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Pirelli looks to boost its LT tire share in North America

Pirelli Tire North America L.L.C.’s journey to becoming more American — which started this year with an overture to the muscle car crowd — will take a decidedly light-truck-oriented turn next year, PTNA CEO and Chairman Pierluigi Dinelli told Tire Business recently.

Looking to grab a larger share of the light truck/SUV tire market, Pirelli will roll out a pair of North American-exclusive aftermarket products — including its first true all-terrain tire — next year, Mr. Dinelli said during the recent Los Angeles Auto Show.

The new tires are the Scorpion A/T Plus and Scorpion Zero A/S Plus, which together will cover up to 95 percent of their targeted market segments, Mr. Dinelli said.

Pirelli expects to roll out the Scorpion A/T Plus in the second half of 2017 in a range of 18- to 22-inch sizes, Mr. Dinelli said, while the Scorpion Zero A/S Plus should be available by the second quarter in 20 sizes.

Pirelli is targeting a larger market presence in the U.S. West/Midwest and the central part of Canada by adding an all-terrain tire, the top PTNA exec said.

While the Scorpion A/T Plus was designed primarily for North American customers, Mr. Dinelli said the new product also will be sold throughout the Americas, albeit in smaller sizes — 16- and 17-inch rim diameters, mainly, vs. the 18- to 22-inch sizes more prevalent in the U.S. and Canada.

Pirelli will source the new tire lines from a number of plants throughout the Americas, he added.

Mr. Dinelli said overall Pirelli believes it has about a 7.5-percent share of the North American consumer performance tire market (18-inch rim diameters and above), with a stronger share in the car segment and lesser share in the light truck/SUV segment.

Pirelli’s move to strengthen its light truck/SUV product lines follows the firm’s recent moves to improve its image with owners of Detroit iron.

The Rome, Ga.-based tire maker rolled out at the recent Specialty Equipment Market Association Show (SEMA) an all-season version of its P Zero ultra-high-performance tire and coupled that with a deal making Pirelli the spec racing tire and presenting sponsor of the Trans Am Championship for the next three years.

The new P Zero All Season Plus, designed for a range of sportscars, sports  coupes and performance sedans — including American muscle cars, etc. — completes a triad of new performance models aimed at specific niche customers.

“We’ve been under-represented in the all-season market in North America,” Mr. Dinelli acknowledged.

Mr. Dinelli noted that Pirelli’s P Zero strategy is focused heavily on OEM accounts, especially with the “prestige” and “premium” car brands, but that the company is keen to improve its “push” marketing talents with the new light truck/SUV lines.

Pirelli’s decision to go after the Trans Am Series race tire deal reinforces the muscle car image, he said. Trans Am Race Co. L.L.C. and Pirelli announced their partnership deal at SEMA. Hoosier Racing Tire Corp. has been the series’ race tire supplier for the past three seasons.

The Trans Am series, which now will be called Trans Am Championship presented by Pirelli, was founded in 1966 and was popular in the 1960s and ’70s as the premiere road-racing venue for the U.S. pony car generation — Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros, Pontiac Firebirds, Dodge Challengers, Plymouth ’Cudas and AMC Javelins.

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