FULLERTON, Calif.-Safety may be the buzzword for many tire buyers today, but that approach won't cut it in trying to reach the street tuner market.
Many people in the industry think of tires as round and black and like to talk about the new technology that goes into building them, said Mark Richter, performance tire marketing manager for Yokohama Tire Corp.
``And it's all important,'' he said. ``Yet we can't talk to the street tuner guys about the belt package with the nylon overlay except in brief terms. It (the tire) has got to be unique looking, got to be a great performer. But we can't go into how to build a tire with them. They're not interested.''
Understanding that street tuners have different concerns than conventional tire buyers, Yokohama has developed a unique advertising message to reach that market.
``We have a dedicated ad campaign for the street tuner books that's different from our industry advertising-certainly different than our more mainstream automotive publications like Motor Trend and Car and Driver,'' Mr. Richter said.
At Yokohama that has meant linking its Parada street-tuner specific tire line to a can of Japanese ``Whup Ass''-as in ``kick your butt,'' the theme for this year's print advertising campaign.
``It's extreme, but not extreme to that customer,'' Mr. Richter said.
Last year Godzilla, the giant ape featured in dozens of Japanese movies, got linked with Parada.
``We said in the campaign that until now, Godzilla was the fiercest import from Japan,'' Mr. Richter said. ``Well no more. It's the tire.''
To tap into this tuner market-which involves not only hot cars but cool clothing, skateboards and music-tire dealers must understand plus sizing-the concept of replacing smaller diameter wheels and tires with larger ones while keeping overall height the same, Mr. Richter said. And they need to keep up with the latest street tuner trends.
``This is as simple as picking up some industry magazines (such as Velocity or Import Tuner) where the trends are identified and talked about on a monthly basis,'' Mr. Richter said.
Some dealers, he noted, have no interest and involvement in this market and think only tires when street tuner customers pull into their dealerships. But they should be looking at this as a wheel, tire, spring, shock, exhaust, alignment and brake customer.
``Don't see this as one element,'' he said. ``The person is looking to individualize and most of those bolt-on components can be done at any tire dealership.''
Dealers who see these customers for the potential they bring will find it can pay huge dividends. ``All it needs to start is to have one loud-mouth person, incredibly great service and a little bit of knowledge of the marketplace. Have him bring in a couple of friends, and it can domino.''