CHICAGOEntering its second century in business, Vogue Tyre & Rubber Co. is tinkering slightly with its business model to cater to the shifting demands of an evolving marketplace while also grooming a still-new tire supplier relationship and broadening its product portfolio.
Long known as a supplier of distinctive, premium tires to the new car dealer channel, Vogue has added distribution steadily with tire dealers in recent yearsto the point that dealers now account for roughly 70 percent of Vogue's tire sales, Vogue President Greg Hathcock told Tire Business at the company's centennial celebration in Chicago earlier this year.
Overall, the majority of Vogue's revenue still goes through the car dealer channel, Mr. Hathcock said, counting the Vogue wheel range and other automotive accessories and services the company offers.
After a four-decade run with a single supplier, Goodyear, Vogue is now five years into a supply deal with China's Sailun Tyre Co. Ltd., a relationship that started during the last run of elevated import tariffs (2009-12) and which now faces the specter of having to work through higher import duties starting next year.
At this point, Mr. Hathcockpresident of the Mount Prospect, Ill.-based private brander since 1991declined to comment on what measures Vogue might take in the event the U.S. decides to impose anti-dumping and/or countervailing duties on Chinese imports in general and/or Sailun specifically.
He did, however, laud Sailun for how it worked with Vogue in 2009-10 when Vogue was evaluating a new supplier in the wake of Goodyear's decision to close its plant in Union City, Tenn., and start phasing out its private brand business.
Shifting to a Chinese supplier at that time had a profound effect on what we could offer, Mr. Hathcock acknowledged.
Moving to an offshore manufacturer meant Vogue had to improve its distribution assetsopening a warehouse in Atlanta and moving to a bigger warehouse in Texasand devote resources to DOT compliance testing, something Goodyear had done for Vogue during the 42 years it had been Vogue's supplier. That change alone adds up to a six-figure investment annually, he said.
We had to be able to handle three times the inventory that we had before, he said, to allow for the lead times in production and shipping from China.
At the same time, Vogue has been expanding its field sales force to effect some of the changes in the way it goes to market, Mr. Hathcock said.
Last year Vogue created two vice president of sales positions, hiring automotive sales veteran Dale Noe and promoting company veteran Adam Slominsky.
Mr. Noe brought more than 20 years in sales and management experienceincluding stints with Kia Motors, American Suzuki and Ford Motor Creditto the job.
Mr. Slominsky has been a part of the Vogue team since 2001, serving as custom center manager and supervisor, working with dealership customers across the country.
On the product development side, Vogue has been broadening its product portfolio with more ultra-high-performance offerings, including an all-season UHP tire, in an effort to capture that first replacement position, Mr. Hathcock said.
The expansion of UHP fitments began in earnest in 2010 with the launch of the Signature V line, which sports a raised gold V on the sidewall instead of Vogue's signature white-and-gold sidewall stripe.
This was considered an overture to owners of luxury import models, who tended to shy away from any kind of sidewall striping, and a shift in the domestic luxury segment to more performance-oriented models.
Next up will be fitments targeted at the growing crossover utility vehicle (CUV) market, he added.
Vogue has considered adding a run-flat tire to its portfolio for more than 20 years, Mr. Hathcock said, but management has never felt those types of tires offer enough value for the money and there are too many tradeoffs.
Mr. Hathcock stressed that his company's warranty coverage plays a big part in the brand's positioning as a premium product.
Among the warranty terms for tires bought in the U.S. or Canada: 60,000-mile limited treadwear coverage; 30-day Buy and Try guarantee; roadside assistance covering the cost of a road-assistance call up to $50 and up to $10 for a flat tire repair; trip delay coverage, whereby Vogue will reimburse the customer (up to $120) for a non-Vogue brand replacement tire purchased to temporarily replace the unusable Vogue tire should a customer not be able to obtain a Vogue-brand tire.
Vogue broadened its business model slightly in March with the acquisition of certain assets of automotive restyling products firm E&G Classics Inc., forming E&G Corp. L.L.C., a separate company.
At the time, Vogue said the combination of E&G, a leader in the design and manufacture of automotive aftermarket restyling products, and Vogue positions both companies for substantial growth.
Vogue also continues to build business through its custom center channel, where it takes over responsibility for a car dealership's complete tire/wheel activities.
The marketer's newest custom center, its 16th nationwide, opened in March at Orr Cadillac Shreveport in Shreveport, La., the flagship store of Gregg Orr Automotive, a family of 23 auto dealership locations spanning the states of Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Florida.
Voguewhose roots trace to 1914 when a Chicago chauffeur, Harry Hower, went into the tire business with the Woodbury familymarked its centennial this summer in Chicago with employees and key vendors.
A special guest at the event was longtime Vogue board member Doug Dodson, grandson of Lloyd Dodson, who purchased West Coast distribution rights in 1927 to Vogue from Mr. Hower.
Mr. Hower and the Woodburys created the first white sidewall tires in 1918. Margaret Woodbury coined the term Vogue for the whitewall tire, according to Vogue Tyre's history.
Other key moments in the firm's history:
1926Dodson Ltd. added as Los Angeles area distributor.
1935Vogue and Kelly-Springfield Tire enter manufacturing relationship; Goodyear bought Kelly that same year.
1942Lloyd Dodson/Dodson Ltd. acquired Vogue Tyre. During World War II production was halted.
Early 1960sGold stripe added to the whitewall design.
1965-70Debut of Twin Air Life Preserver Gold Streak & Gold Puncture Control Pad.
1970-75Introduction of Wide Track Glass Belts.
1975Introduction of Vogue Super Aramid Radial Tireswith Kevlar reinforcement.
1990sAdded Twin Tread Touring, first Z speed-rated offering.
2000Debuted CBR IX with asymmetric tread pattern for all-season, touring and high-performance fitments.
2005Acquired Los Angeles-based Prestige Products Corp., a distributor of aftermarket products through car dealerships.
2010Shifted manufacturing to Sailun Tyre.
2014Acquired assets of E&G Manufacturing.
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