VIRGINIA CITY, Nev.—In the mountains of Nevada, just 30 miles south of Reno, Michelin North America wanted to drive home a point: Its new BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/AKO tire can continue the performance tradition set by its predecessor, the All-Terrain T/A. At least that's how Michelin will market the new light-truck radial when it hits stores May 1.
The Greenville, S.C.-based tire maker is touting the All-Terrain T/AKO as more durable and ready to ``take control'' of any road than its predecessor, the All-Terrain T/A.
Michelin debuted the tire to North American tire and automotive journalists the week of April 5 along a 120-mile off-road mountain trail near Virginia City and Fernley, Nev. The test drive pitted the new T/AKO against its predecessor. Ten sport-utility vehicles, half fitted with the new radials, and a Hummer were driven over steep hills and through snow, rocks, mud and sagebrush.
It was the type of rugged terrain Michelin expects will appeal to the tires' No. 1 target customer: young men who drive light pickup trucks, performance cars and SUVs, said Jaye Young, marketing manager for BFGoodrich brand light truck tires.
Just like the All-Terrain T/A, Michelin will market the All-Terrain T/AKO primarily to young males who enjoy the outdoors, have active lifestyles, drive aggressively and drive vehicles reflecting their personalities, Ms. Young said. These consumers are more likely to be image-oriented and look for the ``right'' tire to fit their vehicles, she said.
In a 1998 market study designed to profile its BFGoodrich customers and their characteristics, Michelin found these consumers are the most familiar with the BFG All-Terrain line and are its primary buyers, Ms. Young said.
Beginning in May and continuing through November, the new tire will appear on 30-second spot TV commercials on the four major networks during sports programs, playing off the ``take control'' theme initially used for the All-Terrain T/A.
The tire also will appear in print ads of such magazines as Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Road & Track, Four Wheeler, Automobile, 4Wheel & Off-Road, 42 4 Power, Off-Road and 4WD & Sport Utility.
Over the next two years, Michelin's goal is to sell 2 million All-Terrain T/AKOs, a spokeswoman said.
Engineered to perform in all types of conditions, the All-Terrain T/AKO features BFG's new ShoulderLock' technology to maximize traction and handling, Michelin said. ShoulderLock offers 40-percent wider shoulder grooves than the All-Terrain T/A and improves wet-pavement handling.
The tire is designed with a larger footprint to deliver a 12-percent increase in tread life, improved traction and enhanced resistance to irregular wear, Michelin said.
Michelin also is offering the industry's first roadside and off-road towing assistance program for all the All-Terrain T/AKO, called the Adventure Assurance program. The program offers a towing reimbursement of $50 per incident, for up to three incidents per year per customer.
To retain the retail value of the All-Terrain T/AKO, Michelin has established a minimum price for the line. Under its Minimum Value Policy, Michelin will terminate any retailer that advertises or sells the product below the minimum prices set by the company.