"In light of everything that's happened — COVID-19, shutting down our economy, high unemployment — the consumer right now is very pressed, and there is a big shift toward saving money and getting tremendous value.
"We're in the right place at the right time for the wrong reasons, unfortunately, but it's true."
The Xcellent portfolio of tires is manufactured at General Rubber (Thailand) Co. Ltd.'s plant, located in Amphur Muang Rayong, for Crowntyre Industrial Co. Ltd., a Qingdao, China-based private brand/contract manufacturer. General Rubber is the year-old Thai subsidiary of China's Jiangsu General Science Technology Co. Ltd.
Crowntyre markets the Gremax line, which, Mr. Hutchinson said, fell on hard times as a result of tariffs placed on Chinese-made tires within the last five years.
The Xcellent brand will offer a complete portfolio over the next 12-14 months, with passenger, high-performance and medium truck tires to be added later this year and into 2021 to the light-truck lines available now.
"It's a Tier 3 tire, priced at the low end of Tier 3," Mr. Hutchinson said.
"We're not trying to compete against major brands or mid-major brands. We're competing mainly against private labels and import brands with little brand recognition, but we're priced to compete well."
Mr. Hutchinson has more than 35 years of experience in the tire and automotive service industry, including stints with Bridgestone Tire Americas (product manager, light trucks), Toyo Tire USA Corp. (vice president of marketing), and Transamerican Auto Parts/Pro Comp Tire (director of sales and marketing).
It was during his tenure with Pro Comp that he struck up a relationship with the executive team at Crowntyre, including director Hugh Wang and CEO Tim Liang.
"We were talking about building some tires together," he said. "It never happened, but the relationship was developed then."
Mr. Hutchinson said he had worked with Crowntyre during the last two years, guiding them on product design and development and size offerings.
A few months later, the executives at Crowntyre asked Mr. Hutchinson if he'd be interested in assembling a sales team and selling the company's brand in the U.S. It was an opportunity he always wanted.
"I jumped at the opportunity because it's what I had been looking for," Mr. Hutchinson said. "Sometimes good deeds get repaid. "
TBA, headquartered in Huntington Beach, has a staff of seven, all of whom are working on attracting distribution partners in 50 or so key markets across the U.S.
Among his first hires were four industry veterans for sales directors:
• Joe Anzelmo, who has experience with Toyo Tire USA and Giti Tire (USA) Ltd.;
• Jack Bidding, who has experience with Bridgestone/Firestone and Tri-Ace Co. Ltd.;
• Dave Howe, who has experience with Pro Comp; and
• Art Michalik, who has experience with Bridgestone and Yokohama Tire Corp.
Mr. Hutchinson emphasized that distributors will have exclusive rights to the product in their markets. "The products are of tremendous value, and there's a lot of profit value for our partners," he said.
The Xcellent brand is a factory-direct, container program, Mr. Hutchinson said, with "very good payment terms."
He said TBA, meanwhile, will continue to explore taking on other brands to sell in the U.S. And there's a chance, Mr. Hutchinson said, the company could develop its own brand in the future.
But for the present, he said, life is better than ever.
"We're working long hours right now and loving very minute," he said, noting one distributor bought five containers recently.
"We're getting some base hits, scoring some runs, the game is getting fun," he said. "We're on a roll right now . ... When things are really going in your favor, you want to keep in it going. It's like a winning streak .. we're on a nice little winning streak."