DALLAS—Goodyear is launching a tire program called Goodyear Plus that will give the company's independent dealers exclusive tire lines positioned below the Goodyear brand. The tire maker also is preparing to introduce a revamped Certified Automotive Service (CAS) program, provided enough dealers agree to support it.
These initatives, announced during the company's ``Takin' it to the streets '99'' regional dealer meetings, Jan. 18-21, are part of Goodyear's efforts to give its dealers innovative and value-added products and programs to help them better compete in the marketplace.
During the regional gatherings, which took place simultaneously in 10 North American cities, Goodyear officials outlined a slew of dealer-oriented programs and products.
In videotaped presentations, dealers learned about the new Regatta 2 all-season touring radial, backed by a 75,000-mile limited treadwear warranty, the new G397 LHS commercial steer tire and additions to the farm and OTR segments. Executives also discussed plans for expanding and promoting the firm's line of run-flat tires and provided updates about the company's Internet-based communication system—XPLOR.
But perhaps the biggest news was the announcement that Goodyear will supply its dealers with low-priced tire lines aimed at recapturing business the firm has lost to competitors.
The company will roll out three opening-price-point tires in the first half of 1999: the Concorde Valuemark and Concorde Radial SR passenger tires, and the Landquest Radial AP light truck tire, said Marco Molinari, vice president of sales and marketing, North American Tires.
Sixty to 90 days later, Goodyear will unveil three more value-line tires, Mr. Molinari said.
These non-Goodyear-branded lines will serve as entry-level brands and will be available exclusively to Goodyear dealers and company stores, Mr. Molinari said. They are aimed at augmenting the Goodyear brand, not cannibalizing it, he added.
While calling the new entry-level tire products a ``neat deal'' in concept, Jim Faught, owner of the 11-store Northwest Tire Service chain in Flint, Mich., thinks they are aimed more at smaller dealerships.
``We're truck-load buyers and are already buying a price-point line from another supplier at a lower cost,'' said Mr. Faught, who attended the Great Lakes regional meeting in Akron. ``It doesn't fit me, but it could fit a smaller dealership.''
Fellow Great Lakes attendee, John Turk, president of the 17-store Conrad's Tire Service Inc. chain in Cleveland, agreed.
The new lines are ``a plus for the little guys,'' he said, adding he understands Goodyear is adding the tires, in part, to support those dealers involved in its Certified Automotive Service program.
Goodyear did not display the new price-point tires at the regional meetings, which disappointed both dealers. ``We're tire people; we like to see tires,'' Mr. Turk said.
Company officials also trumpeted plans to revamp its Certified Automotive Service program into a national powerhouse that is ``the McDonald's of car care service.''
Goodyear unveiled the idea of developing a retailer-driven auto service program at last year's national dealer conference in Nashville, Tenn. CAS 2000 is a cooperative effort in which Goodyear and dealers are working together to create a dominant brand in the car-care category and to increase tire and automotive service business through their stores.
A CAS 2000 Advisory Board, consisting of independent tire dealers, Goodyear store managers and company field employees, has been meeting during the past year putting the program together.
The concept has reached the critical stage where dealers need to sign up to make it a reality, said Steve Schroeder, manager of trade marketing.
In the first quarter, Goodyear will invite dealers to join. If enough do, the new CAS program will start by June.
Goodyear has committed its 650-plus company-owned stores to the concept. Now at least 75 percent of the 2,500 current CAS dealer participants need to enroll to provide enough financial support to develop a nationwide brand identity, said Jim Berry, marketing manager for auto service.
The cost of the program is tiered according to market size and ranges from $1,430 a month per store for major metro dealerships to $830 for rural locations.
Whether Goodyear can sign up the required number remains to be seen.
Mr. Faught said he had expected to hear details at the regional meeting and was disappointed the information was incomplete.
``Before I make a $1,400- or $800-a-month commitment for a store, it has got to be more than a concept,'' he said.
Mr. Turk, on the other hand, serves on the CAS 2000 advisory board and is excited about the program. ``I'm very positive about what it can do for dealers,'' he said. ``Each dealer will have to make up his own mind.''
Goodyear currently is developing two prototype stores near Akron that will serve as models for CAS 2000 outlets and has been test-marketing the program in the Baltimore-Washington area. It also is researching a new name, which will be presented for approval at the next CAS 2000 advisory board meeting in April.
While noting its run-flat tire sales are still in the infancy stage, Goodyear again will focus much of its 1999 advertising expenditures on this innovation, as it did in 1998.
The company will use run-flat technology to position Goodyear as the leader in safety, said John Montgomery, director of marketing communications.
``The more we talk to drivers, the more we see how directly our new run-flat technology speaks to a safety hot-button—concerns linked to having a flat in the wrong place at the wrong time,'' he said. ``That's why we're putting the lion's share of our national brand advertising emphasis on a product that isn't yet a high part of the dealer mix.''