CHARLOTTE, N.C.-The introduction of the latest-generation General-brand medium truck tires marks the culmination of a four-year project to turn a ``problem child'' into a market-leading product. Debuted to the press Aug. 28, the premium, low-rolling-resistance radials-the General S380A steer/all-position tire and the D450 and D460 drive tires-also should help Continental General Tire meet its goal of achieving a 10-percent share of the U.S. replacement truck tire market by the year 2000 (up from about 8 percent currently), according to Thomas J. Reese, executive vice president in charge of the company's commercial division.
Shortly after the commercial division was created in June 1992, ``we took a serious look at our commercial product,'' Mr. Reese said.
What the company's evaluation revealed, he said, was: ``We didn't have a star, and we didn't have a cash cow. But we didn't have a real dog, either. What we had was a problem child-our medium truck tire line.''
By ``problem child'' Mr. Reese said he meant the product wasn't inherently bad, but was going to need some serious correction.
What followed was a four-year process that involved consultations with dealers and fleet customers, tens of millions of dollars of development costs and many more millions of miles of testing, Mr. Reese said.
``Our goal was to reduce rolling resistance, a major factor in fuel consumption, while increasing the tire's durability and tread life,'' said Andre Heijnen, director of technology for the commercial division.
But Continental General wanted to do more than simply improve on its previous-generation product. It sought to develop a line of tires that would meet or exceed the performance of its major competitors' premium products. A particular target was Michelin North America's ``next generation advanced technology'' radials for long-haul trucks-the XZA2 steer/all-position tire and XDA2 drive tire, which have been on the market for just over a year.
This June, after the tire had been in actual fleet testing for more than a year, CGT invited members of its commercial dealer council to its Uvalde, Texas, proving grounds to witness tests comparing the new General D450 and D460 drive tires with the Michelin XDA2.
In a coast-down test designed to demonstrate rolling resistance, as well as in a test for stone retention, both General tires bested their Michelin counterpart, CGT said. In a wet-stopping test, the Michelin XDA2 finished a close second to the General D460, and comfortably ahead of the General D450.
Both new General drive tires carry a limited warranty for 48 months or two retreadings; the S380A steer tire is covered for 60 months or three retreadings.
The three tires are or will be available within weeks in the following sizes: 11R22.5, 11R24.5, 295/75R22.5 and 285/75R24.5-in load ranges G and/or H.