SAN ANTONIO, Texas-In an effort to compete on equal footing with its major competitors, Michelin North America is introducing a multibrand strategy for its commercial truck tires. To do it, the Greenville, S.C.-based tire maker has resurrected BFGoodrich brand truck tires.
Following a near-10-year absence from the market-and an ``extensive'' test marketing program-Michelin officially announced it will use the BFGoodrich brand to compete in the value-priced market segment.
Offered at a lower price point than the Michelin brand, the BFGoodrich tires will help the manufacturer and its independent dealers compete against similar offer-ings from the Firestone, Kelly and General brands, according to Tom Brennan, director of sales for BFGoodrich commercial truck tires.
Mr. Brennan introduced the new BFGoodrich truck tire program at a gathering of about 100 U.S. and Canadian dealers in San Antonio, Sept. 22-24.
``After a one-year period-during which we explored, listened and learned-we are ready to introduce the brand with a very impressive line-up of new products and sizes,'' Mr. Brennan said.
Michelin acquired the BFG brand in its 1990 purchase of Uniroyal Goodrich Tire Co. The brand had been withdrawn from the heavy-duty truck, farm and large off-the-road tire markets in 1985, and the medium truck market by the end of 1989.
Although BFGoodrich tires will be priced lower-as well as be less technologically advanced-than their Michelin counterparts, company officials said they still intend to provide a strong support package to dealers.
At the San Antonio meeting, the company introduced its new BFGoodrich ST234-an all-steel, all-position highway radial ``optimized for the steer axle.''
The ST234 features a five-rib, four-groove design with miniature sipes to resist river wear and a shoulder decoupling groove to resist shoulder wear.
The tire carries a warranty for workmanship and materials for the life of the casing.
The ST234 currently is available in 275/80R22.5 and 275/80R24.5 (both load range G). The company said it will produce 11R22.5 and 11R24.5 sizes later this year.
Michelin will fill out the BF-Goodrich commercial line-up with one of the most ambitious product introduction schedules in its history, according to Mr. Brennan.
Forty-six shop-keeping units (SKUs) with eight different tread designs will be introduced in the next 22 months, with the bulk of the new products coming in 1997.
On/off-road rib and drive tread designs will be among the key product developments, including:
Nine sizes for the ST230, a five-rib, all-position radial for high scrub applications;
Four sizes for the ST565 and three for the ST565 WB, both on/off-road radials;
Three sizes for the DR665, an on/off-road, deep-tread radial; and
Eight new sizes for the Regional Lug, to be renamed the DR434.
The current Regional Rib and Trailer tires will join the new BFGoodrich lineup as the ST220 and TR134, respectively.
The ST234 is competitively priced against ``value'' tires from Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. and Continental General Tire, officials said. Despite its lower cost, Mr. Brennan said dealers will be able to maintain a minimum gross profit of 18 percent with the tire.
The manufacturer also intends to increase the brand's market share by 1 percent in each of the next four years-without stealing points from the Michelin brand.
Officials said they hope dealers will sell the BFG brand in applications that previously required large discounts on Michelins.
BFG commercial tires will be sold exclusively through independent dealers, Mr. Brennan said. There are no plans for a national account program.
To help drive business to its approximately 185 North American independent dealers, BFGoodrich reworked its classic monochromatic ad campaign, which the company admitted was not as effective as desired during the test program.
New brochures tout the return of the BFGoodrich brand to the commercial truck tire market and include a dealer locator map. Advertisements are scheduled to appear in three top trucking industry trade publications.
With the rollout of the BFGood-rich commercial tires, Michelin is covering both the ``premium'' and ``value'' segments for the first time in North America.
Officials said Michelin is investigating the possibility of offering a third brand-possibly, but not necessarily, Uniroyal-for the even lower priced ``entry-level'' tier in the near future.