Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C. executives said the firm's $1 billion-plus investment in capacity expansions, including a plant in Sumter, S.C., is paying off with improved supply and fill rates to U.S. dealers.
"Our supply has gotten significantly better, and I think you're starting to see it, especially in the key lines for us," Jim Sicking, Conti's director of sales, told dealers attending the Conti Gold Dealer meeting onboard a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico.
"We are in the best supply position we've been in in six years. It's significantly better. I will emphasize, though, not perfect. We know we still have a ways to go there," Sicking said.
Even though the Sumter plant is still under construction, Conti has plans to add more passenger/light truck tire capacity in 2017 or 2018. Dealers can expect to see tires coming from the plant early next year, he said, as the plant construction is ahead of schedule.
Meanwhile, the company has moved much of its original equipment capacity to Europe from the U.S. When the European economy recovers, the capacity will be in place when demand increases there, Sicking said.
Also during the meeting, Conti officials introduced a General-brand all-season tire and enhancements to its Gold Dealer program.
The Altimax RT43 all-season tire will be available in 44 sizes and carry a 75,000-mile warranty. It features a "replace tire" indicator in the tread and Peak Anti-slip Sipe Design, as well as low surface abrasion technology and Vehicle Alignment Indicators. The new tire, which will be formally introduced later this month, will be available in the market in August, the tire maker said.
For Gold dealers, Conti said it wants to focus on its core dealers by increasing volume bonus payouts, allowing all replacement tires in the Conti/General portfolio to count toward volume bonuses and provide year-end payouts to dealers who may have missed a quarterly quota but attained their yearly objective.
To focus on and direct potential customers to the company's core dealers, company officials said Conti has removed mass merchandisers—such as Sears and Walmart—from its Conti dealer locator site.
The company also made format changes to its online Engage 360 training site to include training on Conti's product portfolio and technology.
The tire maker is boosting its marketing efforts, as well, by expanding its promotional efforts through racing and soccer sponsorships and social media.
Conti, which provided all the tires used in the upcoming "Fast & Furious 6" film, will tie the movie to in-store and online promotions beginning in May.