LAS VEGAS-Pirelli Tire North America has reached an agreement with the Sears Tire Group to stop supplying certain lines of tires through Sears Auto Centers and National Tire & Battery (NTB) outlets effective immediately.
The New Haven, Conn.-based tire maker said the recent closure of its Hanford, Calif., tire plant made it ``necessary to rationalize our product offering in terms of future priorities in North America.'' Tire lines affected are the P8000, an H- and V-rated performance tire, which Sears and NTB sold exclusively, and the Scorpion S/T light truck and sport-utility vehicle tire, which Pirelli also distributes through independent tire dealers.
While the agreement effectively ends Pirelli's direct-supplier relationship with Sears and NTB, the tire maker said it will continue to offer these outlets its full range of tires on a special-order basis, based on consumer demand. It also marks the end of a 65-year relationship with Sears that began with the former Armstrong Rubber Co., which Pirelli bought in 1988.
Pirelli said its strategy in North America focuses on expanding its market share in the original equipment and replacement high-performance markets.
The company, which is a unit of Italian tire maker Pirelli S.p.A., currently is building a fully automated tire plant in Rome, Ga. Replacement tires built at that MIRS (Modular Integrated Roboticized System) facility will be focused on the dealer channel, the company said.
Pirelli said it believes independent tire dealers remain the primary and growing channels of distribution for high-performance and ultra-high-performance tires.
Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., in Findlay, Ohio, has handled North American sales of Pirelli's passenger and light truck tires since February 1999, after forming a strategic alliance with the Milan-based firm.
Sears normally doesn't comment on negotiations with vendors, a company spokesman said, but did note: ``This represents a shift in our product lineup reflecting customer demand.''