It's a logical extension for Goodyear, selling its own Gatorback NASCAR line of automotive hoses and belts through its company-owned Gemini stores and independent tire dealers.
But there's always been a hitch-it didn't have enough distributors handling the products nationwide to make that happen in all markets.
That's starting to change.
Goodyear, through its engineered products and retail divisions, now has in place a distribution deal with aftermarket distributor Parts Plus to deliver Gatorback NASCAR hoses and belts, as well as tensioners, to the stores, said Nick Gulli, general sales manager automotive aftermarket.
The company's engineered products unit is the exclusive NASCAR licensee of automotive aftermarket belt and hose products, including Goodyear Gatorback Poly-V and V-belts, timing belts, belt tensioners and curved radiator, heater and fuel hoses.
``The major emphasis is we want to stock Goodyear belts and hoses to the entire Gemini network, corporate-owned and independent,'' Mr. Gulli said. ``All of these people are predisposed to the Goodyear name.''
Parts Plus, already the primary supplier of hard parts to Goodyear stores, is one of the largest aftermarket program groups in North America with more than 2,200 Parts Plus auto stores and car care centers.
Its agreement with Goodyear coincides with another contract the tire maker has with AutoZone and its 3,400 auto parts stores to provide parts to Goodyear stores via its hot-shot, fast-delivery service. A number of independent distributors also offer the Gatorback lines.
``With the footprint that AutoZone has in place...coupled with Parts Plus, we're really starting to pick up momentum on the number of Goodyear stores, corporate and independent, that are stocking and supporting the Goodyear hose and belt line,'' Mr. Gulli said.
The push to increase availability of Gatorback hoses and belts at company-owned and independent Goodyear retail stores began several years ago after the wife of the former president of Goodyear's engineered products division had her car serviced at a company-owned store. The technician installed a belt made by competitor Gates Corp., and her husband wanted to know why.
The answer, Mr. Gulli said, was one of distribution. ``In the northern Ohio area, we just had a hard time getting our product in that market in the local Goodyear stores.''
The momentum to expand the products' retail reach came from that, he said. Goodyear also had in place a good foundation from which to launch its distribution push, including a 24- percent market share for replacement belts and hoses in the U.S.
First, it had what Mr. Gulli described as a premium-branded product line. Designed with angled grooves, Gatorback NASCAR belts, for example, offer a number of technical advantages over competing products, including performance, strength, quietness, cool running and ability to clean themselves of debris, he said.
In addition, the lines are supported by two powerful and well-known names in racing and the aftermarket-Goodyear and NASCAR.
``So you have the technology in place. You have the brand in place, so we went to work on the distribution,'' a Goodyear spokesman said.
At the recent Goodyear dealer meeting in Grapevine, Goodyear promoted its Gatorback NASCAR hose and belt program to dealers.
``I know that when you hear the name Goodyear, you think about tires,'' Tim Toppen, engineered products president, told dealers. ``But when thinking about under-the-hood service, I want you to also think about Goodyear belts and hoses.''
Initially, Goodyear is focusing on getting its hose and belt line in all company-owned stores. ``Right now a majority are, but there's still a gap to fill,'' Mr. Gulli said. That gap is larger among Gemini independents and bigger still in the aftermarket.
Still, the firm is making progress.
``Two years ago it was, `We want to buy your product and we can't get it,''' Mr. Gulli said. ``Last year, was a lot less of that. `You get the product to us but not in every market.' This year, I think we're getting the corporate side of things right, and we really need to drive the independents.''