Modern Tire Dealer

JUN 2019

Magazine for the professional tire industry

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8 N e w s / V i e w s M T D J u n e 2 0 1 9 S umitomo Rubber North Amer- ica Inc. (SRNA) hosted more than 30 of its largest Falken tire brand customers for a week in the French Riviera April 28-May 3. Rick Brennan, vice president of strategic planning, told dealers about its future product lineups, as well as how it planned to overcome fill rate issues it has been experiencing. Since 2016, the former Falken Tire Corp. has seen a rapid increase in shipments on both the original equip- ment and replacement sides of the business. Brennan said the company "shipped over 12 million units in the U.S. in 2018." is includes the Dunlop motorcycle tires that are being produced at the company's Buffalo, N.Y., facility and its Ohtsu brand in addition to the Falken brand. Brennan said the company plans to ship 2 million OE tires in 2019. In 2018, the company held a 1.6% OE market share, up from 1% in 2017. e numbers include Dunlop-branded PLT tires, which Brennan said his company has the OE rights to in the U.S. Falken currently has 39 OE fitments, up from zero fitments in 2015. Falken had an overall replacement market share of 2.6% in 2018, Brennan said, with the brand tracking higher through the first quarter of 2019 at 2.8%. e Falken passenger line was at 3%, with the light truck line coming in at 2.9% and its truck line holding at 1.4%, according to the numbers Brennan shared with dealers. "Our Falken WildPeak A/T AT3W has taken us from obscurity to a real player in the light truck tire market," said Brennan. e company is continuing to expand the AT3W line, which will include F-range products in the first half of 2020. e company also has been promoting the WildPeak H/T HT02 tire line, which is replacing its HT01 line. Brennan says the line is a true light truck tire line for light trucks and mid-sized trucks. e line also has a commercial grade version called the WildPeak H/T HD HT02. e market coverage for the HT02 line will hit 95% of 1/2-ton and mid-sized pickup trucks and 97% of 3/4- and 1-ton pickups, said Brennan. A further extension of the WildPeak line, the WildPeak A/T Trail is slated for initial delivery in September. e A/T Trail is designed for crossover vehicles and will be built in the company's ailand factory. e A/T Trail meets the needs of those CUV owners who want a tire that is more rugged, said Brennan. It will come in a range of 16- to 20-inch sizes. e tire will have a 65,000-mile limited tread life warranty and will carry the 3-Peak Mountain Snowflake marking. e tire, in size 225/60R18 100H, has been selected as the OE fitment for the 2020+ Toyota Rav4 TRD. Brennan also announced the September launch of the Falken Ziex ZE960 line, which will be replacing the existing ZE950 line. It will come in a range of 15- to 20-inch sizes. With the substantial growth in demand, Brennan acknowledged that Falken has had fill-rate and back order issues. Part of the reason is the added "complexities we put into place" at the Buffalo plant since assuming ownership of it in late 2015 as part of the dissolution of the company's global alliance with Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. While Falken tires also are being sourced from other factories throughout the world, the company is working hard to address its issues in Buffalo. In 2018, SRNA increased plant product mix to include 33 sizes in Falken PLT tires and eight sizes in TBR, something that had not previously been done. "en, we escalated that amount this year to 137 different PLT sizes and 27 different TBR sizes," said Brennan. "Keep in mind, this plant is the only plant in the U.S. that is building passenger, light truck, truck and motorcycle tires. "We have had to totally change every- thing at Buffalo. We've put in a boatload of new equipment." Plus, the company has found that chang- ing the mindset of workers has been the biggest thing to overcome, from movement of product to quality expectations. Until the company works through the issues at its Buffalo facility, Brennan told dealers that they will move production of certain product lines to other plants to increase fill rates and reduce back orders. Falken continues to invest in its Falken Academy program and hopes to train 2,000 dealer guests this year. Brennan said the company is committed to this program since "70% to 80% of the (tire) purchase decisions are driven by the guy behind the counter." He added it's faster, cheaper and more efficient to influence the people who influence the sale of the tire than trying to influence 330 million consumers. For more on SRNA's strategy going forward, read MTD's exclusive interview with CEO Richard Smallwood starting on page 74. — Greg Smith Strategic plans for Falken BRENNAN TALKS ABOUT NEW PRODUCTS, BRAND SHARE AND FILL RATES Rick Brennan told dealers that until Sumitomo Rubber North America works through the issues at its Buffalo facility, it will move production of certain product lines to other plants to increase fill rates and reduce back orders.

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