Conti debuts General-brand winter tire
By Sigmund Mikolajczyk
BIG SKY, Mont.-Calling it the first General-brand winter tire in ``many, many years,'' Continental Tire North America Inc. has rolled out the Altimax Arctic during what the company dubbed its Arctic Blast III event.
The tire maker picked as its backdrop a snow-bound, closed-for-the-season airport runway in West Yellowstone Park-where temperatures hovered in the low teens-to unveil the tire Jan. 21-23. Company executives said it features a multi-angle sipe system, reactive contour, directional tread pattern with center-stability rib and an all-weather dual tread compound.
The new tire is part of the Charlotte, N.C.-based company's aggressive plan to ``re-introduce'' the General brand over the next three years. Conti plans to add about 500 SKUs in both the Continental and General brands, the bulk of them in 2007, a Conti exec told Tire Business.
The Altimax Arctic is aimed at passenger coupes, sedans, crossovers and minivans driven on interstate highways, secondary and city roads, according to the company.
It will be offered in 26 sizes-ranging from 13- to 17-inch rim diameters-that will cover more than 68 and 72 percent, respectively, of the U.S. and Canadian studdable tire segments, Conti said.
During an early-morning technical presentation Jan. 23 on the new tire, Andreas Gerstenberger, Conti's executive vice president of sales and marketing, told automotive and tire trade press journalists that not only is the Altimax Arctic the first General brand winter tire in a long time, but the ride-and-drive event on the frozen airport tarmac ``is the first winter event for General Tire in many, many years.''
The tire is a companion to the company's Conti-brand 4x4 WinterContact tire, which has been on the market for some time.
The Altimax Arctic, manufactured in Germany, will be available to dealers sometime in the third quarter of 2007, Mr. Gerstenberger said.
Production has started in all sizes, but because of special extruders needed, only a few Conti plants have the capability of manufacturing the new tires.
Arctic Blast III continued Jan. 24 as 28 tire dealers and marketers from across the country participated in a number of ride-and-drive activities on the West Yellowstone airport grounds that compared the performance of the Altimax Arctic against Conti all-season and summer tires, as well as a competitor's winter tire.