AKRON-Although not typically considered a major player in the general consumer replacement market, the BFGood-rich brand stands tall among vehicle enthusiasts. With good reason, too. The Michelin North America-made brand concentrates nearly all of its focus on marketing high performance tires to people who love their cars and trucks.
The company has so studied its perfor-mance-based market, in fact, that it has discovered what it called a new sub-segment: ``Techno-sport''-people previously considered part of the ``non-enthusiast'' market but who are interested in high performance vehicles and tires with a purpose.
When BFGoodrich executives spout this year's marketing theme: ``Bigger, Better, More,'' they're talking about hitting the techno-sport market hard with increased advertising and new, improved products.
Company representatives spelled out their marketing plans and five new tires to reporters during a press conference held in Akron, March 8.
BFG introduced its Radial Long Trail T/A light truck tire that offers ``nice highway manners but can still be used off road,'' according to Rick Shafer, marketing manager, BFG brand LT Tires. The all-season LT tire is being offered to help dealers fill a replacement market demand of 6.5 million tires a year.
Featuring an asymmetrical tread pattern, the tire has a stabilized outside shoulder capable of supporting the higher center of gravity associated with light trucks.
Because of its ability to deliver long mileage and a comfortable ride, the Long Trail T/A has become original equipment on the 1996 Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Isuzu Rodeo, Honda Passport, General Motors' C/K pickup trucks and Chevrolet's 1996-1/2 S-10 Blazer ZR2, Mr. Shafer said.
The Long Trail T/A is being offered in six 75-series and four 70-series P-metric sizes and 30x9.50R15 LT C, 31X10.50R15 LT C, LT225/75R16 D, LT245/75R16 E, LT265/75R16 D, and LT255/70R16 D light truck sizes.
The touring tire lineup was also boosted to reach a broader customer base. Additions to the Touring T/A family include:
Additional sizes for the SR4-S-rated tire replacing the Touring T/A S with improved wet and snow traction, handling and rolling resistance and an improved UTQG rating of 380 to 440 AB depending on size. The SR4 was introduced in the 1995 fourth quarter. New to the line are one 65-, eight 70- and four 75-series sizes;
Additional sizes for the TR4-T-rated tire that offers dealers a sell-up price point from the SR4 and a less-expensive alternative to H-rated tires with a UTQG rating of 400 AB. The TR4 also was introduced during the fourth quarter. New sizes include six 60- and two 65-series offerings;
The HR4-H-rated tire replacing the Touring T/A H with improved design, including the firm's ETEC (Equal Tension Containment system to apply a seamless cap ply) and a UTQG rating of 380 AB; and
The VR4-V-rated performance tire, also with ETEC design, and launching the company's efforts into the V-rated market. The tire is being offered in June in two 55-, two 60- and one 65-series sizes.
``We're well known as being the enthusiast's tire brand, but when it comes to touring tires . . . we're not nearly the first tire brand that dealers would think of,'' said Mathew Aaron, marketing manager, BFG brand high performance tires.
BFG will support its new lineup with an aggressive ad campaign besides its time-honored practice of creating impressions through vehicle enthusiast magazines.
This year, BFG's distinctive monochromatic ad campaign-featuring a performance vehicle set against a same-color background-will hit magazines like Men's Journal, Men's Fitness, GQ and Skiing. Those publications are more likely to be read by techno-sport people than car enthusiast magazines, said Jim Knowles, technical marketing manager, BFG brand.