Trelleborg Wheel Systems S.p.A., anticipating steady demand growth for radial farm tires in North America, is entering the U.S. and Canadian markets this year with a full range of Pirelli-brand radial agricultural tires.
Trelleborg expects to bank on the reputation the Pirelli agricultural product line carries with European farmers and global farm equipment makers, according to Maurizio Vischi, president of Trelleborg Wheel Systems. The Tivoli-based business, a unit of Sweden's Trelleborg A.B., acquired the Pirelli ag business outright last year after operating it as a joint venture with Italy's Pirelli S.p.A. for three years before that.
Mr. Vischi did not disclose the company's sales goals for the first few years but said Trelleborg has 20 distributor-dealers already lined up, and expects to expand that to about 50 by next year. Dealers should have product available in time for the spring buying season, he said.
The company has named Rami Bitran, formerly with Alliance Tire & Rubber Co., its U.S. vice president of marketing to spearhead the product launch. He will be based at Trelleborg Wheel Systems Americas Inc.'s offices in Hartville, Ohio.
Radials represent only about 20 to 25 percent of replacement farm tire sales in North America, Mr. Vischi said, vs. 75 percent in Europe. With original equipment moving steadily toward 100-percent radial fitment, he said, farmers will be more prone to replace the OE tires with radials when the time comes.
To facilitate effective distribution of the product, Trelleborg has tapped Hercules Tire & Rubber Co. to be its logistics partner in the U.S. and eastern Canada, Mr. Vischi said. Hercules, through its newly established Hercules Tire Distribution Services business unit, will stock Pirelli ag tires at its Findlay, Ohio, warehouse and will service dealers ordering less than container-load quantities, according to Steve Buck, vice president of Hercules.
Remington Tire Distributors of Edmonton, Alberta, will handle western Canada.
Trelleborg hopes to attract dealers to the Pirelli program through a package of incentives, including protected territories, equitable pricing across the country and marketing support for local dealer promotions, Mr. Vischi said.
The company is looking for dealer-distributors who are focused on the agricultural market and who are active in serving farmers directly, as well as capable of wholesaling the product to other dealers, Mr. Vischi said.
Initially, Trelleborg will promote the Pirelli program in regional farm publications and at regional farm shows, Mr. Bitran said. Eventually the company hopes to stage some in-field demonstrations in cooperation with its distributors.
One dealership already lined up is Radial Tire Wholesale in Sacramento, Calif. General Manger Greg Kraemer said his company decided to take on the Pirelli ag line because it needed a metric-sized range to fit the rapidly growing imported segment of farm equipment in California. Radial Tire counts many large vineyards among its customers, he said, and they in particular are buying European tractors and harvesters equipped with 65- and 70-series tires.
The product range will start at 16-inch and cover most popular sizes through 42-inch diameters, Mr. Vischi said, in standard, 70- and 65-series fitments. The bulk of the program is in the metric-sized TM600 and TM800 ranges. The TM600 is an 85-series tubeless tire for medium-powered tractors, while the TM800 is a 65-series tire designed to deliver field and road performance for higher powered tractors.
The range is designed to cover most drive-wheel fitments for both tractors and harvesters, Trelleborg said.
Trelleborg claims Pirelli pioneered the use of radials in agricultural fields, starting with the TM52 in 1957. In 1984 it was the first to market with a lower profile (70-series) radial, the TM700.
Trelleborg Wheel Systems combines the agricultural tire assets of Trelleborg-with particular strengths in forestry and flotation tires-and Pirelli, which ranks among the leaders in traditional farm tires in Europe. Trelleborg Wheel's fiscal 2001 sales were $302.7 million, an increase of 3.4 percent over 2000. The business also includes industrial tires, demand for which slipped markedly last year.