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Agrimarketing : June 2009
25 Feature Story:32 Feature Story 6/12/09 12:42 PM Page 27 do our own demonstration tomake that point.” Firestone conducted the traction demo before a live audience on a farmin central Iowa.With assistance fromthe company’s legal advisors, the projectwas designed to be as fair as possible. The results once again confirmed Firestone’s point of view. The resultswere presented in a video that covered the demonstration (See it at www.treadtotread.com). Leading farmmagazine editors attended an event at the company headquarters that showed howthe 23-degree tread design contributed to the performance advantage. The demonstrationwas featured in a second TV spot for Firestone.And the Tread to Tread demonstration served as a theme for the company’s 2009 Early Bird dealer promotion. According Bonish, response from Firestone ag tire dealers has been very positive. “They are telling us that this sort ofmaterial iswhat they need to sell,” she reports. POWERFUL RESULTS The strong agricultural economy during the past several years has created overwhelming demand for agricultural tires, according to Rodgers. “The demand for Firestone farm tires has outpaced production capabilities since spring of 2007,” he says. “Current projections are that demand will ease bymid-2009, though the supply of specific radial tire types and sizesmay not catch up until late this year.All of agriculture has seen a trend toward larger equipment, and larger tractors, combines, grain carts and other implements all need larger tires to efficiently transfer horsepower to the ground. “Another trendwe’ve seen is that most tractors today are built to the buyer’s specs, including choosing the tire brand—usually for an additional up-charge. Because of the quality of the tire and the service of their Certified Firestone FarmTire Dealers, producers specify Firestone tires on those tractors. The relationship of tire quality and excellent service of the Firestone brand has grown tire demand for both the OE and replacementmarkets. Our communications help support that.” “Whilewe’re in amarket that’s up, everyone still is looking for value THE AG TIREMARKET/continued frompage 25 Certified Firestone FarmTire Dealerswho sell and provide service to farmers across the U.S. Dealership employees are trained at Firestone University sessions, either at the DesMoinesmanufacturing plant or in local field clinics. AG TIRE TRENDS WhileAmerican cars and light trucks are nearly all equippedwith radial tires, that’s not the case on the farm. It’s estimated thatmost farmtires are bias-ply types and that only about 30%of all farmtires are radials today. But themix is trending toward radials as farmers replace older equipment with larger andmore powerful tractors.Modern 4WD tractors canweigh 15 tons andmay have dual or triple tire sets – thatmeans one of these big tractors can be supported by eight or even 12 tires.With the largest radial tires selling for around $2,000, the farmer has a significant investment in rubber. Radial tires costmore than bias types, but they performfar better. Bias tires aremade of diagonally crisscrossing ply cords. Because the crossing cordsmake up both the sidewall and the “crown” (tread area),when the sidewall flexes it shifts the shape of the entire tire. Under loads, this results in an oval or O-shaped footprintwith the ground. Radial tires aremade of ply cords that are run perpendicular to the tire tread—across the tire. Radial tires have fewer plies because the parallel arrangement gives the tiresmore tensile strength.However, radial tires also have additionalmaterial placed on top to reinforce the “crown” of the tire. Because the sidewalls and the tread are separatematerials, flex in the sidewall doesn’t affect the tread—it stays planted on the ground. Radials, have a larger andmore square-shaped footprint compared to bias tires. COMPACTION AND OTHER CHALLENGES The trend toward larger, heavier tractors, combines, grain carts and other modern farmequipment bringswith it some newchallenges for farm operators and their suppliers. Onemajor issue is compaction. The compression of the soil caused by heavy equipment can reduce crop yields significantly. This yield drag can last for several years, until the hard-panned soil is broken up via a tillage operation. Among the solutions that help reduce compaction is switching from bias to radial tires,which require less pressure to support similarmachine weights. Increasing tire size, adding duals or triples on tractor drive axles also helpsminimize compaction Modern plant genetics also has created a newissue for tiremanufac- turers. Bt corn hybrids, for example, have tougher stalks that resist insect andwind damage. These strong stalks have increased stubble damage to tires. Firestone and othermanufacturers have developed newtread compoundswith improved durability.Hardness levels have been increased by 10%to 15%compared to tires built a decade ago,which allows the tires to better resist stubble penetration. AM when theymake a purchase,” she explains. “Many of our tires cost several thousand dollars each.Working with TheMeyocks Groupwe’ve been able to put intowordswhat the value of the Firestone brandmeans.We remind our customers that they have made the right choice by purchasing our products and our dealers’ service. “We always say that Firestone people are ag peoplewho happen to June 2009 s Agri Marketing 27 be in the tire business,” she adds. “Well, it’s the same for TheMeyocks Group’s Firestone team—they are ag peoplewho happen to be in the ad business.We are both going down the same road at the same time. Unless you’ve been on the other side, you don’t knowhowrare that is.” AM
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