Pirelli Tire North America (PTNA) Inc.'s latest light truck tire development, the Scorpion ATR, will be a ``key element'' of the tire maker's efforts in North America in both the replacement and original equipment segments, executives said at the tire's launch recently.
PTNA President and CEO Guy Mannino said the firm invested the effort to make the Scorpion ATR an OE tire to give it technical prowess as well as a selling boost for dealers.
``This is a very important product launch for us because the old product has been there for quite some time, and we needed to renew that specific part of the range,'' Mr. Mannino told Tire Business during the March launch in Las Vegas.
The Scorpion ATR is replacing the Scorpion A/T, which will be phased out as more sizes are available for the ATR. The new tire is available in 31 sizes ranging from 15- to 24-inch rim diameters in S, T and R speed ratings. More sizes are planned in 17- to 18-inch rim diameters by July or August, officials said.
The tire is available in both LT and P-metric sizes and with raised white or black outline letters on the sidewall. It carries a limited treadwear warranty of 40,000 miles.
Pirelli said the ATR is aimed at standard sport-utility vehicles and full-size pickups-which make up about 75 percent of the overall segment. The tire is OE on the 2006 Ford F150. Other target vehicles include the Chevrolet Silverado and Tahoe as well as the Ford Excursion.
The tire is designed to produce 50 percent less noise than the A/T and also wear evenly to prevent noise as it wears, officials said. Mr. Mannino said the average driver of the targeted vehicles will drive primarily on-highway, so noise reduction was extremely important.
At the same time, though, the tire still had to be prepared to handle off-road scenarios. During a ride-and-drive event at the Las Vegas Speedway, dealers took the ATR on both the highway and an off-road course.
Jack Furrier, owner of Western Tire Centers in Tucson, Ariz., said the noise reduction over the A/T will be a major selling point.
``There's a lot of people, especially on these all-terrain type tires, that complain about noise,'' he said.
Ron Brady, vice president and general manager of wholesale operations at Free Service Tire in Johnson City, Tenn., said the tire performed well at about 90 mph on the highway heading into the Nevada desert.
``It really surprised me how quiet the tires are,'' he said.
While dealers gave the new tire some favorable marks, they also pointed to a need for effective marketing and advertising from the company.
Al Lee of Service Specialists in Irvine, Calif., said Pirelli has made itself more price competitive and launched more relevant products and sizes into the market. But he added: ``A lot of it isn't advertised as much as it should be.''
Mr. Mannino told dealers during the launch that Pirelli will focus its brand building efforts around motorsports, the Pirelli calendar, an online movie and more ``comprehensive'' marketing activities throughout the year that focus on brand awareness.
The online movie, which debuted March 23 at www.pirellifilm.com, is part of a project to introduce short films through several media channels, including the Web. The films will interpret the Pirelli tagline, ``Power is nothing without control.'' In the first movie, The Call, John Malkovich plays a priest leading an exorcism of a vehicle caught in the throes of an evil Naomi Campbell. The short, quirky flick was directed by Antoine Foqua and shot in Rome.
Mr. Mannino told Tire Business that Pirelli is focusing on image marketing to build an ``e-community'' around the brand so that motorists will think of Pirelli when they need to buy tires.
Riccardo Cichi, vice president of sales and marketing, said Pirelli also will focus on independent tire dealers.
``The Pirelli strategy is to grow the independent tire dealer, grow with the independent tire dealer and the car dealers,'' he said. ``We're not in the mass merchandisers, we're not in the clubs and we don't have any company-owned stores.''
Mr. Furrier said he started promoting Pirelli products at his business last fall, and they're picking up.
``They've got a ways to go (in North America), obviously, but I think they're on the right road,'' he said.