LOS ANGELES—If 1998 was the Year of Viagra, will 1999 be the year of Endurance? In automotive circles, that's what Meguiar's Inc., the maker of cleaners and polishes long adored by show-car painters, detailers and auto museums, is banking on with its new tire protectant, Endurance. And that may mean headaches for Armor All, Prolong, Son of a Gun and other competitors.
Barry Meguiar, president and CEO of the family owned company founded by his grandfather in 1901, said Endurance is a breakthrough product because it solves three problems for car buffs: It goes on easier and more efficiently, lasts longer than competitive products, and tires treated with Endurance stay black.
Unlike other rubber and vinyl protectants, he said, Endurance won't be wasted in overspray, run down sidewalls, stain the concrete or get your fingers and nails messy because it's a gel and is applied with a washable foam applicator that is contoured for tire sidewalls.
``You know how M & M's slogan is, `Melts in your mouth, not in your hand?' Well, I almost wanted to say, `Endurance stays on your tires, not on your driveway,' '' Mr. Meguiar said.
The slogan that did stick was ``lasts weeks, not days.'' The firm claims Endurance will noticeably outlast competitors, even after several car washes. Because exposure to rain varies, Mr. Meguiar said the company won't give a time estimate but does claim each 10-oz. bottle contains enough for 32 single passenger-tire applications.
``There's a lot of hype out there and we can't out-do claims. But where we can out-do the competition is with performance,'' he said, emphasizing that although Endurance's suggested retail price of $7.99 is higher than the competition, the gel's longevity actually means Meguiar's new product is more economical.
However, Endurance is strictly for tires, not interiors.
Browning may be fine for roasts, but it's the bane of auto enthusiasts, according to Mr. Meguiar. Researchers found an ozone-fighting ingredient that, unlike conventional anti-cracking and drying agents, doesn't cause tires to turn brown. Mr. Meguiar claimed this key ``antiozonant'' is extremely safe for the environment, meeting all regulations.
While he personally believes a tire looks best when it is a rich black and has a ``sheen,'' Mr. Meguiar conceded glossy tires are fashionable in many circles. Shine is achieved by applying the gel two or more times, depending on taste.
Meguiar's elected to launch Endurance at the Greater Los Angeles Auto Show, not far from Pasadena, Calif., where Frank Meguiar Jr. and his family sold home-brewed paint treatments to the fabled coach builders who served Hollywood's legends.
Endurance is the fruition of two years' research and development. Mr. Meguiar told Tire Business large retailers such as Pep Boys—Manny, Moe and Jack and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. had been hounding the Irvine, Calif.-based company for more products because its ``Mirror Glaze'' line, near legendary with car lovers, was a great seller.
``But we didn't want to come to market with a product unless it really solved a problem for the consumer,'' he explained, pointing out the tire-dressing market is even larger than the wax/polish sector.
Doing battle and doing well in an industry where appearance truly is everything is tough.
Meguiar's claims to have the highest percentage of brand loyalty among car-care manufacturers and that benchmark was at least informally supported by survey results recently reported by an auto-care columnist in the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News.