CHARLOTTE, N.C.—Continental General Tire Inc., returning to North America's farm tire market after an absence of three years, is lining up distributors for Conti brand ag tires, which the company has been importing in increasing numbers since December. Neil Rayson, CGT's farm tire specialist in charge of product marketing, selling and dealer training, said the company eventually expects to have between 20 and 25 distributors in the U.S. and Canada.
Mr. Rayson said the company is moving ``slowly but surely'' in establishing the program's distribution network in order to assure the best fit for everyone involved.
``We're not in a race, and we want to make the right decisions from the beginning,'' he said.
The European-made line, he said, ultimately will comprise more than 100 tire sizes and include both U.S. and metric designations. Among the radial rear/drive-position tractor tires in the line are:
The AC65 tubeless, 65-series radial in sizes ranging from 24-through 46-inch diameters;
The AC70 70-series radial in 24- through 38-inch sizes;
The AC90 ``standard series'' radial in 24- through 42-inch sizes;
The AC90C row crop tire;
The AC70G grassland tire in 20- through 38-inch diameters;
The AC70G Forest Tire in 24-through 34-inch sizes; and the
The AC70G Speed, a multi-purpose tire intended for highway speeds of up to 56 mph.
The bias-ply portion of the Continental line includes the AS Farmer, offered in 15- through 42-inch sizes.
There are no plans to produce the tires in the company's North American plants, although Mr. Rayson acknowledged that one day that might be possible. ``Depending on what our customers' needs are and as demand increases, we'll be looking at making the tires in the most economical place,'' he said.
Mr. Rayson said Continental's U.S. subsidiary wants to fully establish the Conti brand in all sectors of the North American market. Farm tires make up a significant portion of that market, he pointed out. ``So we want to compete in (that segment) and make it a part of our strategy to increase awareness of the Continental brand.''
Conti General phased out the last of its farm tire production in 1996, after determining that radializing and modernizing its existing bias-ply ag line was cost-prohibitive.
CGT President Bernd Frangenberg explained that in order to compete profitably, the company would have had to shell out for expensive new molds, which he said didn't make sense in view of the limited volume at stake.
Meanwhile, a small number of Continental-brand tires were imported as replacements for the original equipment tires on certain European-made tractors bearing John Deere, Case, JCB and Fiat nameplates.
However, the push begun in December marks the Charlotte-based company's first serious attempt to expand the Continental brand's penetration of the North American ag tire market, officials said.