FURSTENWALDE, Germany-After an absence of more than three years, ``Pneumant'' brand tires are again being sold in North America, courtesy of Houston-based importer American Omni Trading Co., a unit of Dunlap & Kyle Co. of Batesville, Miss. The brand disappeared from the U.S. market in 1990, when its state-owned East German manufacturer, VEB Reifenwerke Furstenwalde, suspended shipments in the wake of that country's dissolution.
That tire maker, since privatized and restructured as Reifenwerke Furstenwalde A.G., may now be taken over by Italy's Marangoni SpA, which has an option to buy controlling interest.
Currently, Omni Trading is importing only one Pneumant line, the L50 steel radial highway truck tire, according to Jerry Holt, the importer's Pneumant account representative.
A line of low-profile truck tires is expected to follow later this year, Mr. Holt said. The company also is considering introducing other lines, including passenger. He offered no sales projections.
Mr. Holt gained experience with the Pneumant brand as president of Intersceptre Tyres of Atlanta, the sole importer of Pneumant tires during the 1980s. Intersceptre closed after the brand was removed from the U.S. market.
The restructured Reifenwerke Furstenwalde began considering a return to the U.S. market in 1993. Management interviewed several potential candidates before deciding on Omni Trading, according to Pneumant's export manager.
Omni Trading is the import/export arm of private brand marketer Dunlap & Kyle, which posted about $200 million in sales in 1993.
Mr. Holt said the company is looking to distribute container loads of the L50 to dealers in the U.S., Canada, Central America and South America.
Regarding the potential acquisition by Marangoni, the Italian tire retreader, manufacturer and retailer negotiated the purchase option last year with the German ``Treuhandanstalt'' agency responsible for privatization of former East German enterprises, but its extent was not made public.
The two firms have been linked since late 1992 when they agreed to consider marketing each others' products in certain markets.
The option, reportedly for 51 percent, calls into question the 40 percent share ownership negotiated in 1992 by the Iranian government. Treuhand representatives said they are still waiting for the contracts to be signed by appropriate Iranian officials.
Marangoni has broadened its marketing reach in the past 18 months beyond Italy, setting up a field sales office in the Netherlands and naming distributors in the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal and France for both its Marangoni and Stunner brands.
A well-known name in retreading, Marangoni stepped into new tire manufacturing in 1989 with its takeover of the former Ceat factory in Anagni near Rome.
Since then it has completely revamped the car and light truck tire product range, and anticipated exceeding the 1 million unit mark in tire production last year.