CANCUN, Mexico—Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C.'s mission statement for its Gold Dealers in 2014 is straightforward: “You are our No. 1. We want to be your No. 1.”
That's the message Bill Caldwell, vice president of marketing and sales for the Fort Mill, S.C.-based tire maker, and other top executives delivered recently to more than 200 dealers attending the 2014 Conti Gold Dealers annual meeting, at the Hard Rock Hotel in Cancun.
“In 2013 we turned the corner on being able to supply to a level we expect to,” Mr. Caldwell said, referring to the commissioning of the company's plant in Sumter, S.C., and other international expansion projects, “although we still have many improvements to go.”
With millions of units of new capacity coming on stream at a number of plants, Conti is now positioned to move more aggressively into the marketplace, Mr. Caldwell said, setting the stage for the company to pitch itself more realistically as a dealer's No. 1 supplier.
During the meeting of Conti Gold elite dealers—those who bought at least 2,000 units from Conti last year—Conti executives repeated the mission statement multiple times, challenging those in attendance to tell Conti, “What will it take for us to be your No. 1 supplier?”
Jim Sicking, director of sales, estimated Conti already is the single largest supplier to about a quarter or more of the elite dealers and expects to be in a position to broaden that measurably.
To position itself for enhancing business with Gold dealers, Conti outlined four pillars for growth: strong product performance portfolio; value proposition; partnership with customers; and people.
On the product side, Conti introduced the TrueContact, an all-season touring tire targeted at the passenger car/cross-over/mini-van segment that replaces the Pro Contact EcoPlus, and announced 37 new sizes of the General Altimax RT43, according to Joe Maher, product manager, performance tires.
Conti is pitching the TrueContact both on economical benefits and safety/performance. Conti claims consumers can save up to $450 over the life of the tire due to its longer-wearing tread and reduced rolling resistance, while at the same time delivering measurably shorter wet braking vs. leading competitors.
The TrueContact tire rolls out in wheel diameters ranging from 15 to 19 inches and comprising T-, H- and V-rated SKUs. It is being offered with a 60-day trial period, a 72-month manufacturer's limited warranty program and up to a 90,000-mile limited treadwear warranty.
As for value proposition, Conti is increasing the cash incentives on many Conti and General lines to $7 and $5, respectively, according to Chris Jenkins, who oversees programs for Conti. Based on the volume levels achieved last year by the Gold Dealer elite tire network, that would represent more than $5,000 in additional revenue.
Conti also has revamped the reporting requirements for the Gold rewards to make them more transparent and easier to track.
As for people, Conti is hiring 16 new regional Gold program coordinators who will focus entirely on helping Gold dealers administer their programs and recruit new dealers. Mr. Sicking said the company recruited more new Gold dealers in the first quarter than ever before.
The tire maker has revised its advertising/marketing slogans for both Conti and General this year, according to Travis Roffler, marketing director.
Conti's message this year—”For what you do”—will roll out in print and on TV showing vignettes of customers enjoying their leisure-time pursuits that driving on Conti tires helps them do.
The new General message—”Anywhere is possible”—will debut with a series of print and TV ads showing quick “daydream escapes”—a woman stuck in traffic imagining herself off-roading and a delivery courier seeing himself making deliveries in the Wild West. The print ads contain GPS coordinates of where the ad was shot, to entice readers to check out the ads' back story and “behind the scenes” shots.
Conti also continues with and steps up its involvement in motorsports through the IMSA/Tudor United Sports Car Series and with soccer through its Major League Soccer and FIFA World Cup engagements, Mr. Rofler said. Both offer many opportunities for dealers to get involved in customer promotional activities, he stressed.
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