GATEWAY, Colo. — Yokohama Tire Corp.'s (YTC) product planning department is accustomed to getting its way.
Even so, managers within the department weren't sure whether their wish list for the new Geolandar M/T line could be fulfilled.
Two-and-a-half years after the development process began, the Geolandar M/T G003 hits the market on July 1. And the product planning department couldn't be more pleased.
Officials had asked for the tire to last longer. Check.
They asked for the tire to look good. Check.
They asked for the tire to be quieter. Check.
And they asked for it to have the right sizes, for it to perform all the normal functions of a mud/terrain tire and maintain all of the improvements. Check, check and check.
"Ultimately, we tend to get our way, which is good, and it shows the support from Japan for North America," said Andrew Briggs, senior director, tire business planning, product planning and sales operation for YTC.
"They know how important YTC is to the overall global business of Yokohama (Rubber Co. Ltd.). I'm really pleased we got everything we asked for."
• This story appeared in the June 19 print edition of Tire Business.
The Geolandar M/T G003, part of the Geolandar line that began life in 1995, marks the fourth Geolandar -branded tire in Yokohama's lineup. This latest line will be available in 37 sizes by year-end, ranging from 15- to 20-inch rim diameters, featuring the tire maker's Geo-Shield technology and a proprietary triple-polymer tread compound.
YTC executives chose an appropriate setting — the rugged mountains of southwest Colorado — to show off those traits to media and dealers during two separate ride-and-drive events in late May.
The invited guests drove Jeeps fitted with the new tire on demanding terrain through the picturesque canyons surrounding the Gateway Canyons Resort and Spa, venturing more than 7,500 feet up rocky roads and passageways.
They also raced wannabe trophy trucks — off-road buggies — equipped with Geolandar M/T G003s around a twisting, dusty track that featured five jumps,
Company officials used a slogan — longer, stronger, shorter and quieter — to highlight several benefits of the tire:
A longer-lasting tread that uses a high-density compound with a triple-polymer blend. Yokohama said the tire has an 8-percent longer treadlife than a leading competitor.
The Geo-Shield construction incorporates multiple sidewall plies, steel belts, a full nylon cap and a high turn-up carcass, which creates a stronger tire. The load-range C tires are the only ones not to have the third sidewall ply.
The compound, tread design and optimized siping contribute to the tire's shorter stopping performance — 51 feet shorter on a wet road against a competitor in independent testing.
Executives say the tire meets consumer and dealer demands for a quiet tire. According to testing, the new Geolandar is 2.3 decibels quieter than a competitor.
"We wanted to make sure this is a very well-balanced tire, a very well-rounded tire for off road and on road," said Robert J. Abram, the product planning manager — consumer for Yokohama.
Another key feature of the tire is sidewall armor. Bastions not only improve the appearance of the tire, according to Yokohama, but they also protect against sidewall impacts while adding traction.
"They are functional," Mr. Briggs said of the bastions. "We saw it during (the ride-and-drive) Jeep tour, especially in those big ruts — it claws your way out."
The tires, which will be manufactured at Yokohama's plant in Mie, Japan, initially will be available in 20 sizes. Twelve more sizes will be available over the next two months and five more will come out in the fourth quarter.
While the line will not have a mileage warranty, it does come with Yokohama's 30-day money-back guarantee. If the consumer doesn't like the tire, he can return it within that time period for another tire or his money back.
Yokohama has struck two sponsorship deals to help market the Geolandar line. Yokohama has become the official tire of the U.S. Spartan Race series, an obstacle race series, and the official tire of the Nitro Circus Live U.S. Tour and Nitro World Games, a multi-event action series featuring FMX, BMX, skate, inline and scooter.
Fred Koplin, Yokohama's director of marketing, said the company is targeting several types of audiences: the enthusiast, who loves racing, having fun and going fast; the lifestyle audience, those who want to test the themselves and the tire that is on their vehicles; and the extreme sport audience, those who love to watch others going fast.
"Going Strong is an umbrella concept for all the Geolandar product line," Mr. Koplin said.
Geolandar applications include a multitude of pickups and SUVs, including the Chevy Silverado, Dodge Ram 1500, Ford F-150 Raptor, GMC Yukon XL 3500, Jeep Wrangler, Land Rover Discovery, Nissan Titan and Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Last year YTC launched an updated all-terrain version of the Geolandar line, the Geolandar A/T G015, which the company touted at the time as "engineered for durability" and improved traction in all weather conditions.
The third version of the Geolandar line, the H/T G056, was renewed in 2014.
This tire replaces the Geolandar M/T Plus, which had a strong but small audience, perhaps due to its directional tread pattern that Mr. Briggs said "scared a lot of people away. There were a lot of hardcore fans of it, but the broader market clearly had a hard time seeing the benefits of the tire."
Why the rapid expansion in light truck tires?
"Trucks are back," Mr. Abrams said. "The dip that came in the full-size and overall truck market in 2008-09...they're kind of all the way back. Since the fall of 2008, the new truck market has been growing and growing and gives us lots of opportunity with new products."
Mr. Briggs said that on one hand, this roll-out completes the Geolandar line, but on the other, it hints at what is to come.
"We're really excited about that," Mr. Briggs said. "There will be some future announcements in coming months about what else we have up our sleeves. We'll have one of the youngest lineups in the industry and one of the most robust lineups in the industry.
"We went from being a little light in that category, we think, to being one of the stronger players in the category."