishing, Greg Smith has held various publishing positions at the management level. He has worked extensively on both the editorial and publishing sides of the business and is a recognized expert in the aftermarket and tire industries. As such, he is a frequent speaker at many industry events. He has traveled internationally as an advocate for the industries he serves.

Currently as publisher of Modern Tire Dealer, Greg is responsible for the brand’s business operations.  MTD is where Greg got his start, and through most of the last three decades, has led it to tire market prominence.  

To support education in the tire industry, Greg leads MTD in its sponsorship of the Tire Industry Association’s Certified Instructor Training Tour, a program designed to train the trainer in proper safety and step-by-step procedures for proper wheel installation. As further reinforcement, Greg created the Performance Handbook, a how-to publication on proper ways to mount, balance and work with performance tires. 

To help recognize outstanding tire dealers, Greg helped establish the MTD Dealer of the Year award over 20 years ago. The award provides a deserving tire dealer with recognition for accomplishments both within the industry and in the dealer’s local community. 

Greg helped launch Auto Service Professional magazine in 2010. The primary focus of Auto Service Professional is to provide high-level information to an audience of more than 150,000 automotive professional technicians whether they are business owners or technicians. 

From his early years in the market, Greg has been active participating on industry committees and boards. Among the early ones were APAA and ASIA, and has since participated in AWDA, SEMA, NTDRA, TIA and TANA.