KAMUELA, Hawaii-Several new products, programs and a major shift in the company's communications strategy greeted attendees at Continental General Tire's International Dealer Meeting at Kamuela, Jan. 10-14. More than 700 tire dealers and spouses in attendance at the Hilton Waikola Village gathering were invited to ``Ride the New Wave'' of change at CGT, which officials expect to carry the company to even-sunnier shores.
Offering assurances that CGT will ``remain strongly focused'' on the programs it outlined two years ago, President Bernd Frangenberg said the company will continue concentrating its marketing efforts solely on independent tire dealers.
Despite the millions of dollars spent by manufacturers and others on tire advertising, it is the independent dealer who decides what tire the consumer will buy in the majority of cases, he pointed out.
Vowing to make CGT the industry's best and easiest tire supplier, Mr. Frangenberg said the firm is working to offer dealers ``improved support programs'' in combination with ``modern quality products and educated, professional sales representatives.''
With many of its former product quality and financial problems either past or well on the way to being solved, dealers who shunned the company earlier are returning to the fold, Mr. Frangenberg said, adding: ``It's good to hear them knocking at our door.''
Chris Dixon, vice president of sales and marketing for the passenger-light truck tire division, predicted independent dealerships and mass merchandisers will increase their respective market shares at the expense of wholesale clubs and service stations.
However, he warned dealers to brace for increasing competition from car dealerships, resulting from automakers' efforts to control the servicing of new cars after they're sold.
``They (automakers) need to offer their dealerships extra profit opportunities,'' Mr. Dixon said. ``And the bumper to bumper warranty, which we've seen last year with General Motors Corp.-and which we believe you'll see this year with Ford Motor Co.-is simply another ploy to drive the consumer more toward the vehicle dealer.
``Everybody says the vehicle dealer is not really interested in selling tires,'' said Mr. Dixon. ``(But) they said that in Europe too. (And today) Volkswagen dealerships are the second biggest retailer of tires in the German marketplace.''
Mr. Dixon, who with Mr. Frangenberg joined CGT two years ago after being transferred by Continental A.G. to its U.S. subsidiary, told the audience the company has greatly reduced its former dependence on Sam's Club, the 432-outlet discount chain owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
``In 1994, if we sold 100 tires (through Sam's Club), this year we're going to sell only 64,'' he said adding: ``We expect that contraction to continue into 1996.''
Mr. Dixon said this reduction is partly the result of Sam's decision to sell other brands in addition to General. It cost CGT a lot of sales volume, he admitted, ``but we've been able to make up that differential. Through the ``G'' brand dealer and the ``C'' brand dealer, we've increased our sales by 33 percent. For that we thank you,'' he told his dealer audience.
Other meeting highlights included the introduction of the new:
General Grabber ST tire for light trucks, an S-speed rated radial available this spring and described as the firm's ``largest LT line ever'' with 20 sizes and 23 SKUs.
Conti Touring Contact CH95 tire, an H-rated passenger radial slated to become available in 18 sizes this summer. It will feature the company's new silica, low-rolling-resistance tread compound and a jointless spiral cap ply.
Conti Touring Contact CT85, available next fall with an 80,000-mile treadwear warranty;
Extended treadwear warranties on the company's present G4S tire (raised to 75,000 miles) as well as the XB2002 (60,000 miles) and XB2000H4 (55,000);
30-day ``no hassle'' guarantee promising consumers free replacement of some premium passenger tire lines after 30 days if they are not totally satisfied.
Continental General Tire Credit Card, bearing the dealership's name, that can be used for charging tires and service. Total retailer cost is 1.75 percent.
Major shift in communications strategy in which the firm will cease its traditional national advertising in order to devote resources to programs targeted at specific regional or local markets, often in cooperation with dealer advertising in those areas.