SAN ANTONIO — Continental Tire North America Inc. has come up with several initiatives it believes will propel its sales upward in 2007 and beyond.
Company officials-who unveiled several major strategic initiatives to more than 200 of its distributors and dealers during the firm´s recent meeting in San Antonio-said Conti plans to, among other things:
— Ensure cost competitiveness through leaner processes and lower production costs;
— Penetrate replacement markets further in North and South America, while maintaining a strong original equipment position;
— Establish Continental as the top premium brand image in the market; and
— Revitalize General as the "All-American" brand, maximizing value to customers and offering a young and fresh product line.
According to Andreas Gerstenberger, vice president of sales and marketing for Conti´s passenger and light truck replacement tire business unit, the firm hopes to achieve unit volume growth in 2007 of 1.5 percent to about 30 million units.
This can be achieved, he said, by focusing on retail distribution; offering an enhanced product portfolio; leveraging the company´s OE position; increasing the company´s winter tire business in the U.S.; increasing marketing and selling support; and enhancing its dealer Gold Program incentives.
Carl Casalbore, director of dealer sales, told dealers there would be a price "realignment" to bring the company´s products in line with those of its major competitors. Some prices will increase and others will be lowered, he said.
Acknowledging that Conti over the last few years has been "a bit unstable with pricing," Casalbore said the goal now is to focus on stabilization. "We will let the brands do the discounting-we do not want to discount the brands," he said. "We will not take the Continental brand and bring it down to the General (price) level."
He also promised more of an effort would be made toward "pull" rather than "push" marketing strategies.
By leveraging the firm´s 20-percent original equipment position in North America, he said the company would work to pull retail customers into its dealers, rather than pushing products on price.
That approach would convert OE customers to replacement customers, according to Travis Roffler, director of marketing.
Jeremy Lewin, product planning and brand development manager, said 2007 is the first of three crucial years in the revitalization of Conti North America´s product portfolio, starting with the General brand, but also including extensions in the Continental brand lineup.
The ContiProContact will become the "flagship" of the Continental brand and will be supported by an expansion of offerings, Lewin said. The Continental brand now also includes the ContiSportContact 3 launched in October for U.S. market high performance vehicles. Efforts also are under way to expand sales of the ContiWinterContact tire in North America.
Roffler told dealers about the General brand revitalization strategy, including development of a logo to replace the decades-old General Tire "G" with a more contemporary "GT."
"General will become the new, fun, exciting lifestyle brand for the U.S. market," he said.
Some 50 million General Tire advertising impressions are scheduled for 2007, with import car and light truck owners a primary target of the ads. Sponsorships-including partnering with Lucas Oil on motorsports events telecast on ESPN2-also will play a role in recognition of the General brand among motorsports enthusiasts.
Lewin presented information about new General products such as the Altimax line, which will grow to 68 offerings from 37, while the Exclaim UHP will nearly triple to 91 from 32.
The Altimax line includes the RT, Arctic and HP-the latter tire being dubbed "A smarter tire for smarter drivers."
At three positions on the Altimax HP center tread rib, the words "Replacement Tire Monitor" appear.
When the tire is worn to its minimum safe depth, those words change to "Replace Tire."
The Altimax HP also has special siping at three shoulder locations to indicate abnormal wear caused by wheel alignment problems.