AKRON—To pump up sales of its Eagle Aquasteel run-flat tires, Goodyear will provide a low-pressure warning system—an integral part of the run-flat tire system—at no charge to dealers. The program, which began March 1 and ends June 30, includes six-months-same-as-cash terms for purchasers of a set of run-flats using Goodyear's credit card; a direct mail campaign targeted to high-potential customers; and three additional sizes in the run-flat line.
There will be other incentives for Goodyear dealers, but a Goodyear spokesman declined to give details.
When asked if the added cost of the low-pressure monitoring (LPM) system has driven away potential buyers, Bob Toth, Goodyear's marketing manager for Eagle performance tires said,``Absolutely.''
``We've decided to take demand and interest in our product, the run-flat, to a new level,'' he added.
Goodyear will send dealers—who provide customers with a system at no added charge when selling a set of run-flat tires—a comparable replacement LPM system.
Goodyear has also approved a second LPM system for its run-flats: the Schrader Smart Valve Model 47301. Mr. Toth said the tire maker also is evaluating ``many other'' LPM systems.
``I expect that the retail price of these low pressure monitoring systems will be reduced by half in the short term,'' said Mr. Toth. He acknowledged that, at current prices, selling a LPM system is ``a tough assignment.''
In November, SmarTire Systems Inc. announced it would roll out its Pressure Alert system in the first quarter of 1999 at a wholesale price of $99—about half the quoted wholesale price of its previous system.
Several dealers said any reduction in the pricing of the run-flat system would be helpful, but some felt the price will need to come down even more. ``Anything will give it a boost. It needs a boost,'' said Dan Campbell, owner of D.W. Campbell Inc. in Marietta, Ga. He said his dealership had sold ``five or six'' run-flat sets and, when quoting the price of the tires, included the original monitor package costing about $100 wholesale.
``We gave away the sensors, it's the only way we could sell them (run-flats),'' said Chris Lee, store manager of Annapolis Tire Center in Annapolis, Md. The company has sold four sets so far and he called the new package of incentives a ``positive move.''
Mr. Toth would not disclose sales figures for the run-flat tires so far, but Goodyear did report that a second Goodyear plant in Union City, Tenn., began production of run-flats in mid-February.
Goodyear's two chief competitors in the run-flat market both said this Goodyear initiative wouldn't affect the way they market their run-flat products.
A spokesman for Michelin North America said its Zero-Pressure (ZP) tire was ``meeting our sales goals.''
He added that Michelin had a program similar to Goodyear's for dealers last spring. Michelin provided LPM monitors at no charge to dealers if they would purchase a specified number of ZP tires.
Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. is taking a different approach to run-flat tires, according to a spokesman. ``We've had our doubts all along about how many consumers would pay the extra fee for run-flat tires and sensors,'' he said. BFS only has one run-flat line—the Firestone Firehawk SH30 RFT—so far. It is instead concentrating on its Uni-T AQ technology.
``We feel that worn tire performance affects every driver,'' he said, adding that BFS believes run-flat technology is ``viable'' but won't be accepted until more autos are manufactured with sensors as original equipment.