Thinking Outside The Box To Expand Beyond Traditional Tire Niches
Tires tend to get a bum rap in some unenlightened circles. They are all round and black, smell bad and take up space, according to the naysayers. However, the tire Illuminati know better! By pushing into specialty niches as well as accelerating R&D into the fastest growing segments in the market, including ADV applications and UTV-specific tires, Kenda continues to push the parameters of the powersports industry. The “Kenda” name comes from the Chinese symbol “Kěn dá” which means “never stop growing”, explains Jimmy Yang, Chairman of Kenda’s global operations. “Producing quality tires has always been Kenda’s first priority. In order to make tires that perform well and maintain the integrity of the brand and the quality level of the tires, a good product department is critical.”
“Akron is where the magic happens,” adds Jason Baldwin, Director of Powersports for American Kenda. “We get to play with the rubber… we do drum testing, we do long-term durability testing, we do development, speed testing, DOT testing… basically a little bit of everything that ensures success when we put these tires on a machine in the marketplace.” This magic is not limited to powersports tires, however.
Around The World Of Kenda
“We sell everything that has to do with rubber: trailer tires, car tires, lawn mower tires, wheelchair tires, bicycle tires, motorcycle tires… you name it,” elaborates Jason Baldwin. In fact, we saw Kenda in a seemingly endless loop of trade shows from SEMA for the car crowd, GIE+EXPO for the lawn & garden guys and then into the spring with the big distributor events. We finally had a chance to catch up with Baldwin deep in the heart of Texas during the Tucker Powersports show.
Although the focus is on powersportsspecific tires, Baldwin has been on a mission to get road reps and dealers to realize there are plenty of potential profits being left on the table. “Trailer tires! Every customer who has a riding mower, snowmobile or UTV has to have a trailer to transport these vehicles. Kenda is a leader in the trailer tire market, like everything else we do, but too many times a dealer won’t think twice about getting an extra pallet of ATV tires, but won’t even consider adding a couple trailer spare tires.”
Thinking outside the box even a little bit can be a real win-win. “You can provide one-stop shopping and enhance the overall customer experience… and you don’t have to send a good powersports customer down the road to a discount tire automotive store the next time they realize a spare tire on their trailer is flat.”
Believe it or not, one of Kenda’s top selling tires across all categories is the “Hole In One” golf cart tire. “It is the #1 selling golf cart tire globally,” claims Baldwin. “You probably won’t sell a lot of golf cart tires to your average motorcycle customer, but if you are near a retirement community where they are a means of transportation or a municipal golf course, this could be a great bit if incremental business for a powersports dealer.”
The Dealer Perspective
“Their motorcycle offerings for both street and dirt perform well and are competitively priced, but the addition of offerings like golf cart tires and trailer tires are bringing in new revenue that our dealerships are always looking for,” says Chris Jones CEO/Owner Iron Pony Motorsports Group/Pony Powersports Group.
Iron Pony Motorsports has been a Kenda dealer for many years, but Jones notes it is their new product releases and ancillary products like the golf cart and trailer tires that have really increased sales and opened new markets for the business. “Kenda continues to be a great partner and we always like working with them.”
“Over the past two years, Beckley Honda has seen huge growth in the Kenda brand,” adds dealer principal Jim Lucas, “With increased customer demand, industry-leading dealer support and ease of mounting, my customers and all departments of my dealership are excited to be part of the Kenda family, and look forward to the continued expansion of the already diverse Kenda line.”
What The Reps Say
As a former brand manager for a large distributor, Baldwin has an affinity for and a unique understanding of the importance of the road reps. “Kenda has been working very hard to support reps and dealers with new products and promo items and training to help with the sales at all levels,” says Parts Unlimited/Drag Specialties rep Todd Sheedy.
“Jason gets it when it comes to helping reps and dealers promote and sell Kenda products,” says Sheedy. “This is what we need in today’s environment to be successful, so a big ‘thank you’ to Kenda and Jason for their support.” “With aggressive marketing/advertising, dealer/rep support/ training and wide product range, Jason and the team at Kenda have become a legitimate contender for shelf space at the dealership level,” adds fellow Parts Unlimited rep Eric Brewer. “The dealers I call on are having huge growth in the brand.”
Kenda has the products, the programs and more importantly, the margins for dealers and distributors to succeed without breaking the customers’ bank. “Kenda and Tucker are working together to create additional value for our mutual customers,” says Tucker Powersports VP of sales Jason Potter. “Kenda’s innovative portfolio of products continues to enhance the value it’s bringing to customers.
“Over the past two years, Kenda’s presence in the market has changed the identity of the brand and the perception in the market place,” points out Potter. “This innovation of product lines proves Kenda is on the gas and wide open.”
“We have seen great growth with Kenda in the last two years. They continue to come out with new products and offer a more diverse line. Our sales reps have got behind Kenda and the support that Kenda offers to both our sales force and our dealers. Revenue has increased for our sales team and more importantly our dealers.” ~ Dan King – MTA National Sales Manager
That’s How We Roll
“The products change really fast, there are a lot of new vehicles, new requirements new materials,” says Jimmy Yang. “But Kenda still comes out with the most innovative products in the quickest timeframe.” “If its round and it rolls, we probably make something for it,” quips Baldwin. “That’s how we roll! Kenda is all about the journey that’s why we put tires on our machines is to go, to travel — it’s not necessarily the destination. At Kenda we’re designed for your journey.”