CUMBERLAND, Md.-Goodyear's changing of Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. from a wholly owned subsidiary to a company division was a hot topic at Kelly's four regional dealer meetings earlier this year. ``There was concern by many of our dealers, who had seen things in the press, about the consolidation,'' said Kelly President Lee Fiedler during an interview at the company's Cumberland headquarters.
Among their questions:
Will Kelly still operate plants where Kelly tires are made?
Will its ``Live Wire'' telemarketing department remain in place?
Will Kelly still have its own sales and marketing operations?
Will Kelly's research and development remain separate from Goodyear's?
The answer, in short, is ``yes.'' Dealers will see no difference in the way the company serves them.
But the consolidation will allow Kelly to join with Goodyear to reduce costs in such areas as raw material purchasing and hospitalization-areas not visible to the customer, Mr. Fiedler said.
Once the dealers heard this, ``it became a non-issue,'' he said.
Kelly scuttled its national dealer conference in favor of the regional setup because it was still absorbing the changes made earlier in the year when it merged its former Associate Brands division into the Kelly Brands division.
``It was too soon to have a big meeting,'' Mr. Fiedler said.
So the company opted for the more personal regional gatherings, which took place Jan. 23 in Dallas, Jan. 25 in San Francisco, Jan. 30 in Baltimore and Feb. 1 in Atlanta.
At them, Kelly introduced new tire lines, including one V- and two H-rated lines and a premium light truck tire line. The company also unveiled several farm tires, a medium radial truck tire and previewed a new 70-series line.
The company's entire product line is now less than four years old, Mr. Fiedler said.
During the informal regional meetings, Mr. Fiedler asked dealers to share their concerns, both immediate and longer-term. ``And we got ideas, after ideas,'' he said.
The biggest concern was whether Kelly would still offer a ``profit brand,'' where dealers wouldn't find a competitor down the street undercutting them on price.
Dealers want a profit brand that is exclusive to them in their market, Mr. Fiedler said. ``It has to be a quality brand. They are not looking to sell a cheap tire at a high price. They're looking to sell a good tire for a profitable price.''
Kelly, he said, tries to give dealers strategic territories in which they can operate-and grow.
The dealers asked Kelly to work with them to improve delivery and to provide help in handling the growing number of tire types and sizes. They also provided information on new tire types and sizes customers were seeking in their local marketing areas.
Next March, Kelly will again hold a large, national dealer meeting-in Orlando, Fla. But according to Mr. Fiedler, the company hopes to apply some of what it learned from the regional setup, by holding some smaller meetings within the large one.