AKRON—Goodyear´s special brand diet has resulted in losing a few more noteworthy pounds — of tires, that is — and shedding a little bit of history.
As part of its continuing effort to slim down its brand offerings, the company has advised its customers that the Lee and Star associate labels-which date back to the early 1900s-are being phased out.
Earlier this year the Akron-based tire maker announced plans to cut production of private and associate label tires by about a third in North America over the course of about 12 months in order to "focus selectively" on the most profitable segments of its business.
A Goodyear spokesman said dealers and distributors carrying the Lee and Star brands will have the opportunity to replace those brands with the Remington or Republic brands, "depending upon their retail operation and current product screen."
"The elimination of the two brands is occurring," the spokesman said, "because of Goodyear´s objective to focus efforts more effectively toward its customers and its key products, with the objective of improving customer service."
The company´s decision to pare its private label business represents about $300 million in annual sales and, Goodyear said earlier, will reduce capacity by about 8 million units.
In June the company confirmed it had stopped making the Monarch private brand for about a year and had no plans to resurrect it any time soon.
The Goodyear spokesman said the company does not give out sales numbers and consequently would not comment on Lee and Star sales over the past few years. "Inactive" brands, he explained, are "simply that. They´re inactive-not being produced-but Goodyear still owns the rights to them."
Sentimentally, Larry Lesieur, secretary and part-owner of wholesaler Maynard & Lesieur of Nashua, N.H., said he´s "sorry to see Lee go away. That was the first brand we had when my dad (Roland Lesieur) started the business back in the 1960s. Then we switched to Monarch. We also were a Star dealer many years ago.
"But deep down inside, I couldn´t care less. Sentimentality doesn´t pay the bills."
While he acknowledged many dealers may be "sad to see those wonderful brands go away, to me, if Goodyear had been on the ball, it could have started moving some of those old brands to China and could still be making those tires."
According to the book "The Kelly-Springfield Story," the Lee tire brand began in 1883, the Goodyear spokesman said, and Star tire production started in 1917. Star became a sales division in 1975 for the former Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. Conshohocken, Pa.-based Lee Tire & Rubber Co., which owned the Lee brand, became part of Goodyear-owned Kelly-Springfield in 1987.
Eventually Goodyear absorbed its Cumberland, Md.-based Kelly-Springfield subsidiary into its corporate structure as simply a sales division and, then, just the Kelly brand.
Although Goodyear has prominently begun dumping some old-time brands, it´s not alone.
The Duralon brand, made by Bridgestone/Firestone, also is — at least temporarily — going to that great tire brand graveyard.
John Atkins, Midstates Distributing Co. Inc.´s chief operating officer, said BFS told the St. Paul, Minn.-based distributor that it will no longer make the tire it has been building for Midstates for more than 50 years, so the company is trying to find an alternate manufacturer. Atkins would not say whether he was looking offshore-specifically China-for a new supplier.
"Originally we had 40 or 50 companies selling Duralon tires," he noted, "but today the number is much smaller than that. So finding another manufacturer is a challenge."