ST. LOUIS (Jan. 5, 2016) — Newly formed Sumitomo Rubber North America Inc. plans to pursue OE fitments with U.S. car companies and triple its U.S. marketing budget in 2016 as part of its strategy to improve the position of its Falken tire brand in North America, SRNA President and CEO Richard Smallwood said recently.
“I remember a lot of (dealers) for years saying, ‘You need OE, you need OE,'” Mr. Smallwood said at Falken's recent dealer meeting in St. Louis. “We agree, but we were always very quiet about going after OE — we stayed away from it. Now we're aggressively going after OE.”
By 2019, the company, with the help of domestic manufacturing capacity at the Tonawanda, N.Y., factory acquired from Goodyear, hopes to corner at least a 5-percent OE market share in the U.S., he added.
The firm already has lined up OE fitments in Europe and Canada with brands like Jeep and Chrysler, but Rick Brennan, executive director of marketing for the Falken brand, said the company expects to add several U.S. fitments in 2016.
- This story appears in the Jan. 4 print edition of Tire Business.
“Our goal is to get a rapid increase in OE fitments so that it starts to build all of the other things we want,” he said. “We can't just do one thing in the marketplace. We have to do four at the same time to build our awareness and make us more relevant, and we will do those things.”
The firm will be introducing multiple products for the consumer and commercial markets, with a dozen new lines scheduled to debut within the next 12 months.
Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.–based SRNA will launch four Falken-brand consumer tire lines and four medium truck/bus radial products in the first quarter of 2016, followed by another four consumer tires by the first quarter of 2017.
“The first step is to tell the people who make our tires exactly what we need, so we have expanded the product planning function at FTC,” Mr. Brennan said.
“We have a head of product planning and marketing, and beneath that head of planning are three product managers. Each one of them focuses on a different product group to make sure that we know exactly the products we need, exactly what (dealers) want to sell to the customers you have and that we make it.”
SRNA claims Falken ranks as the No. 4 UHP tire brand in the U.S., Mr. Brennan aid, with a market share in that area of about 6.7 percent, but the company's overall market share is about half that number.
“When you look at passenger tires on passenger cars our market share is pretty high,” Mr. Brennan said. “It means we don't have much on anything else. For us to get past that 6- to 7-percent market share range, it means we've got to be really powerful, but we have other (areas) that are 1 percent or less.
“If we can concentrate on those and get them up to that passenger-tires-on-passenger-cars level, the brand will be really strong at that point.”