Pat McLaughlin can feel the excitement building at SURE Tire Co. Inc. as the buying group prepares to roll out new tires for three market segments through the summer.
It's a move the co-op hopes will give it a shot at doubling its business within five years-and keep the phones ringing. That hasn't always been the case.
SURE Tire has gone from receiving one to two phone calls per month from interested parties to more than 50, Mr. McLaughlin said, and now has even extended its business into Canada and Mexico.
``When you look at the company today vs. 18 months ago, we're starting to create a lot of enthusiasm within the marketplace,'' he said. ``The biggest change we've seen in the last 18 months is the amount of inquiries we're getting from the marketplace for our products.
``That's really the stimulus that's helping propel our business....To look at the company before and look at it now, there's a new energy, a new enthusiasm, that's been created within the organization. I think that's really important for our long-term survival. It's tough out there, competing today.''
SURE Tire, formerly called Summit Tire & Battery Inc., was founded in 2000 when Summit Tire added the Remington brand to its marketing lineup. The group has 29 shareholder members and 28 associate members, and Goodyear manufactures most of its private labels. Mr. McLaughlin manages the group in conjunction with Tire Industry Association Past President Steve Disney. Ken Harris, principal of Troy, Ala.-based Harris Tire, serves as secretary-treasurer. All of the group's support staff is based in St. Peters.
Summit Tire was founded in 1974 by what Mr. McLaughlin described as a ``group of fellas that had a vision for the future of the tire industry'' that included marketing their own brand in protected areas. That's a concept he called the key to SURE Tire's strength in the marketplace.
And it seems to be working. SURE Tire's sales grew 4 percent last year, Mr. McLaughlin said, and the group expects sales this year to grow from its average of $140 million to $150 million.
``We've done a lot of work turning this company around,'' Mr. McLaughlin said, ``and there's still a lot of work to do....But we're putting fun back into the business.''
To capitalize on that strength, SURE Tire is debuting the Summit Cascade luxury sport-utility vehicle tire, the Remington Wide Brute RV tire and the Summit Mud Dawg for off-road enthusiasts.
The Summit Cascade is available in eight sizes, the Remington Wide Brute RV will be available in 34 sizes in July and the Mud Dawg will come in four sizes.
The Summit Cascade, named for the Cascade Mountain range in the Pacific Northwest and manufactured by Goodyear, has a flat, premium tread profile. The tire's sizes include 235, 245, 255 and 265 aspect ratios to fit 15-, 16- and 17-inch rims. It offers traction for slick highways as well as snow and ice, said Mr. McLaughlin, who is executive director of the co-op.
Built to provide a quiet ride, the Summit Cascade features white lettering, which he hopes will help SURE Tire garner a good share of replacement sales.
``With the SUV market being so important to our industry right now, we felt it was important to put forth whatever it took to bring out the very best tire we could,'' he said.
The Remington Wide Brute RV is an all-position tire designed for on- and off-road use, while the Summit Mud Dawg is a specialized niche tire with a ``brand new design'' that off-roaders should find ``cool looking,'' according to Mr. McLaughlin.
``It's built for the part of the market where the guys like to play hard, like to get off-road, like to throw mud in all directions and be able to move out of the mud when they're ready to stop playing,'' he told Tire Business. ``It's something that we're really looking forward to, and of course we're taking orders for that right now.''
SURE Tire, which stands for Summit Universal Cooperative Remington Enterprises Inc., is hoping the new products will generate new customers and a reputation for the co-op, Mr. McLaughlin said.
``We're not trying to sell a specific tire to a specific customer. We're out looking to build brand awareness for the good of the group,'' he said, noting these products are part of SURE Tire's strategy to double its business in the next five years.
Besides this summer's latest offerings of Summit and Remington products, he emphasized that SURE Tire has kept busy in the past 18 months with tire introductions for various market niches.
Some of those include the Summit Trail Climber SLT light truck tire, and the Summit Ultra Max HP tire, a T- and H-rated Heritage tire line for the broadline market. The company also just introduced a Heritage ST trailer tire, which Mr. McLaughlin said has met ``strong success.''
Last November SURE Tire debuted the Concept Essenza tire-and-wheel program for the sport compact tuner market, and the private label has been exceeding the co-op's sales goals, he said. As a result, SURE Tire is expanding the Essenza line by six sizes in 2003, including 18-, 19- and 20-inch fitments.