Continental Tire North America Inc. wants to compete with the Big 3 tire makers in medium truck tires in North America and now maintains it has just the tire line to do it.
The Charlotte, N.C.-based firm announced Feb. 28 the introduction of seven Continental-brand medium truck tires that have been designed, built and tested for the North American market.
``In years past, we relied on Europe to supply Continental product,'' said Clif Armstrong, Conti's director of original equipment and commercial brands management, referring to Conti's parent company, Continental A.G., based in Hanover, Germany.
Now with a complete line of Continental medium truck tires available, the company will attempt to stake its claim in North America to compete head on with the market leaders-the Goodyear, Michelin and Bridgestone brands.
The Conti brand maintains a 2.5-percent share of the domestic replacement truck tire market, Mr. Armstrong said, and it aims to boost that position to 4 percent within five years by expanding sales through its current customer base.
By comparison, the Goodyear brand holds a 19 percent share, followed by Michelin at 18 percent and Bridgestone at 16 percent, according to Tire Business estimates.
Conti introduced the new tires to its top 150 customers-tire dealers, fleets and original equipment truck manufacturers-during the weeks of Feb. 24 and March 3 at a series of events it dubbed ``The Test Out West.'' The tire and trucking trade press got a look at the products Feb. 27-28.
Held at the company's sprawling Uvalde, Texas, proving grounds 85 miles southwest of San Antonio, Texas, the sessions included briefings from Conti engineers on the design and construction of the new products.
The company also conducted several tests they claimed showed the new Conti truck tires comparing favorably with, and in some cases better than, the top competition in low rolling resistance/fuel mileage and heat generation. Tread wear also is comparable, the company said.
The new Continental-brand tires include the:
* HSL (heavy steer long haul) Eco Plus premium long-haul steer tire, with an 18/32-inch tread depth, six-rib tread design, reduced rolling resistance and new stone-ejection system; and
* HDL (heavy drive long haul) Eco Plus premium long-haul drive tire, with a 28/32-inch tread depth, advanced tread compound, low rolling resistance and a closed shoulder tread design for even wear and traction.
Both the HDL Eco Plus steer tire and the HDL Eco Plus drive tire come with a seven-year warranty on the casings and provide up to three retreadings, Mr. Armstrong said.
Other tires in the line include the:
* HTL (heavy trailer long haul) all-position trailer tire with a 13/32-inch deep tread designed to minimize squirm and irregular wear, scuff ribs to protect the sidewalls and a visual-alignment indicator to alert users to tracking problems;
* HSC (heavy steer construction) all-position, on/off highway service tire with a 23/32-inch tread depth, a cut-resistant tread compound and a new sidewall profile with a curb rib to reduce damage from curbing, cuts and abrasion;
* HSU (heavy steer urban) 10,000-pound, on/off-highway heavy service tire featuring an extra-deep 24/32-inch tread depth and a special cut- and tear-resistant tread compound;
* HDC (heavy drive construction) on/off highway drive tire with a 30/32-inch deep aggressive tread pattern featuring lateral grooves and sipes for all-weather traction; and
* HDO (heavy duty off road) off-highway drive tire with a 32/32-inch deep tread, aggressive self-cleaning tread pattern for traction in predominant off-highway applications.
While the new Conti products will serve as the premium medium truck tire line and be priced competitively with the market leaders, the company's General-brand truck tires will remain the value label and compete with what Mr. Armstrong called ``second-tier'' medium truck tire lines such as Yokohama, Firestone and BFGoodrich.
``We're not leaving the General brand,'' Mr. Armstrong said. ``We're moving and pushing the Continental brand as far forward as we can.''
General, which enjoys a 5.5-percent share of the North American medium truck tire replacement market, also will get three new products in 2003, he added.
Counting all of its medium truck tire lines-Continental, General, Semperit and associate brands-Conti's share of the domestic truck tire market is about 8.8 percent, Mr. Armstrong said, and the goal is to exceed 10 percent.
Continental is making the new Conti tires at its Mount Vernon, Ill., truck tire plant and already has most sizes and tread patterns in stock. The complete line will be available by early May, Mr. Armstrong said.