The Complete Package
In tyre circles the Kleber brand is a well-known name. And in mature European markets like France and Germany, the tyre is likely to be amongst the top ten brands that dealers call on. But what about the UK and the unique challenges that this market presents? With a new product set to be released in the early part of 2006, Tyres & Accessories took the opportunity to catch up with Kleber’s UK brand manager, Dominic Clark.
“Kleber is growing strongly in the UK,” reports Mr Clark. At the moment, as one of tyre giant Michelin’s second line brands, Kleber continues its two pronged UK distribution strategy. Most of the tyres the company sells are through either independent dealerships, served by Stapletons; or the Michelin retail equity, ATS Euromaster.
Before this strategy distribution was perhaps the brand’s weakest point. But now, in addition to the opportunities provided by these two routes, Kleber uses its assistance breakdown scheme as a successful sales sweetner.
Kleber Assistance started four years ago in France and has been operating on this side of the channel since 2004. In short Assistance is package that entitles purchasers of any car tyre from the range to three years free cover against tyre-related breakdowns. This includes vandalism, punctures or any other type of accidental damage. The service operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. According to the company, the average call-out time is around 23 minutes, but the company says that it always aims to arrive within the hour. Assistance is available across all of western Europe. This also includes some eastern European countries and even Russian is on-board.
If the tyre cannot be repaired at the roadside, the spare wheel is unusable, or in the unlikely event of a dual puncture, the vehicle can be taken free of charge to the nearest garage. In the event of no garage being open the vehicle and occupants will be taken to a place of safety such as a hotel or the driver’s home if nearer. Although new to the UK, Kleber Assistance has been running in parts of Europe for some time.
Unlike Michelin’s other two brands (Michelin and BF Goodrich), Kleber is not aimed at performance conscious drivers or general motoring enthusiasts. “Second line is tough if you want to build from a second line up to the premium level.
Kleber is not about this.” Instead, this range of products is aimed squarely at practical users who are interested and safety and reliability than straight-line speed. In Mr Clark’s words assistance is: “A deal so good that the largest number of calls in the call centre are just to confirm that the deal really exists.” And this was before the company began marketing the products through ATS Euromaster. Mr Clark remains confident that this positive stance will continue and grow.
Kleber tyres themselves are “tuned to wet performance,” explains the brand manager. Internal tests report that they are some of the best in wet, in fact that whole package is said to be about safety – “a product with piece of mind assistance.”
But are they really popular? Michelin believes that the amount of people who responded to the Assistance schemes leaflets speaks for itself. According to Dominic Clark the UK scheme has had one of the highest return rates in the whole of Europe.
The Kleber brand, which incidentally is named after a famous French general, was bought by Michelin 10 years along, along with BF Goodrich. And while awareness of the brand in France is impressive, UK awareness levels are not at the same level. Michelin representatives remains interested in improving this, but not at the expense of the company’s leading brand’s market share. Instead Kleber tyres are pitched as “marginally more expensive than budget brands, but demonstrably better, with tangible added services,” says Mr Clark. According to the brand manager, the tyre is so good it could even compete with BF Goodrich.
As far as the products themselves are concerned, the most recent release was the Dynaxer HP2. Kleber launched this last year and has since added another 21 sizes to the range. According to the manufacturer, the HP2 features two longitudinal grooves optimised to aid water evacuation. In addition the tyre features a rigid tread area which is designed to increase economy and avoid premature wear.
Now there is word of a new “top of the range” product which executives are aiming to release at the earlier part of 2006 (January/February). This release is expected to be a more high performance (V+ rating) product which includes all of Kleber’s usual product profile. “We appreciate that not everyone will want to buy a premium tyre,” concluded Mr Clark.