Kenda’s Boot Camp Event Educated Dealers

Dec. 11, 2023

It’s probably fair to say that many tire dealers and their employees do not drive their vehicles on off-road trails for a hobby, yet most are selling off-road light truck tires to people who do.  

Since most consumers depend on tire dealers for advice when it comes to buying a tire, how do dealers know what to tell them? 

That’s one of the reasons why American Kenda Rubber Co. Ltd. has been holding its Light Truck Boot Camp for the past 10 years.

The event, held recently in Arizona, is a combination of classroom sales training and off-highway driving, spread out over a three-day timeframe to help educate the company’s tire dealer partners. (Click here to view a gallery of photos taken during the event.) 

It’s Kenda’s way of increasing brand sales among its dealers, while giving them valuable light truck tire sales and marketing tips. 

Brandon Stotsenburg, vice president of automotive for Kenda, acknowledges that Kenda is an “upper tier-three brand” that is competing against tier-two brands.  

While at the Boot Camp, dealers drove off-road on Kenda tires, as well as “the higher-priced, tier-two competitors that also focus on this off-highway market segment”. 

According to Stotsenburg, Kenda wants dealers to drive on the various brands and decide for themselves how each brand performs. (Following previous Boot Camps, Stotsenburg says Kenda’s sales have increased.) 

During the driving portion of the recent Boot Camp event, dealers drove on several competitors' tires, as well as three different Kenda Klever tires - the Klever A/T2, Klever R/T and Klever M/T2 - all “aired-up the same and to normal pressures.” 

Instead of using a closed course for the driving portion of the Boot Camp, dealers were able to drive the challenging 27.3-mile “Backway to Crown King” trail, which is considered a moderate off-road trail, with two extremely challenging obstacles.  

Before customers drove 10 stock Jeep Rubicon SUVs off-road for two days, Kenda set the stage with a half day of sales training. Ed Koczan, senior sales manager for Kenda, said it’s the job of tire dealers to educate customers. 

He put a twist on the industry’s well-known “70/30 rule,” which says that 70% of the time, consumers have no brand preference and 30% of those who do can be influenced to change their minds by the tire dealer. 

Koczan said he has his own “20-20-60 rule.” He told dealers that 20% of the time, the consumer is only interested in “price.” Twenty percent of the time, customers are “brand-specific.” And 60% of the time, customers walk into a tire dealership and simply say, “I need tires.”  

He used the experience of buying a mattress as an example. “You go to the showroom, see a bunch of mattresses all lined up, lay down on a few of them and then ask the salesperson for their opinion.” 

The crucial point, says Koczan, is to apply proper sales counter intelligence when talking with the consumer.  

He pointed out “five ways we see stores losing sales and profits:” 

1. Price is always a race to the bottom. He advised dealers to provide a quality tire at a value price and stay focused with programs from tire manufacturers that will help maximize profitability; 

2. Don’t be an order taker, but instead sell up. Koczan said it cements the dealer as a trusted advisor when they can offer a tire that will perform better for only a few dollars more; 

3. Slow down the sale. Koczan said many customers will wait to buy a tire if they trust the retailer. This allows the tire dealer to sell a specific brand that works better for the customer, while making a better profit. (Kenda’s associate dealer program is called Kenda Traction) 

4. Avoid selling the “flavor of the month,” which could cause warranty problems down the road, particularly if a tire was a spot buy and no longer available to the dealer, according to Koczan, and; 

5. Don’t let the business run the owner. Koczan said if the focus is more on putting out a dealership’s daily “fires” instead of managing its overall business, a dealer can lose profit margins. 

Both Koczan and Stotsenburg told dealers that Kenda focuses on selling its tires through the local independent tire dealer, not larger dealers. They pointed out that Kenda is barely mentioned as a brand carried by the MTD Top 100 list of top dealers. 

During the Boot Camp event, Joe Rozic, a design engineer for Kenda, explained that all Kenda tires for the North American market are being developed at the company’s tech center, which is near Akron, Ohio. 

Kenda officials also discussed the company’s motorsports involvement.

Mike Higgs, senior sales manager, explained Kenda’s Podium2Pavement off-road racing involvement. He said Kenda only uses “off-the-shelf” tires with no “massaging” when it competes. This allows the company to use its racing program as a research and development exercise, he added.