TOLEDO, Ohio-Hercules Tire & Rubber Co. hopes to bolster sales by releasing eight new tire lines and expanding nine others this year. The firm announced the new lines, including the company's first offerings in the economy touring tire and wet-weather niches, during its annual international sales meeting for stockholders, Jan. 6-8, in Toledo.
Viewing a growing market for economy touring tires, Hercules has decided to introduce the Pacemaster and the SB-700 at an unreleased date this year, Director of Marketing Mel Baddorf said.
The Pacemaster, which will be made in the U.S. by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., and the SB-700, to be imported from Woosung Industrial Co. Ltd. in South Korea, are both all-season tires.
``We've always had a `better' and a `best' (touring tire), but we've never had an entry-level tire,'' Mr. Baddorf said. ``We expect these to do extremely well for us.''
But Mr. Baddorf said he is less optimistic about sales of the soon-to-be-released AQT Plus IV wetweather tire using aqua-channel technology, also made by Cooper.
He noted, ``We need to respect Goodyear when they come out with an idea. If there's no market, they'll create one.
``Who knows, in two or three years, the future of water tires will be very clear,'' Mr. Baddorf said, explaining the AQT Plus IV will provide Hercules with a foothold to expand into wet-weather tires should the market blossom.
The Findlay, Ohio-based company also is looking to bolster sales with new tire lines in markets it has found strong in the past.
The HAR II, an updated version of the HAR low-cost, all-position, medium truck radial with a ``modernized'' tread design, is expected to solidify sales in one of the company's strongest areas, Mr. Baddorf said.
Similarly, two radial light truck tire releases-the All Country, a companion tire to the All Trac line with a ``slightly different tread pattern,'' and an unnamed high-end line with an asymmetrical tread design-will give dealers more options in the LT arena.
Anticipating that more companies will leave the bias-ply medium truck tire business, Hercules has announced it will release the W-78 drive-axle and W-702 steer-axle tires this year.
``Our customers require us to be in the (bias medium truck) market, so we have to insure a steady supply to remain competitive,'' Mr. Baddorf said.
Hercules also announced the following additions to existing lines:
Ultra Plus IV touring radial-three new 65-series sizes;
Mega TR touring radial-one 70-, two 60- and two 65-series sizes;
Polar Trax snow tire-one 16-inch size;
HP 4000 S-rated radial-four 50- and two 70-series sizes;
All Trac LT radial-P235/75R15 XL;
Terra Trac LT radial-P235/75R15 XL;
Terra Trac OTR LT radial-two new sizes;
OTD LT radial-one new size;
HMS II medium truck radial-low-profile sizes.
The new-product announcements come on the heels of a capital investment program that resulted late last year in the opening of a 10,000-sq.-ft. research and development training center and the installation of a Pathex rubber press at Hercules' Findlay site that will more than double precured tread production capacity to 25 million pounds per year.
In August, the company plans to open a third warehouse in San Antonio to better serve dealers in southern Texas, according to Ernie Ranallo, vice president and general manager of Hercules' Tire Dealer's Warehouse operations.
The leased 32,000-sq.-ft. warehouse will hold up to $1 million in tire and tread rubber inventory, Mr. Ranallo said, and is expected to open March 1.