LOS ANGELES—Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations is recharging its Firestone brand for 2017 with four new tires, in addition to a new Bridgestone product and additional sizes for its Fuzion line.
The new launches are predominantly in the light truck/SUV/CUV categories.
Company executives unveiled the tires and discussed plans for 2017 during the Nashville, Tenn.-based tire maker's Consumer Tire Business Meeting. It was held Nov. 10 before a crowd of 500, including 200 dealers and other invited guests and employees gathered at the J.W. Marriott hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
During the meeting the company also recognized past President and CEO Gary Garfield, who retired Aug. 31 and was succeeded by former Chief Operating Officer Gordon Knapp.
Garfield said Bridgestone Americas going forward “could not be in better hands.” and the “relationship with you (the dealers) could not be in better hands.”
He added: “The very best days for all of us are not behind us, they are in front of us.”
Knapp also spoke during the meeting, describing the company's dealers as an “incredible strategic asset” and “the best dealer team in the industry.” He said dealers should not expect any knee-jerk changes in the direction of the company, as he worked side-by-side with Garfield for the past three years and had a chance to have an influence on decision-making. Rather he said he expects Bridgestone to “double down on the things working for us.”
Knapp said he wants Bridgestone Americas to be a company that understands the boss—the consumer. Bridgestone, he said, will focus on high-rim diameter, or high-value tires, including those 18-inches and larger, run-flats and ultra-high-performance tires.
The company also will continue to seek additional OE fitments especially for 18-inch and larger tires, he said. In announcing the new tires and sizes, Erik Seidel, vice president of consumer sales, U.S. and Canada, noted that Bridgestone annually spends upward of a billion dollars on research and development.
Along with developing new products, the company also wants to cut in half the new product development cycle to 21 months, said Steve Charles, vice president of product development.
With the introduction of the new Firestone tires, Bridgestone has upgraded 56 percent of the Firestone portfolio in just the past year, according to Seidel. The new tires are the Firestone All-Season, Transforce AT2, Destination MT/2 and Winterforce 2 and 2 UV.
In addition, the company condensed five OE application tires into one with the introduction of the Bridgestone Dueler HT 685, an action that drew dealer applause.
In announcing the new entry-level All-Season, Seidel said it will become the most affordable Firestone tire, claiming it will provide “great all-season performance for the life of the tire.” Initial sizes will be offered beginning in March 2017, with all 49 sizes available four months later in August. This includes 32 passenger and 17 CUV sizes from 195/70R14 to P245/50R20.
The tire carries a 65,000-mile limited treadwear warranty in passenger sizes and 55,000 miles in CUV sizes.
In the light-truck tire category, Bridgestone is adding the Firestone Transforce AT2 as a replacement for the Transforce AT. This is a tire that drivers can depend on to get them to and to perform at work sites, Siedel said. he tire features a deeper tread pattern combined with an “innovative tread-to-road contact footprint” that Bridgestone said helps retain performance for longer over the life of the tire.
In addition, the tire employs a chip- and tear-resistant tread compound for driving in rough terrain such as gravel.
Bridgestone will launch the tire in April 2017 in 16 sizes ranging from LT215/85R16 and LT265/60R20, covering 95 percent of light truck sizes, Mr. Seidel said.
The Destination M/T2 replaces the current Destination product and is designed for off-road use. The newly designed tire features more than 20-percent more biting edges for traction in slick, wet and snowy conditions. It also has a bolder tread pattern, including more aggressive upper sidewall lugs for traction in mud and to resist chips and tears, Seidel said. To further enhance the tire's toughness, Bridgestone has designed the tire with a three-ply sidewall construction as well as mud and stone ejectors to clear away debris from the tread.
The tire will be available in July in 29 sizes, including eight flotation versions and three with 37-inch rim diameters.
The fourth Firestone tire is the Winterforce 2/Winterforce 2 UV. This product features a cold-weather tread compound, open shoulders and carries the three-peak mountain designation for winter tires. Bridgestone is offering the studdable Winterforce 2 in 52 sizes—ncluding 14-percent greater coverage for CUVs, SUVs and pickups vs. the previous Winterforce prduct. It will be available starting in July.
The new Bridgestone tire is the Dueler HT 685, which will be positioned above the Transforce HT in the company's tire lineup, Seidel said, and is considered a go-to OE application.
The tire has a two-ply construction and is built to give light trucks heavy duty performance. It will launch in March in 17 sizes from LT215/85R16 to LT285/60R20 and carry a 50,000-mile limited treadwear warranty.
Seidel also announced five new sizes to the company's DriveGuard run-flat tire line, giving it coverage for two out of three CUVs on the road. The new sizes include: 235/55RF17, 225/60FR18, 225/55RF18, 235/55RF19 and 245/50RF20.
Bridgestone also is adding to its Fuzion tire line, including the launch of the Fuzion AT (all-terrain) in nine sizes, covering more than one half of the all-terrain market, Seidel said. The sizes range from P235/75R15 to P245/65R17. The Fuzion AT carries a 45,000 limited treadwear warranty.
The Fuzion line also is getting two new CUV sizes: 255/60R19 and 245/60R18. In addition, Bridgestone has added a 40,000-mile limited warranty to the Fuzion UHP Sport A/S.