COLORADO SPRINGS (June 23, 2000)—Its name may be Safari, but Goodyear´s newest Kelly-brand tire isn´t designed for jungle trekking—at least not in the kinds of places where Tarzan likes to hang out.
While it does have off-road capability, the new Kelly Safari SUV is aimed at sport-utility vehicle owners who typically spend most of their time dodging traffic on paved roadways rather than roots and rocks in the woods.
The new tire, which Goodyear dubs "a touring tire with attitude," addresses this growing SUV market, said Tom Cadotte, Kelly brands manager, consumer tires, during a recent press introduction in Colorado Springs.
Although sales for the light truck category, which includes SUVs and minivans, continue to increase at the expense of autos, another trend within that group is emerging. Many families are opting to trade in their minivans for SUVs, yet still want the same kind of performance a car offers.
These drivers "desire a smooth ride, low noise and the creature comforts that they are accustomed to in their cars," Mr. Cadotte said.
Industry statistics bear this out. In 1999, sales of SUVs rose 15.2 percent from the year before, while those for minivans fell slightly.
In the Kelly Safari SUV, Goodyear claims it has just the product for this burgeoning market—the first such tire, it believes, to feature the SUV acronym on the sidewall.
The newest Kelly tire, Goodyear said, mirrors typical SUV usage—meaning the vehicle travels on paved roads 98-percent of the time.
So while the Safari SUV has the traction and durability to handle light off-road driving, it also delivers a smooth ride, wet traction, low noise and extended treadwear, Goodyear said.
The tire features a cross-over tread design that combines the smooth, quiet ride of a touring passenger radial with the durability and capability of a light truck tire, said Dave Dugan, Goodyear´s product manager high performance and light truck.
It also employs twin circumferential "U-shaped" grooves for wet traction and special "sawtooth blading" to maximize grip. Traction bridges on the tire´s shoulders also promote long wear and traction, he said.
Bob Paris, vice president of Jim Paris Tire City in Denver, who attended the press briefing, thinks the tire should sell well.
It´s similar to the Kelly Safari AWR, the brand´s premium all-terrain tire, "but this one´s a little bit better," he said.
Goodyear expects to price the tire 3- to 4-percent higher than the AWR.
Mr. Paris experienced the on-and off-road capability of the new tire in a Goodyear-sponsored hill climb to the 14,140-foot summit of Pike´s Peak, near Colorado Springs.
The twisting 17-mile road to the top took the Ford Expedition Mr. Paris was driving over asphalt, gravel and dirt surfaces.
"I thought the tire gave a fairly smooth ride and hugged the road good," he said. "And I didn´t hear hardly any noise."
The Safari SUV has a good looking tread design, too, he added.
Goodyear is backing the Safari SUV with a Lifetime Limited Replacement Warranty—a first for the Kelly brand. It provides free replacement for the life of the tire should it become unserviceable due to defects in workmanship or materials.
The warranty should give retail sales people confidence in selling the tire and "the customer piece of mind that when they´re buying the Safari SUV, it´s going to be covered for the life of the tire," Mr. Dugan said.
A Kelly "30-Day Test Ride Program" lets buyers return the tire for another Kelly product if they´re unhappy with it.
Goodyear has given the Safari SUV a 50,000-mile limited treadwear warranty and a 500 AB Uniform Tire Quality Grading score.
The tire became available July 1 in 12 sizes, including 11 S-rated, P-metric versions from P235/75R15 to P265/70R17 and one Q-rated LT size—31X10.50R15.