THE IDEAL PARTNER
Continental Truck Tires
Customer care, sole reference for companies also engaged in multiple services and a new approach to selecting the right tire: the new Continental strategy
Just before the holyday season, Continental’s Generation 3 represents a clean cut with the old approach to industrial tires. We spoke about the strategies of the German multinational company with Daniel Gainza, Marketing Manager of the Commercial Vehicle Tires business unit for Italy.
- How is the Continental offer for light commercial and industrial vehicles structured in Italy?
- We’re a full range manufacturer and as such we encompass sectors such as light commercial vehicles as well as heavy duty machines, like dockside shunters, forklifts, cranes and other vehicles. For companies that need to rely on an external management system for the entire lifespan of their vehicles tires, regardless of the nature of the vehicle, we have developed the Conti360° management system, with a wide range of services alongside the normal tire supply.
- Is the Conti360° aimed exclusively at big fleets or could it interest small and mid-sized operators as well?
- Well, certainly our first clients were large fleet operators who subscribed assistance contracts throughout Europe: DHL, for example, among express couriers, or Arriva-DeutscheBundesbahn in public transport. We were able to offer them the full management of their tires, for both light and heavy road vehicles, along with logistics and service vehicles. Our offer is very flexible: beginning with a standard year contract (“Conti TassoZero”) with a monthly charge, we guarantee tire supply, mounting and regular controls for the whole fleet. On this format we can add further services, starting from tire pressure monitoring, going to FullService contracts (lasting between 3 to 5 years ), that deal with every aspect relating to tire supply and maintenance. This allows a company to get rid of fixed operating costs and count on a very efficient service. Due to this flexibility, Conti360° represents an interesting opportunity also for smaller fleets, let’s say below a hundred vehicles.
- You’ve just launched the Generation 3 range for heavy transport vehicles. What are its goals and what technologies were employed?
- With this new range we’ve looked at a new approach. Following our clients we’ve noticed how the usual distinction based on distance bands (regional, long-haul etc.) didn’t help in properly evaluating the correct tire choice. For example, a company operating on motorways with a quick turnover of drivers and vehicles relies more on sturdiness than lower fuel consumption: there’s no point in saving on fuel if the tires cannot reach their expected end-of-life due to damages. On the contrary, a haulier operating on local routes with a well managed fleet and efficient drivers might benefit from a tire designed to guarantee lower fuel consumption, so far typical of long-haul tire ranges. The European market is as it is, due to fact that there wasn’t a Generation 3 option yet: we noticed how 80% of cases lean toward a “regional” product such as our Conti Hybrid , and only 20% will benefit from a “long-distance” option like our EcoPlus. We look therefore to understanding the needs of a company rather than looking only at the distance it covers. This is the philosophy behind our Generation 3 range.
- How is the Italian distribution network organized?
- The traditional network is very fragmented. There are no national networks but only a few small structures at regional level. The wholesaler is the central figure, because many tire shops have small structures and lack adequate storing facilities. Efficient logistics is therefore essential. The situation is changing, but there still aren’t major networks such as in France, Germany, the United Kingdom or Spain; this will happen, but in the medium term. Instead, we’re gradually witnessing the disappearing of the general dealer: some will specialize in car tires, others will deal with truck tires, because the nature of the clients and services are very different. We’ve started the Conti360° network with hundreds of independent retailers who adopt our standards and follow our Conti360° clients. This means offering a wide range of services but also becoming their customers. This becomes a true partnership. The ideal company for this cooperation has an excellent knowledge of our product, keeps always up to date and has mobile workshops for on-site emergency assistance.
- Following clients in sectors as different as logistics, heavy equipment and local public transport isn’t easy. How are you organized?
- We call this “increased complexity”. We look at it as an opportunity to find the most adequate solutions for our clients. Through marketing and technical operations, we can become the sole point of reference for those companies that are looking for a complete and varied offer: certainly heavy equipment and public transport, but also, for example dockside shunters.
- So you’re aiming at satellite sectors to transport, like cargo moving in harbors and factories as well as earth moving machines….
- Yes, and with tailored solutions. In harbors and intermodal freight centers, for example, we have to deal with 50 feet cranes, with the operator’s cab right at the top. With such a high centre of gravity, it’s important for the tire to have a very stiff shoulder: the slightest tilt on the ground would greatly shift the top of the crane jeopardizing the crane’s stability. For this reason, we’ve developed a specific casing: the V.ply, a mix between a radial-ply and a conventional casing, with the performance of the first and the stiffness of the second.
- What about retreads? How has the ContiLifeCycle program been welcomed by your clients?
- Retreadability is essential for a tire’s correct life-cycle, both in terms of costs and ecology. It’s not an alternative to a low-cost tire, but rather, an especially designed casing that is a part of the service offered. That’s why there will always be a ContiRe offer, a mold cured tire that uses only original compounds of which Continental retreads not only the 3D pattern to be identical to the original, but also the sidewalls from bead to bead. The result matches a new tire in quality, performance and lifespan.
- In what does Italy differ compared to other European countries?
- Fragmentation is the great difference, not due to geographic reasons, but rather because of a cultural background. Italian companies often take decisions following the heart. Yet, at times emotions should yield to reason and old ties should be broken, especially when these cause a reduction in competitiveness compared to North European companies.
- How has the OEM tire market evolved?
- In the last ten years, trucks have greatly changed following emission regulations. The wheel unit has become more relevant and the weight of all the on-board devices places the tire under great stress. Vehicle manufacturers are constantly requiring tires with lower profiles and reduced air volume: by now /70 size are standard, /60’s are becoming more popular and the latest news is a /50 range with the same load index of a /80. Working with vehicle manufacturers in necessary to keep up with market developments and gain a greater share of the OEM market.
From gutta-percha to bytes
1871 is the foundation year, in Hannover, of a company with the nineteenth century name of Continental Caoutchouc und Gutta-Percha Compagnie, which reminds us how back then rubber was exclusively of plant origin. 143 years later it developed into a multinational company with 186thousand employees, 300 branches in 49 countries and a 33,3 million euro turnover; representing one of the top five automotive suppliers in the world. Through constant research and development and the take-over of other companies it has expanded its activities in many sectors of the car and motorbike components, particularly those dealing with on-board electronics. Currently organized in five divisions, each following a different section of a vehicle like chassis, powertrain, car interiors, advanced technologies and, obviously, tires.
Born with a mission
The Generation 3 launch started last year with tires made for busses, long distance transport vehicles in the Conti Coach, Conti CityPlus and Conti Urban ranges. The names remind us of their use; busses for hire, city and regional busses. Safety is the underlying principle of the development of every model, in line with Continental’s philosophy that puts the emphasis on the client’s needs rather than mileage, and the focus points of the three ranges are respectively fuel saving, comfort, flexibility of use and wear resistance. This year’s renovation continued with long distance haulage: the Conti EcoPlus was designed in terms of reduced fuel consumption, the Conti Hybrid excels in wear resistance and versatility. The next steps will deal with heavy equipment and winter tires.