Goodyear's special brand diet has resulted in losing a few more noteworthy pounds-of tires, that is-and shedding a little bit of history.
As part of its continuing effort to slim down its brand offerings, the company has advised its customers that the Lee and Star associate labels-which date back to the early 1900s-are being phased out.
Earlier this year the Akron-based tire maker announced plans to cut production of private and associate label tires by about a third in North America over the course of about 12 months in order to ``focus selectively'' on the most profitable segments of its business.
A Goodyear spokesman told Tire Business that dealers and distributors carrying the Lee and Star brands will have the opportunity to replace those brands with the Remington or Republic brands, ``depending upon their retail operation and current product screen.''
``The elimination of the two brands is occurring,'' the spokesman said, ``because of Goodyear's objective to focus efforts more effectively toward its customers and its key products, with the objective of improving customer service.''
The company's decision to pare its label stable represents about $300 million in annual sales and, Goodyear said earlier, will reduce capacity by about 8 million units.
In June the company confirmed it had stopped making the Monarch private brand for about a year and had no plans to resurrect it any time soon.
At that time wholesaler Maynard & Lesieur Inc. of Nashua, N.H., said Goodyear's decision put the company in a quandary because the wholesaler had offered Monarch exclusively in its area for more than 30 years. The company said Goodyear offered the Lee and Republic private labels to Maynard & Lesieur as possible replacements for Monarch, but other New England dealers and distributors already carried those brands.
In response to the news about Lee and Star, Larry Lesieur, the wholesaler's secretary and part-owner, told Tire Business the company decided not to take on Lee because East Haven, Conn.-based Town Fair Tire Centers Inc.'s 66 stores are handling the brand. Instead, Maynard & Lesieur has been buying supplies of the Hallmark brand-also made by Goodyear-from Tire Kingdom International (TKI), but that brand ``is obviously going away, too,'' he said.
He plans to replace Hallmark with TKI's new Cyclone brand, which he said will be made by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Yokohama Tire Corp.
Reacting to the ongoing strike against Goodyear by the United Steelworkers (USW) and its effect on tire supply, Mr. Lesieur said that ``in terms of direct, I'm a Kelly dealer and there's no Kelly inventory, and I'm a Republic dealer and there's very little Republic inventory. If I was relying (on those two brands) I'd be hanging myself right now.
``That strike just looks like it's going to go on and on. Goodyear seems like it's firm and the union seems like it's firm, too. I certainly don't want to see those jobs go away-they'll never be replaced.
``However, I don't think you can make a private brand in this country very easily at competitive prices.''
According to information provided earlier by the USW, Goodyear makes private brand tires at five plants where the union represents workers: Fayetteville, N.C.; Tyler, Texas, which the company has slated to close; Gadsden, Ala.; Union City, Tenn.; and Valleyfield, Quebec.
The Goodyear spokesman said the company does not give out sales numbers and consequently would not comment on Lee and Star sales over the past few years. ``Inactive'' brands, he explained, are ``simply that. They're inactive-not being produced-but Goodyear still owns the rights to them.''
While SURE Tire Co. Inc. in St. Peters, Mo., has had an exclusive on Goodyear's Remington associate brand in passenger, light truck and medium truck radials, Patrick McLaughlin, executive director, said Goodyear has pulled the plug on the brand's exclusivity, so SURE will be replacing it after unsuccessfully trying to acquire the name, which Goodyear owns.
The Goodyear spokesman explained that the tire maker will continue to use Remington ``to supply to our customers. In other words, the dealers and distributors who carried either the Lee or Star brands will have the opportunity to replace that brand with our Remington or Republic brands.''
Mr. Lesieur said his company has ``been weaning ourselves off relying on Goodyear for private brands since they took us off Monarch.''
Maynard & Lesieur is ``a pretty strong Cooper dealer anyway,'' he continued. ``Cooper doesn't have any backorders. Their fill rates are still fantastic. Last week I think I ordered 400 (Cooper tires) and got 390 of them.''
Sentimentally, Mr. Lesieur said, he's ``sorry to see Lee go away. That was the first brand we had when my dad (Roland Lesieur) started the business back in the 1960s. Then we switched to Monarch. We also were a Star dealer many years ago.
``But deep down inside, I couldn't care less. Sentimentality doesn't pay the bills.''
While he acknowledged many dealers may be ``sad to see those wonderful brands go away, to me, if Goodyear had been on the ball, it could have started moving some of those old brands to China and could still be making those tires.''
According to the book ``The Kelly-Springfield Story,'' the Lee tire brand began in 1883, the Goodyear spokesman said, and Star tire production started in 1917. Star became a sales division in 1975 for the former Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. Conshohocken, Pa.-based Lee Tire & Rubber Co., which owned the Lee brand, became part of Goodyear-owned Kelly-Springfield in 1987.
Eventually Goodyear absorbed its Cumberland, Md.-based Kelly-Springfield subsidiary into its corporate structure as simply a sales division and, then, just the Kelly brand.
Although Goodyear has prominently begun dumping some old-time brands, it's not alone.
The Duralon brand, made by Bridgestone/Firestone (BFS), also is, at least temporarily, going to that great tire brand graveyard.
Midstates Distributing Co. Inc.'s chief operating officer, John Atkins, told Tire Business that the brand it has owned and distributed exclusively for at least a half-century-in passenger, high performance, light truck radial and light truck bias sizes-``will be mothballed after existing inventories are depleted.''
BFS, he said, told the St. Paul, Minn.-based distributor that it will no longer make the tire it has been building for Midstates for more than 50 years, so the company is trying to find an alternate manufacturer. Mr. Atkins would not say whether he was looking offshore-specifically China-for a new supplier.
``Originally we had 40 or 50 companies selling Duralon tires,'' he noted, ``but today the number is much smaller than that. So finding another manufacturer is a challenge.''
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A Goodyear spokesman provided the following rundown on private and associate labels the company has been offering:
* Centennial-inactive for a couple of years;
* Lee-being phased out;
* Pacemark-active winter tire line;
* Star-being phased out; and
* Steelmark-active truck tire line.