ORLANDO, Fla.-Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. has taken the wet-weather passenger tire competition to another level with the announcement of a new high-mileage aqua-channel radial. Called the Aqua Tour, the new tire carries an 80,000-mile treadwear warranty and features a twin aqua-channel tread design to reduce hydroplaning.
Its introduction headlines a new broadline product blitz the company unveiled March 10-11 in Orlando during its Kelly-brand national dealer conference, which reveled in the hundredth anniversary the tire maker is celebrating this year.
Along with the Aqua Tour, Kelly introduced the Explorer, an all-season passenger radial; a new Kelly metric line; and the Celebrity, an entry-level tire.
By the end of the year, when these new tires are fully available, the oldest broadline tire in the Kelly brand line-the Navigator 800-will be only two years old, the company said.
Also announced at the meeting were two new medium truck tires-one a premium drive-axle radial and the other for heavy duty hauling-plus expansions in the light truck, medium truck and farm tire lines.
Kelly President Lee Fiedler called the Aqua Tour an ``exciting'' product for dealers that joins two concepts: the 80,000-mile tire, which was pioneered by Michelin, and the aqua-channel tire, which was introduced by Goodyear, Kelly's parent.
``We've blended the two and no one else is going to do that for a long time-not like that and still give (dealers) something to sell profitably,'' he said.
Mr. Fiedler stressed the importance dealer input played in Kelly's decision to introduce its newly announced tires, particularly the Aqua Tour and the entry-level Celebrity.
Dealers told Kelly they needed a top-of-the-line tire they could make money on, he said. They wanted a new tire that would ``shout out'' to the consumer-that looked different on the shelf from other tires. ``That's what we think the Aqua Tour will do,'' he said.
As for the Celebrity, dealers also expressed a desire for a low-end product with the Kelly name on it.
``This will allow Kelly dealers to throw out some of the import brands they are bringing in'' so they can offer a low-end Kelly line, Mr. Fiedler said.
The Aqua Tour's most prominent feature is its twin-channel grooves, which direct water away from the tread face. This new design provides significant stopping distance on wet and dry roads, Kelly said.
The all-season Aqua Tour, which replaces the Voyager 1000 Touring Edition line, is constructed with a halobutyl liner for long-term air retention. It carries a 540 Uniform Tire Quality Grading for treadwear, and ``A'' and ``B'' ratings for traction and temperature, respectively.
The tire will be available for shipping in May in four 14-inch and four 15-inch 70-series sizes, and two 15-inch 65 series sizes. Sidewall styling features a serration pattern that is reversible, with a white and black side.
Later this year, the tire maker will add two 16-inch 60-series blackwall sizes.
The all-season Celebrity comes with full-depth shoulder slots and blading for a smooth ride and enhanced traction, the company said. It carries a UTQG treadwear rating of 280, ``B'' traction and ``C'' temperature.
The Celebrity has outlined black lettering above a white stripe, and is available in three 80-series 13-inch, three 75-series 14-inch and four 75-series 15-inch sizes.
Kelly said it is targeting the new all-season Explorer at the ``price-conscious'' consumer and positioning it to compete against competitors like the Cooper Trendsetter II AW and BFGoodrich Lifesaver AW.
Offered with a 40,000-mile treadwear warranty, the tire has a straight-channel design ``that better fits the needs of today's consumers and their vehicles,'' according to Chuck McLuckey Jr., product manager for auto tires.
The Explorer carries a UTQG treadwear rating of 360, ``B'' traction and ``B'' temperature. It is available in four 80-series 13-inch, four 75-series 14-inch and four 75-series 15-inch sizes.
Kelly also announced plans for a new metric line in August. Called the Kelly Metric, the new line will serve as a value-level product, featuring an all-season tread and a UTQG treadwear rating of 280, with ``B'' traction and ``C'' temperature. It will be available in seven 82-series and five 70-series sizes.
In medium truck tires, Kelly introduced the Armorsteel KDA, a premium, drive-axle radial and the KRM-I for heavy hauling.
The Armorsteel KDA has 28/32-inch non skid for long tread life and a flat tread radius for uniform wear, the company said.
The all-steel KDA will be available in sizes 11R22.5, 11R24.5, 295/75R22.5 and 285/75R24.5, all in load range G.
The KRM-I will be available in size 315/80R22.5, load range L, and is targeted for use in waste disposal and other heavy hauling applications. Kelly said the tire, which can handle steer-axle weights up to 18,000 pounds, has a four-rib tread pattern, 21/32-inch of non-skid and features a cut-and chip-resistant compound.
In farm tires, Kelly has added two sizes-600-16/6 and 750-16/6-to its Heavy Duty Hi-Rib line, and two sizes to its Power Mark Long Bar/Long Bar radial-14.9R46 and 20.8R42.
Kelly also announced a number of expansions to its light truck and performance lines, including a new 50-series Charger SR in size P295/50R15 105S.