-Lime-green dress shirts and similar ties with meandering tread patterns marked more than a fashion statement for Bridgestone/Firestone executives at the Specialty Equipment Market Association/International Tire Expo in Las Vegas.
The apparel marked the launch of Fuzion, a new brand for the tire maker aimed at the 18-24 crowd who are heavily involved in customizing their vehicles. More important, the age group is heavily involved in spending good money on their vehicles and tires.
``These are people who have money to spend on their vehicles, and they spend it,'' said Phil Pacsi, executive director of North American consumer tire brand marketing for BFS.
The first tire line in the Fuzion brand is the Fuzion ZRi, available in March in 35 sizes ranging from 16- to 20-inch rim diameters. The tires will carry W-, V- and H-speed ratings. The tires also will be marketed heavily in primarily the trade and tuner media and with an interactive Web site. John Gamauf, president of consumer replacement tire for BFS, said a race sponsorship also may be in Fuzion's future.
The Fuzion brand will be a core product for family channel dealers though it will carry a separate identity from Bridgestone/Firestone, officials said. It also will be positioned in the ``good'' category carrying an entry-level price to compete with Falken, Toyo, Nitto, Kumho and Hankook brands.
``It's just a total brand, and it will be priced in the entry-level marketplace,'' Mr. Gamauf told Tire Business. ``Normally when we introduce products, it's at the upper scale. But because we're a little late in this market segment we're going right down there...where all the entry-level brands are.''
That price designation is good news to Grant Stillson, general manager of Monteith Tire and Auto Service Center in Goshen, Ind. He said a low price is necessary since the targeted consumers don't have money to burn on tires, and they are less convinced to pay a high price for fancy compounds and other technology.
``These guys don't care about the bells and whistles of the tire,'' he said, though he added the tread design does count.
Five-outlet Monteith Tire has been in the performance market for about seven years, Mr. Stillson said, back when ``everything was 15 inches and wire wheels.'' He said BFS has needed a value-priced offering.
The need wasn't lost on the tire maker. ``This will fill the void in our dealers' inventory,'' Mr. Pacsi said.
John Chilton of Grandview Tire & Auto Center Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia, said he's excited to roll out the Fuzion tire at his single-outlet dealership. He said the tire and Bridgestone/Firestone's marketing should mesh well with the intended customers.
``It fits a new generation,'' he said as he looked at the new tire at the SEMA show.
Mr. Gamauf said he also anticipates a lot of selling potential from the new brand.
``I believe our dealer organizations are just going to suck these up,'' he told Tire Business.