The Sonic brand has bounced again...to a new distributor.
After being in the fold of Parrish Tire Co. for the past six years, the longtime private label tire line will be exclusively distributed out of Juno Beach by Tire Kingdom International (TKI). It is the international and domestic wholesale arm of TBC Corp., based in Memphis, Tenn.
Effective Jan. 1, TKI will offer the Sonic line in passenger, light truck and 4x4 sizes made by Continental Tire North America Inc., which has owned the brand name for a number of years.
Al Diaz, president of TKI, said the brand-featuring a new logo-will be exclusively for distributors and will not be handled by TBC's Tire Kingdom retail store chain.
He would not say why Parrish Tire, in Winston-Salem, N.C., had dropped the line, citing proprietary information. Mike Vargo, a Parrish vice president and its Tredtech brand group president, would not comment either to Tire Business, other than to state: ``We just chose to go in a different direction. It was something we worked out with Continental General that was to our benefit, and I don't care to discuss it.''
TKI is making distribution areas for the Sonic label available to ``qualified dealers'' throughout the U.S. and in export markets worldwide. The tire will be offered in half-trailer, trailerload and container shipments, Mr. Diaz said, but he would not outline what the dealer program entails. Dealers would get ``primary marketing responsibility,'' he said-``we don't use an exclusivity kind of thing.''
As the company sets up the program, it is running advertisements in various publications, noting that TKI also is the North American importer of FATE brand tires.
TKI is yet another in a long list of firms that have handled Sonic-to varying degrees of success-in the past decade.
Before Parrish Tire acquired the marketing rights to it in 1997, for a short time the brand's largest-volume distributor was Tire Factory in St. Peters, Mo., which had purchased Sonic's marketing rights in 1996. Prior to that the former Tire Marketers Association (TMA) had owned and marketed Sonic for a number of years until the brand-and TMA-were purchased in 1993 by Big O Tires Inc. It quietly sold both two years later to Carr's Tire Service Inc. in Harrisonburg, Va., which did business as Big L Tire Inc.
Big L's involvement with Sonic was short-lived. It sold the brand to the former Laramie Tire Distributors Inc. in Norristown, Pa., where Sonic resided for a short time before its marketing rights were sold to Tire Factory after Laramie was acquired by Treadways Corp.
Through the years Sonic has enjoyed both good and anything but supersonic sales. In 1997 a Continental Tire executive told Tire Business he believed ``the brand was on its way to death'' when Tire Factory stepped in to keep it alive. And at the time Parrish acquired the rights for Sonic, Mr. Vargo acknowledged the brand had ``fallen on hard times'' but he felt the company could reinvigorate its sagging sales.
However, neither Mr. Vargo nor Mr. Diaz would divulge how Sonic's sales have been recently. Officials at Continental did not return calls.