FRANKLIN, Tenn. — Carlstar Group L.L.C. is putting the "star" into its brand lineup permanently.
The Franklin-based specialty tire and wheel manufacturer said it has begun transitioning the bulk of its tires to the Carlstar name, dropping the venerable Carlisle brand name it has used on its tires since taking over the tire and wheel business in 2013 from Carlisle Companies Inc.
Carlstar CEO Jacob Thomas said the firm always intended to create a proprietary brand "unique to the tire sector," and that the time is right for the company to make the change.
"Carlstar today is a name well recognized in the specialty tire sector, well known to customers and partners who continue to appreciate the continued excellence of its products and services," Thomas told Tire Business.
"So we feel that the time is now to make this brand evolution. This change is highly supportive of the company's strategy to expand and grow."
Carlstar's branding decision coincides with the expiration of a 10-year period during which Carlstar has been able to use the Carlisle brand name without having to pay Carlisle Companies royalties. The brand-rights agreement signed in 2013 was for 20 years, the first 10 of which were royalty-free.
Thomas said Carlstar Group was created from the specialty tire and wheel business of Carlisle Companies, which includes businesses that have or continue to serve the construction materials, fluid technologies, food service products, and brake and friction sectors, among others,
Carlstar's portfolio is concentrated on specialty tires — agricultural, construction, recreational and specialty trailer. Carlisle will continue to remain part of the Carlstar Group family of brands, Thomas said, but the Carlisle name will be limited going forward.
"The evolution of our primary brand to Carlstar was driven by the desire to have our main brand reflect the name of the company that designs, manufactures, sells and supports the products," Thomas said. "This internal and external coherence is very powerful, and it will also maximize our strategic flexibility to grow and expand in the future."
Carlstar will continue to maintain a portfolio of other brands, including the ITP and Marastar (tires) and Blackrock, Cragar and Unique (wheels) "that best position it to serve targeted segments and channels."
Laren Harmon, executive vice president, global sales and marketing, said Carlstar met with several of its largest dealers and distributors to develop a transition plan based on their feedback.
"The reception has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive," Harmon said. "They understand that Carlstar's brand promise is delivered by the people, facilities, processes and high quality products that they have trusted for over 100 years — and none of that is changing."
Carlstar said it has made "sizable investments" to carry out the name change, including for mold/plate conversions, marketing materials, advertising, social and digital marketing, and merchandise.
"We are leaving no stone unturned to execute with excellence, and also take this opportunity to celebrate what is special about Carlstar," Harmon said.
Carlstar predecessor company Carlisle Tire & Rubber started life in 1917 in Carlisle, Pa., as an inner tube producer.
Thomas said the company has prepared "meticulously," developing "a comprehensive plan for every aspect of the rebranding journey. ..."
The change will be initiated in two steps. First, the marketing materials will undergo a multi-step transition, leveraging this simple message: "Carlisle-branded tires are now Carlstar."
Second, changing the name on the tires will be done in phases, prioritizing products with higher volume SKUs.
Harmon said the first to be changed include the company's high-speed trailer tire, the Radial Trail HD, as well as powersports products such as the AT 489 and All Trails.
In addition, lawn and garden products such as the Turf Saver and Turf Master will be among those changed initially.
Harmon said approximately 80% of the company's Carlisle-branded portfolio will change within the next two to three years. He said it's difficult to pinpoint a timeline for the complete transition.
"There are some SKUs that are such low volume that we will not change them, and these SKUs will eventually become obsolete," he said. "Of course, going forward, all newly launched SKUs will carry the Carlstar name."
Harmon said the company will launch several Carlstar-branded products in the second half of 2023, including:
- Turf Armor, a rugged-style turf tire that features a multi-angled tread pattern designed to distribute ground pressure evenly for improved traction;
- A size expansion in the Versa Turf line, a turf friendly R3 that provides improved traction and increased tread depth, for larger vehicle fitments;
- Size expansions for the All-Steel trailer tire series, with new products in 16-, 17.5- and 19.5-inch rim diameter sizes;
- The debut of the Workforce in the powersports lineup, a product that features an all-terrain tread design that works especially well on pavement; and
- Radial R-1 implement tires in the agricultural segment, set for release in the third and fourth quarters of 2023
- Harmon said Carlstar will launch new products on OEM platforms across the various segments as well, but those won't be revealed until the OEM products are unveiled.
Carlstar operates three tire plants — two in the U.S. (Clinton and Jackson, Tenn.) and one in China — along with a dozen wheel factories in four countries, with a workforce of 3,400.
Carlstar is considered the 47th largest tire company in the world, according to Tire Business' 2022 Global Tire Report rankings, with estimated tire-related sales of $630 million in 2021.
Thomas said the name change provides an opportunity to showcase the Carlstar brand with its customers, partners and employees.
"In communicating that the only thing that is changing is the letters on the sidewall of the tire, we are able to reinforce that the outstanding team committed to customer success, the high quality products and services, the flexible global manufacturing and distribution facilities, which delivered reliably through complex supply chain disruptions — the things that make Carlstar special — all remain the same," Thomas said.
He said the change has also given the company a chance to step back, reflect and celebrate "everything that we do so well ... both internally and externally. That is very exciting and fulfilling."