MTD Mid-Year Q&A: Prinx President Previews Growth Plans

June 17, 2024

Prinx Chengshan Tire North America (PCTNA) has big plans for the rest of 2024. Here’s what's on tap, courtesy of PCTNA President Samuel Felberbaum.

MTD: How was the first half of the year for PCTNA?

Felberbaum: The first half of 2024 for PCTNA was very positive on the PLT and STR (specialty trailer radial) side. We’ve seen a lot of growth in both the Fortune and Prinx brands. In the TBR (tire) segment for PCTNA – both Fortune and Prinx – it has been very slow due to uncertainty of potential anti-dumping duties. Customers bought minimal TBR quantities.

That being said, the biggest challenge that I see for our company (during) the remainder of this year is what will happen with ocean freight rates. Ocean freight rates 2024 versus 2023 are up over 40%.

MTD: What are you seeing in the PLT replacement channel? Has demand been robust?

Felberbaum: In our segment, for both Fortune and Prinx, it has been very robust. Customers don't have the additional dollars that they might have spent before on branded products and therefore, they’re looking at alternatives. They’re looking for great-quality products that provide great value and that’s where Prinx and Fortune fit.

MTD: How do you position the Prinx and Fortune brands in the market and in relation to one another?

Felberbaum: We don’t offer exclusivity on either brand, but we try to make sure that we don’t have overlap of multiple customers in the same market. Sometimes with consolidation or expansion, that's unavoidable. But we work very hard to make sure we have a balance between both brands because ultimately one customer can’t service an entire market.

MTD: In a 2023 MTD story, you mentioned that PCTNA’s U.S. product lines would encompass, combined, more than 400 SKUS by the end of 2024 – certainly a big undertaking. What manufacturing investment are you making to achieve that goal?

Felberbaum: Just to be clear, today we have approximately 320 SKUS for both Prinx and Fortune – so that’s 640 today – and by the end of 2024, we’ll (add) over 360 SKUs for all of the segments: PLT, TBR and STR.

How are we doing that? We’ll expend our PLT factory in Thailand by approximately 25%. And we’ll have the ability to supply these products as our customers continue to grow and demand Prinx and Fortune products. It’s a huge investment by Prinx Chenghan Tire, our corporate parent.

I also want to add that as we move forward, we're going to continue to differentiate the Fortune and Prinx brands with different patterns and sidewalls.

MTD: PCTNA showcased a new all-weather product and a new four-season product during the 2023 SEMA Show. What are the distinctions between all-weather and four-season tires?

Felberbaum: We don’t see four-season and all-weather as (being) different categories. They are interchangeable. Referring to four-season in our marketing is simply a way to indicate that the tire will perform well all year long, even in winter conditions, when consumers find themselves driving in snow. So it doesn’t represent a new category.

MTD: What other product categories are expected to provide growth opportunities for PCTNA and how does the company plan to address those?

Felberbaum: We have a lot of great opportunities. We have introduced our Fortune Tormenta LMD last-mile delivery line, as well as the Prinx HiFleet. These are designed to appeal to owners of delivery van (fleets), such as Amazon, but also contractors who drive vans and pickups for work. These tires are also all-weather or four-season and have the 3PMS (3-Peak Mountain Snowflake) designation.

We will also be introducing a new second-generation all-terrain tire for Prinx, the HiCountry AT2, and the Fortune Tormenta AT2, that will be more aggressive than our current lines and will have unique sidewall and tread designs for each brand. We’re going to launch in July and they will be available for order, we anticipate, probably in November.

MTD: On the TBR side, you have to be pleased with the recent preliminary tariff determination on Thailand-made medium truck tires... (Editor’s note: Last month, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a preliminary ruling on medium truck tires made in Thailand and assessed a tariff rate of zero percent to PCTNA’s parent company, Prinx Chengshan Tire Thailand Co. Ltd.)

Felberbaum: On May 15, PCTNA received the preliminary anti-dumping duty ruling from the DOC. It is preliminary and we still have work to do before the final ruling. It is business as usual for the Prinx and Fortune brands.

MTD: PCTNA has ramped up its consumer-facing branding efforts, including sports marketing like securing official tire status with USA Pickleball and more recently, United Soccer League (USL.) What are your goals for these investments? How will they benefit your dealers?

Felberbaum: PCTNA has only been in the U.S. and Canada for five years. We’re still a young company. PCTNA needs to build brand awareness for both Prinx and Fortune.

When I started, we only had the sales and marketing rights for Fortune and we decided that since our tires are for 97% of vehicles on the road, what better way to get involved in sports marketing than with the fastest growing sport in the U .S. and Canada? So for Fortune, we made the decision (to be) the official tire of USA Pickleball, the governing body of the sport. There are over 40 million people playing (Pickleball) and this is a great opportunity to reach potential customers. We’re finding that Pickleball players love the sport and appreciate our sponsorship and we are getting asked all the time where they can buy Fortune tires.

We decided on United Soccer League, because as the official tire of (USL), we’re involved from youth divisions up to the Men’s USL Championship League and the Women’s Super League.

As a value-tier tire, we’re not positioned to offer $100 rebates to customers. We’re trying to build brand awareness. The Holy Grail is for a customer to go to a retailer and ask for Prinx or Fortune – or at the counter, the retail seller says to the consumer, ‘How about a Prinx or Fortune tire?’ and they say, ‘I’ve heard about them. Can you tell me more?’

MTD: You’ve said PCTNA has “lots of room to grow” in certain areas of North America, including the U.S. Midwest and Canada. What are your distribution goals in North America?

Felberbaum: We're looking to grow both brands. In the short term, I’d like to continue to grow the business that we have and look for new distribution, where it fits. We’re always looking for new business. We’d like to explore opportunities for original equipment business for both TBR and PLT. And I’d like to look at adding a U.S.-based warehouse.

MTD: Is there a timeline associated with establishing a U.S. distribution center that PCTNA would own?

Felberbaum: We would like to have something in place within the next 12 months, if it’s economically feasible.

MTD: What can dealers and distributors expect to see from PCTNA during the rest of 2024?

Felberbaum: Besides product introductions mentioned earlier, we'll be upgrading both our Prinx and Fortine websites later in the year. We’ll have a tire recommendation feature for consumers that will be geared towards helping them find the nearest Prinx and/or Fortune retailer.

You’ll see some new marketing for both brands that will be rolled out throughout the remainder of 2024. Our customers can expect us to continue to provide high-quality products at fair prices that allow them to be profitable.

About the Author

Mike Manges | Editor

Mike Manges is Modern Tire Dealer’s editor. A 25-year tire industry veteran, he is a three-time International Automotive Media Association award winner and holds a Gold Award from the Association of Automotive Publication Editors. Mike has traveled the world in pursuit of stories that will help independent tire dealers move their businesses forward. Before rejoining MTD in September 2019, he held corporate communications positions at two Fortune 500 companies and served as MTD’s senior editor from 2000 to 2010.