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"Sumitomo Fleet Select' debuts

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LOUISVILLE, Ky.—TBC Wholesale Group has launched a fleet national account program for the Sumitomo brand, offering dealers a package of advantages such as quick delivery, competitive pricing, flexible billing options, wide product selection and nationwide warranties.

“Consolidation and growth in the trucking industry has supported a trend toward fleets' requiring direct relationships with their tire suppliers,” said Richard Purol, vice president of marketing, TBC Wholesale and vice president of the new program called Sumitomo Fleet Select.

“The (Sumitomo) Fleet Select program addresses that need by providing a conduit between Sumitomo's dealer network and fleets that require national account tire programs.”

TBC said a long-standing advantage of the Sumitomo truck tire program has been to allow distributors the freedom to develop the brand in ways that fit their own markets.

“We have a traditional position in the market where we're considered the high quality tire that is a very good value,” Mr. Purol said in an interview during the recent Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville. “And if our customers want to continue to do business that way with us, we're perfectly happy to go along with that.”

But in those situations where a Sumitomo dealer has been working with a local fleet for years—and that fleet gets bought out by a company located out of state— “we didn't have a way to cohesively tie our business together across markets,” he said.

The Sumitomo Fleet Select program addresses that need.

“We feel this will be a real good complement to the way we go to market,” Mr. Purol said. It will give our customers an opportunity to introduce our tire to a little bit bigger fleet customer than they have in the past.”

Mr. Purol said Fleet Select will operate much like a basic national account program in the market today and should enhance the Sumitomo brand further.

“By us having a more focused marketing effort at the user community, it's going to establish an identity for the brand among truckers, among fleets. That's probably been an inconsistency in our brand image over the years,” he said, despite Sumitomo's being in the market for more than 30 years and having millions of Sumitomo-brand truck tires operating in North America.

“By linking together the fleet, the dealer, the wholesale distributor and ourselves, it's just going to give us a much more targeted approach to what today's market is.”

TBC said the Sumitomo brand—supplied by Japan's Sumitomo Rubber Industries Ltd.—offers a broad range of truck tires. The Sumitomo Premium Series, featuring “S-Tech” design, consists of three tread designs verified as SmartWay fuel-saving components under the Environmental Protection Agency's program. They also are engineered to deliver long mileage, fuel savings, retreadability and value, TBC said.

This wide truck tire product range is an advantage, Mr. Purol said. “We still have one of the widest ranges, really good selection of SmartWay (-verified) tires for over-the-road service. We build a lot of specialty sizes that other companies have quit building. We have some very good construction tires.”

Mr. Purol said the company's sales representatives will be introducing the program to distributors and fleets over the coming months.

“We have the advantage that we do have a very good customer base of wholesale distributors across the country. And there are very few markets where we are absolutely void of a wholesale distributor. By drawing them into it, having them enroll their associate dealers as certified dealers under this program, we feel we can get the program organized relatively quickly.”

An overview of Sumitomo Fleet Select is available online at Sumitomo's website at www.sumitomofleet-select.com.
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