FONTANA, Calif.—Continental Tire North America Inc. is focused on its performance in 2009, and the company has set the bar “ultra high.”
Three years ago, the Fort Mill, S.C.-based tire maker promised dealers it would launch 500 new products into the tire replacement market by year-end 2009, and the company seems to be on target to make good on its promise—delivering more than half that number this year alone.
“In 2009, when everybody's talking about the recession, we're going to launch 261 new sizes and articles in the (replacement) market,” said Andreas Gerstenberger, an executive vice president with CTNA parent Continental A.G.
Most of those new sizes will come from the ExtremeContact line of ultra-high-performance tires Conti unveiled during last year's Specialty Equipment Market Association show. The tires are designed specifically for North American consumers.
Conti is predicting that the North American market for UHP tires will grow 4.8 percent annually, more than any other segment, through 2014.
“Any manufacturer who wants to provide value to its customers on the distributor and retail side obviously cannot ignore this segment,” Gerstenberger said during a recent ride-and-drive event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
In 2008, the company's unit sales were up 15 percent, while UHP unit sales grew 60 percent, he said.
The ExtremeContact DW, designed for dry and wet performance, includes features such as a high void-to-tread ratio, allowing for water evacuation, and Conti's dynamic temperature distribution technology to reduce distortion. The tire also has chamfered edges to generate greater acceleration grip and increase surface traction.
“It's a pretty unique concept,” said Joe Maher, product manager for performance tires, describing the tire's chamfered edges. “When you distort a block, especially under high load or high grip … the tread block actually rolls up and buckles under. By chamfering the edge, it becomes smoother so you actually get more contact patch.”
Conti also released its ExtremeContact DWS tire for performance in dry and wet conditions, as well as in snow. The tire—which will be available in passenger, crossover vehicle and sport-utility vehicle fitments—also features the chamfered edges seen on the DW.
The DWS includes a solid outer shoulder for dry traction, a high void-to-tread ratio for hydroplane resistance, and biting edges and traction grooves for gripping snow-covered roads. In addition, the tire features Conti's dynamic temperature distribution technology for increased tread life and lower rolling resistance.
CTNA offers a 12-month road hazard protection plan and a 60-day customer satisfaction ride guarantee for the DW and DWS. In addition, the company is offering a 50,000-mile treadwear warranty for the DWS.
Both tires include performance indicators—letters molded into the tread that wear away as the tire's tread is worn away. The DW features the letter “D” and “W,” both of which fade as the optimum tread level for dry and wet traction diminishes. The DWS also features the letter “S,” which stays visible so long as the tire is optimized for snow traction.
Conti said it will offer the DW in 29 sizes and expand the range over time to 80 sizes ranging in rim diameters from 16 to 21 inches. The DWS will debut with 33 sizes and be available by year-end in 88 sizes ranging from 16 to 24 inches in rim diameter.
The company has plans to minimize its dependency on European supply, Gerstenberger said, adding that 80-90 percent of the ExtremeContact line eventually will be produced in the U.S.
CTNA said the tires will be competitively priced against Bridgestone- and Michelin-brand products.